Class: Midsize Car
Miles driven: 462
Fuel used: 18.7 gallons
|CG Report Card
|Room and Comfort
|Power and Performance
|Fit and Finish
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
|Big & Tall Comfort
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
|8-speed dual-clutch automatic
Real-world fuel economy: 24.7 mpg
Driving mix: 60% city, 40% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 23/33/27 (city, highway, combined)
Fuel type: Regular gas
Base price: $33,200 (not including $995 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Summer tires ($200); carpeted floor mats ($169)
Price as tested: $34,564
The great: Lively acceleration; excellent, easy-to-use control layout
The good: Striking styling; innovative technology features; crisp handling with respectable ride quality
The not so good: A tad less spacious inside than some class rivals; some torque steer is apparent in aggressive driving
The Hyundai Sonata N Line is here to show that good things can come in midsized packages. This 2021 addition to the South Korean automaker’s intermediate-size sedan product line turns the Sonata into an eminently entertaining driver’s car while not taking anything away from its practicality as a family car.
A 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and 8-speed dual-clutch automated-manual transmission make the Sonata N Line Hyundai’s most powerful front-wheel-drive sedan to date. With the turbo and a distinct head design that incorporates the exhaust manifold, this version of the brand’s 2.5 engine makes 290 horsepower at 5800 rpm and 311 lb-ft of torque from as low as 1650 revs up to 4000. It’s enough strain that Hyundai felt obliged to pluck the wet-clutch transmission from the toybox of rambunctious little brother Veloster N. (The clutches, one for the even-numbered gears and one for the odd, are coated in oil to cool their faces.)
This is a powerteam that builds speed nicely from the start without discernible turbo lag, and has the torque to deliver a delightful burst of power in the midrange. The responsive throttle acts even quicker in “Sport” mode. The gearbox races through crisply defined (but not jerky) upshifts, especially in the lower gears, working to keep the engine in the choice part of the power band. However, there’s also enough power to wake up the echoes of something this driver hasn’t felt in a long while: torque steer. He detected the N Line pulling slightly to the right several times during his time with the car. Stand-on-it types will be interested to know that launch control is included.
People who pay for the gas may be more excited by the reviewer’s 30.8 mpg from a 110.5-mile drive composed of 43 percent city-type operation. That favorably matches up with EPA estimates of 23 mpg in the city, 33 mpg out on the highway, and 27 combined.
Accompanying the zesty powerplant is a chassis with stouter engine mounts, dampers, and antiroll bars; upsized brake discs; and electric power-assist unit moved from the steering column to the steering rack. The standard 19-inch alloy wheels on the test car were wrapped in 245/40R19 summer tires (a $200 replacement for the base all-season skins) that fortunately did not cause us any worries on rain-slicked expressways. While Hyundais generally may not match the levels of suppleness and composure some other cars do, the ride quality of the N Line is admirably high. Steering is responsive and nicely weighted, and the brakes are strong and sure. Summoning “Sport+” through the console-mounted toggle shuts off traction control for more fun on the kind of bendy roads that were not available to Consumer Guide testers.
The greasy bits aren’t all that make a Sonata into an N Line. The front of the car bears a fascia with bigger air ducts. The gloss black of the unique “feathered” grille is reprised on the mirrors and window moldings. The wheel design is also specific to the sport model. In back there’s a black decklid spoiler and two pairs of bright exhaust outlets flanking an under-bumper diffuser. Model badges on the grille and front fenders are small and, for the most part, the car doesn’t call much attention to itself. The Sonata N Line is a Q-ship.
The Nth degree of interior distinction starts with well-bolstered front sport seats embossed with an “N” logo and covered in Dinamica microsuede material and Nappa leather. The seats have red piping on the backrests and red stitching that’s carried over to the dash, armrests, and N-design leather-wrapped steering wheel. For a finishing touch, pedals are faced in aluminum.
With a starting price of $34,195 with delivery, the N Line is the point at which these features arrive as standard equipment: panoramic sunroof, LED taillights, 10.25-inch touchscreen with navigation, configurable 12.3-inch virtual instrument display, Bose premium sound system with 12 speakers, LED interior lights, 64-color ambient lighting, multiple device connection, parking collision-avoidance, and “Highway Drive Assist” that helps keep the car centered in its lane and maintain a safe distance from a vehicle ahead. That is on top of more widely applied items like LED headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, Hyundai Digital Key access app, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration, wireless charging, and satellite radio. The “SmartSense” safety suite packages forward-collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, lane-following assist, lane-keep assist, automatic high-beam control, driver-attention warning, and rear-occupant alert. “Safe Exit,” which locks the rear doors if sensors detect oncoming traffic, is added to most non-hybrid Sonatas for ’21.
Our views on passenger accommodations and cargo space carry over from our tests of Sonatas from 2020, the first year of the current design. The roomy interior has nominal space for three adults (certainly three teens) in the rear seat, and drivers will find good sightlines just about anywhere they glance. The infotainment touchscreen is easy to read and operate. This driver found the push-button transmission selector in the N Line to be a little faster acting than the one in the 2020 Limited that CG sampled. Soft, compressible materials are found throughout, even atop all four doors—something not all cars in the class provide. Glove and console boxes are big. There’s a net pouch on the back of the front passenger seat, an open bin ahead of the console and one on the passenger side of the console, four door pockets with bottle holders, and cup holders in the console and rear armrest. Trunk space is a generous 16 cubic feet. Rear seats fold in a 60/40 split. The seats rest flat but a little above the level of the trunk floor, and a bulkhead behind the seat shrinks pass-through space.
One of CG’s conclusions about the current Sonata after its first year was “its driving personality isn’t as dynamic as its looks might suggest.” The N Line is the new exception to the rule.
2021 Hyundai Sonata N-Line Gallery
(Click below for enlarged images)