Auto123 offers you a test drive of the two sharpest new Hyundais of the moment. We recently drove the Elantra N and Kona N at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
See also: A day of fun with the Hyundai team (from 2013!)
Bowmanville, ON – Like any manufacturer these days, Hyundai sees its future electrified. Of course, the term ‘future’ isn’t quite accurate – their popular Ioniq 5 electric is already on our roads.
However, Hyundai is far from forgetting internal combustion by competing in top-level racing and continuing to deliver affordable performance models that are designed for driving pleasure above all else, even if electrification and driving autonomous are on everyone’s lips.
While racing and performance Hyundais are each a slightly different breed, they both fall under the N banner, and Hyundai is adamant that the N brand will be a mainstay in its portfolio going forward, as will the range. Ioniq.
To show us what it is, Hyundai Canada had reserved the CTMP complex (for Canadian Tire Motorsports Park or “Mosport” for insiders) in the suburbs of Toronto, and let us loose behind the wheel of the last two models bearing the badge N: Elantra N sedan (MSRP: $39,653) and Kona N compact crossover (MSRP: $42,554).
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Finally, “dropped” is perhaps an exaggeration, since each of us was paired with a seasoned driving instructor. Just one lap with one of them will show you how far – or close – you can get to circuit riding.
They are both powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo engine developing 276 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque. One of them can be equipped with a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, the other only with this automated option. You can probably guess which is which judging by their body styles, but if not, I’ll say this: for all their differences on the surface, they’re somewhat similar on the bottom.
They both get all sorts of special body additions that their older siblings – including the N-Line variants of each model – don’t get. The Elantra N is the only model in the line to receive two very large exhaust pipes and a large rear spoiler, while the Kona N receives its own wing, special 19-inch rims and a host of other exterior trim elements to help differentiate it from other Kona models.
Inside every model, you’ll find powder blue accents – that color being the N brand’s calling card – such as dual drive mode selector buttons, seat stitching and gear lever detailing. . The Elantra N is equipped with very enveloping sports seats that hug the ribs as they would in a genuine sports car. The Kona’s seats are a little less aggressive, but they’re an improvement over the regular models. And when you’re navigating a trail like this, you need all the help you can get.
Speaking of help, one of the main differences between the two models is the choice of tires. The Elantra’s summer Michelins are much more grippy than the Kona’s four-season Pirellis. That goes without saying, because with its all-wheel drive and more family-friendly body style, the Kona, even in N trim, is the one most likely to be driven in tough conditions.
On the track, these tires – coupled with the Kona’s higher center of gravity – mean you’ll have more body roll in the corners and since you’re sitting higher than in the Elantra, handling will be less impressive than in the sedan.
It turns out, however, that there are plenty of things you can do as a driver to offset these effects, or even use them to your advantage. Not to mention the 4WD system, which can distribute the power and help you stabilize and get out of certain situations.
The Mosport track is a fast circuit with lots of drop-offs and long multi-lane bends that test the limits of any car. Ask a race car driver and he’ll tell you that, in fact, some of the downhill curves are some of the most intimidating corners in North America.
In the Kona, that means if you miss your apex and are forced to adjust your steering or apply the brakes in the turn, the suspension height and super-sharp steering rack will cause that the chassis becomes unbalanced and will lead to daggers drawn scenarios.
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