2021 Hyundai Sonata N-Line
It’s good to see a well-built sedan, yet it is also sporty. Hyundai is serious about the sports car segment, they proved how capable they are with the latest Veloster N. Now it’s time to bring sportiness into other non-SUV models, and Sonata N-Line is the latest addition to their sports car arsenal.
Sonata N-Line may not be a fully dedicated track-ready mid-size sports sedan, but it has a lot to offer. Regardless of the engine option, the latest-gen Sonata has a very solid platform. Though it is a sporty entry, it is a great daily driver. It comes with lots of tech features, and better build quality compared to the previous-gen.
Exterior and Interior
I like the styling of the Sonata N. It definitely looks sporty, yet it has nice body lines and front headlights are part of that body line. It is not particularly beautiful or ugly, but definitely a unique design. Sonata used to be the conventional choice in terms of design, but that’s not the case anymore. As this is the N-Line version, it comes with bigger wheels, sporty bumpers in the front. There are some fake vents in the front, which don’t look too bad but they are not functional.
Unique design language continues in the rear, with a connection of a nice body line that comes from the front fenders. It has one big piece of the taillight, which adds up to the uniqueness of the Sonata. As this is the N-Line version, it comes with sportier-looking rear bumper, which unfortunately has fake rear vents. Other than that, there is no problem with the rear design. The Sonata badge on the trunk makes the car look more premium and upscale.
In the interior, you feel probably the biggest difference compared to the previous generation Sonata. It looks very upscale and premium, of course within the mid-size sedan standards. The interior is completed in gray colour, there is no other colour except glossy black. Hyundai still insists on using glossy black where you put your hands the most, it would look dirty in a very short period of time. Everywhere you touch is usually leather and soft-touch plastic, the only place they used hard plastics is the bottom of the console, which is acceptable for this segment.
As a Hyundai tradition, it is a very easy place to live on a daily basis. If you are coming from another Hyundai, this would make you feel at home right away. Though there are lots of common parts used throughout Hyundai’s model lineup, those parts are usually picked from the higher tier models, such as Palisade. One of the common parts is the shifter buttons, and there is no dedicated sport button in the transmission. You can use the paddle shifters, but still, it would not allow you to redline, and it upshifts automatically.
Regardless of the engine option, the new Sonata has great rear passenger accommodation. People usually assume SUVs or Crossovers have more space than sedans, but that’s not the case with modern mid-size sedans. They have a lot of space in the rear, even more than most crossovers. This would be an even better choice if you have a rear-facing child seat. Sonata has tons of legroom in the rear as expected from a big sedan. However, due to its rear design, getting in and out is not as easy as I thought. Like the front doors, it also comes with soft-touch plastics in the rear. It also has heated rear seats and A/C vents which is a great plus for long drives.
As the rear seats, trunk space is not different than a regular Sonata. It has 16 cubic feet (456 lt) of trunk space which is above average in this segment. However, the trunk has a wide opening and it is relatively easy to get things in and out on a daily basis. You can fold down the rear seats from the trunk, and unfortunately, it does not come with a lever that you can hold to close the trunk. Hyundai decided to cut the corners in the trunk area, as you can see cables going through the trunk, should have covered it with plastic trims.
Drivetrain and Driving Impressions
Sonata N-Line comes with only one engine and transmission option, which is a 2.5-litre turbocharged engine that produces 290 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque. The torque comes all the way down to 1650 rpm and it goes flat up to 4000 rpm which makes it very fun as a daily driver. The 2.5L turbocharged engine is matched with Hyundai’s new 8-speed dual-clutch transmission, which is a great fit for this type of vehicle.
The dual-clutch transmission is mostly very smooth, but especially during stop and go, or in heavy traffic, you still feel it’s a dual-clutch and it would not be as smooth as a regular torque converted automatically. But that’s totally fine for a performance vehicle. Shifts are very fast, you can use paddle shifters to up and downshift, but unfortunately, it would auto upshift if you keep the revs too high.
Probably the worst part about the driving experience is not having an all-wheel drive. The engine is a torque monster and it sends power to the front wheels only. Things get worse when you realize there is no limited-slip differential, as it keeps spinning or cutting power constantly in the lower gears. Hyundai should have at least included a limited-slip differential option available with the N-Line. In the corner, anything over 50% throttle input gives you understeering, you need to be very careful especially if you disable the stability control, which is not fun and it is a disappointment in terms of driving dynamics.
Aside from the problem of putting down its power, there are good things to mention about the Sonata N-Line’s driving dynamics. First and foremost, we really like the suspension tune. There is almost no body roll, despite being a tall and heavy sedan. It is also not punishing the passengers when you drive on rough roads or bumps. Hyundai found a great balance between comfort and stiffness. Brakes are also great, probably it is one of the best feeling brake pedals in this price range, very responsive and capable of stopping the Sonata.
Feature-wise, there are some great features available with the other Hyundai vehicles. For instance, it comes with the latest infotainment system which is one of our favourite in this segment. The screen resolution is great, the software has no input lag, and the touch screen works perfectly. As always, Hyundai’s adaptive cruise and highway assist features are our favourites. It also comes with a digital gauge cluster like more expensive Hyundai models, but unfortunately, there is no Blind Spot View Monitor available with the N-Line. It’s interesting that this feature is available in the top trim regular Sonata, but not here.
Pricing and Equipment
See below the window sticker of our tester:
Hyundai Sonata N-Line is a great daily driver, we truly enjoyed driving it like a regular mid-size sedan. It’s important how Hyundai marketed this vehicle, and this is a more sporty-oriented mid-size sedan, which is actually not that common nowadays. We appreciate the fact that Hyundai tries to reach more audiences by offering unique products like the Sonata N-Line, especially in a “so-called” dying segment in terms of sales numbers.
Sonata N-Line is definitely a fast car, and it can be a really fun and comfy highway cruiser. That being said, a fast car does not mean it can be sporty, there is a huge missed opportunity in terms of driving dynamics. If you are manufacturing a front-wheel sports car, regardless of a body type, it must have a limited-slip differential. Anything over 250 horsepower with an open differential should be illegal.
As much as I like driving the Sonata N-Line as a daily driver, it is not a good sporty car and that’s the main reason why I would recommend a regular Sonata if you are looking for a great mid-size sedan, or Veloster N if you are looking for a dedicated sports car. For more details about regular Sonata, please check the link here, and for Veloster N please check this link.
If you still want a fast mid-size sedan with good looks, a lot of features and great comfort, and don’t care about driving dynamics – this would still be a great option for you. Hyundai Sonata starts at $27,149 and if you want the N-Line, it is priced at $38,000 CAD. For more details, please visit www.hyundai.ca
Article and Photos by Dan Gunay