Take a deep dive into the N Line from Hyundai: What it is, what it means for the brand, and how it’s going to fare against brands like BMW M and Audi S.
Hyundai is gunning for the automotive enthusiast crowd with its expanding line of N branded vehicles. For decades, Hyundai scratched and clawed at the US market by being a value-centric brand with multiple affordable options. While initially it may seem as though focusing on performance vehicles might be a risky departure, we think there’s some potential for real brilliance behind the shift. Let’s take a deep dive into what these new vehicles are, how they fit into the brand, and what they mean for the future of Hyundai.
One of the most important things to keep in mind with regard to these hopped-up Hyundai’s is that there are two sides of the same coin. On one side you have vehicles that will simply be branded “N”. These are the full fat truly reworked and track focused vehicles in the Hyundai stable. They benefit from a host of changes that we’ll dig into shortly. On the other side of the coin you get the N Line badged vehicles. All N Line vehicles will get N Line trim inside that features red stitching on the steering wheel, gearshift, and seats. They’ll also get more aggressive bucket seats and typically the most powerful engine available for the vehicle in question. This follows the exact same formula BMW and Audi both use by branding mid-level performance cars with a version of the brand used for the raciest variants available. Here’s a look at which vehicles are getting the N Line treatment and what it will mean for each of them.
The N Line is the perfect blend for the driver that doesn’t ever plan to go to the track but also wants a vehicle that’s nimble and unique. Included in the selection of vehicles getting the N Line treatment are the Kona, Sonata, Elantra, and Tucson. The most sedate of the four, the Tucson, will get N Line design enhancements when it arrives in 2021 and we expect a 290 horsepower 6-cylinder under the hood. The Sonata uses the same engine and receives a more sport-tuned suspension, grippier tires, and an 8-speed dual clutch transmission.
The Kona N Line will see a smaller 4-cylinder engine that produces just under 200 horsepower sending power to the front or all four wheels through a 7-speed dual clutch. It also gets improved suspension components and full interior and exterior treatments. Finally, the Elantra N Line borrows all of that kit except the option to power the rear wheels and can be fitted with a proper three-pedal manual transmission as well. While all of these improvements are welcome additions for the more passionate drivers on the road, those that want something a bit more serious will want the vehicles that Hyundai has simply branded N.
Under this heading there is currently only one selection at the moment, the Veloster N. While the selection and the vehicle itself might be small, the impact that it has had on Hyundai has been very large. When the Veloster N was introduced most people balked at the idea that Hyundai could make a verifiably good performance hot hatch. What Hyundai did was make everyone eat their words.
The Veloster N is probably the best hot hatch available today if you’re the kind of buyer that actually wants to track their car. With no modifications this little pocket rocket can drive comfortably to a track day, take part, and then drive home. It has a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 275 horsepower and sends it straight to the front axle.
The engine is turbocharged and isn’t holding back much. When in its sportiest mode, the turbo can actually maintain boost even when the car is slowing via a race-bred technology called anti-lag. It also has launch control and a clever differential that nearly eliminates understeer. We can tell you from experience that it handles exceptionally well and is remarkably fun on and off track. They hit this little car out of the park. In addition, Hyundai also has two more vehicles coming that have yet to be released, but we expect at least one will end up as a full N class model if not both.
This is where the tables can turn two ways for Hyundai. They’re betting on their ability to capitalize on the gap in the market for sincerely good, inexpensive performance vehicles. In addition, almost everything going into the new N Line vehicles is a technology they’ve already built, so R&D costs are incredibly low.
Nevertheless, wading into this market isn’t an easy task and the same suspicion that overcame so many enthusiasts when the Veloster N arrived is sure to be back for each of the N Line vehicles. Hyundai already has a ton going on, too. The Kona EV, Palisade, NEXO Fuel Cell Vehicle, and Ioniq are all great examples of the company battling on multiple fronts for sales. Only time will tell if the N Line is one front where they can ultimately win.