2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line: Review

© Hyundai Motor AmericaWhat Is It?
Hyundai redesigned its midsize Sonata sedan for 2020, and for 2021 the Korean automaker adds the new Sonata N Line — a variant that focuses on higher performance via 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. The peppy Veloster was the first Hyundai model to receive N treatment, and both the Elantra and Sonata join the N Line lineup for 2021.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceTest Vehicle
The 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line is based on the Sonata SEL Plus, and it joins the Sonata lineup alongside the SE, SEL, SEL Plus and Limited. Starting MSRP for Sonata N Line is $33,300 — between the Sonata SEL Plus at $28,300 and Sonata Limited at $33,950. Hyundai provided us with a 2021 Sonata N Line finished in Hampton Gray with a black interior. Equipped with optional summer tires and carpeted floor mats, the price as tested comes to $34,674 including a $1,005 freight charge.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaExterior Design
For the 2020 model year, Hyundai engineers reimagined the Sonata with a distinctive, more dynamic design; the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line builds on that foundation with a more aggressive front fascia and cascading grille, three air intakes and N Line badging. The profile reveals 19-inch alloy wheels with 245/40 R 19 tires, 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.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceHyundai N Performance
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. In addition to Veloster N, Sonata N Line and Elantra N, 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.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaUnder the Hood
The 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line is powered by a new turbocharged version of Hyundai’s 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. The Smartstream unit 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 engine gets mated to 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 AmericaPerformance 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 AmericaInner 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 AmericaOn 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 — at least in the subtle Hampton Gray of the test car. Other paint choices such as Glowing Yellow and Calypso Red would definitely make Sonata N Line stand out more. 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.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaN Line Interior
We were impressed by the new interior when it debuted last year on the 2020 Sonata, and the N Line treatment makes the 2021 Sonata feel like a sports car thanks to the Nappa leather / Dinamica sport seats, sport steering wheel and red stitching. The N Line includes the 12.3-inch digital instruments and the 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen. The sporty interior fits well with the N Line exterior upgrades and performance bump. The Sonata N Lines is a car that drivers will appreciate; it’s easy to settle in and feel comfortable during a drive of any length.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaTorque on Tap
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 AmericaSport Sedan
The Sonata N Line has the demeanor of a sport sedan, making it fun to drive on twisty back 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 potency.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaSmooth Power
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 generate excessive wheelspin, thus requiring progressive power application for smooth launches and balanced corner exits.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaBalanced 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.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceRating: 8.5
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 create an understated, stealthy look — at least with an understated paint choice. 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 back roads at the first opportunity. The 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line delivers a great looking, fun-driving, performance-oriented sport sedan at a competitive price.

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