2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line: First Drive Review

© Hyundai Motor America 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line
With a sharper focus on higher performance, Hyundai adds the sporty Sonata N Line to its N family with a powerful Smartstream 2.5-liter turbocharged engine and N Brand design elements. The 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line sedan also receives chassis upgrades and a sporty interior designed to expand the Sonata range. (Hyundai’s N Line name gets applied to the automaker’s higher-performance cars designed at Hyundai R&D in Namyang, South Korea, and tested at Germany’s famous Nurburgring racetrack.)

© Hyundai Motor America 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line
“Consistent with our N Line Philosophy, the Sonata N Line will bring 290 horsepower and performance to the street,” said Olabisi Boyle, vice president of product planning and mobility strategy at Hyundai Motor North America. “It is composed and responsive on the road and quick with its turbocharged 2.5L engine. On a twisty road, you can move through tight turns confidently and be thrilled with its capability,” noted Boyle.

© Hyundai Motor America Exterior Design
Hyundai engineers reimagined the 2020 Sonata with a distinctive, more dynamic design; the Sonata N Line builds on that by adding a more aggressive front fascia with cascading grille, three air intakes and N Line badging. The profile reveals 19-inch alloy wheels, side skirts and gloss black mirrors with integrated turn indicators. At the rear, Sonata N Line adds a black lower bumper, an N Line rear diffuser, quad exhaust outlets, a rear spoiler and full LED taillights. Standard tires are 245/40 R 19 all-season, with 245/40 R 19 summer tires as optional equipment.

© Hyundai Motor America Model Lineup
The 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line is based on the Sonata SEL Plus and joins the Sonata lineup alongside the SE, SEL, SEL Plus and Limited. Starting MSRP for Sonata N Line is $33,200 — between the Sonata SEL Plus at $28,200 and Sonata Limited at $33,850. The 2021 Sonata N Line is arriving now at dealerships.

© Hyundai Motor America Hyundai N Performance
The Veloster N was the first Hyundai N variant, and Sonata N Line and Elantra N Line join the lineup for 2021. Hyundai has announced an additional three N and N Line versions will be added through 2022, following the Elantra N later in 2021, for a total of seven N or N Line vehicles. The Elantra N has been spied on roads in camouflage and details are scarce, but we do know it will be powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine producing 276 horsepower combined with either a 6-speed manual transmission or an 8-speed wet dual-clutch transmission. More details will be available closer to launch next year.

© Hyundai Motor America Under the Hood
The 2021 Sonata N Line is powered by a new turbocharged version of Hyundai’s 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that receives a new cylinder head with integrated exhaust manifold, piston cooling and other internal modifications to produce 290 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque from 1650–4000 rpm. The turbocharged Smartstream 2.5-liter gets mated with a new N 8-Speed wet dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters for manual shift-mode. Developed by N Brand engineers for performance and high-torque applications, the transmission is similar to the one in the Veloster N.

© Hyundai Motor America Performance Upgrades
To improve handling, the Sonata N Line suspension gets upgraded performance via stiffer springs, stiffer stability bars, mono tube dampers with N Line shock tuning, more rigid chassis bushings and other chassis stiffening. Brakes are upgraded to 13.6-inch front rotors, 12.8-inch rear rotors and premium pad materials. The quick-ratio, rack-mounted, motor-driven steering system improves steering feel and feedback.

© Hyundai Motor America Inner space
Inside, the Sonata N Line also receives performance updates including N sport front seats with Nappa leather bolsters and Dinamica suede inserts; a leather-wrapped N sport steering wheel; red N Line stitching on the seats and steering wheel; dark chrome trim; a 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster; and aluminum pedals.

© Hyundai Motor America On the Road
The 2021 Sonata N Line presents as a good looking yet stealthy ride. Although the N Line exterior updates create a more aggressive, performance-oriented look, they don’t actually tip off a casual observer to the level of performance under the hood. On one hand, the Sonata N Line can be a practical, comfortable midsize sedan for everyday family use, and on the other a blast to drive on winding back roads.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience Power Story
The new 2.5-liter turbocharged engine in the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line has maximum torque on tap, available from a low 1600 rpm on up to 4000 rpm. The new 8-speed wet dual-clutch transmission does an excellent job of smoothing shifts and being in proper range when casually cruising in automatic mode or during more spirited driving in Sport mode.

© Hyundai Motor America Sport Sedan
The Sonata N Line really feels like a sport sedan, so it’s super fun to drive on twisty canyon roads. The chassis feels balanced and the steering responsive with excellent feedback. The Sonata N Line handles exceptionally well — even with all power going to the front wheels — although we would prefer rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive for this level of power. That said, the traction and stability control systems do a great job putting power down when exiting corners without too much intrusive intervention. Sport mode allows a little bit of wheelspin, although the Sonata N Line still has strong pull out of tight corners. In Sport + mode the traction control system turns off so it’s easy for drivers to invoke wheelspin unless they are progressive with power application.

© Hyundai Motor America Balanced and Controlled
The 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line feels balanced and controlled through combinations of tight, slow corners or faster sweepers. The steering turn-in is responsive and the car transitions nicely from side to side, making it fun to drive in a spirited manner. The brakes also feel good, offering progressive pedal feel and confidence when diving into tight corners.

© Hyundai Motor America Right for You?
The Sonata N Line is a practical, economical midsize sedan, but it also has the performance upgrades to be a lot of fun to drive in a spirited way. The exterior design updates create a performance look, yet they are subtle enough to exude an understated, stealthy look. The Sonata N Line is a practical car that can actually pull double duty — serving the everyday needs of a midsize sedan, yet with the performance upgrades to take on backroads at the first opportunity. For car buyers who need more room than a small hatchback, the Sonata N Line might be the best solution.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience Rating: 8.5
Pros: Powerful engine; advanced transmission; great looking design.
Cons: Front-wheel drive.
Bottom Line: The 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line delivers a great looking, fun-to-drive, performance-oriented sport sedan at a competitive price.

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