Hyundai Shows Its Stuff With the Sporty 2021 Sonata N Line

2021 Sonata N Line


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2021 Sonata N Line

Sonata That Sings

Hyundai continues to move away from its early days of budget sedans with the 2021 Sonata N Line, a stylish, high-performance version of the popular Sonata midsized sedan. The South Korean automaker took its $23,700 base Sonata and loaded it up with tons of luxury and sporty features to create the N Line, with a name honoring Germany's famous Nurburgring race course and Hyundai's own Namyang proving ground. An all-new trim line for 2021, the Sonata N Line starts at $33,300.

Hyundai bills the N Line as "The Most Powerful Sonata Ever. Fun-To-Drive. Never Looked This Good." Much of the allure comes from the vehicle's four-cylinder, turbocharged engine, which cranks out a beefy 290 horsepower. I recently tested a Sonata N Line done in a sexy Hampton Gray exterior and gray-and-black interior.

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2021 Sonata N Line grille
Jerry Kronenberg


My test N Line looked like a typical South Korean midsized sedan that had gotten some serious style and performance upgrades. The car featured an aerodynamic hood sitting atop a sporty black grille and LED headlights. These swept back to gray front doors with black folding mirrors, as well as fancy five-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels paired with upscale Continental Premium Contact 6 tires. All the way back, the N Line boasted a rear spoiler and four chrome exhaust pipes. The generous trunk's 16 cubic feet of space could easily accommodate three or four large suitcases and perhaps four knapsacks. The N Line also comes standard with a nice panoramic sunroof.

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2021 Hyundai front seats
Jerry Kronenberg

Front Seats

My test car featured an upscale, sporty interior done in a tasteful gray with black accents. The model's heated front seats featured classy leather and suede with red stitching. These seats offered good legroom and hip room, along with exceptionally good headroom, although only the driver's side seat had electric adjusters. (The passenger seat had manual ones.) The N Line also comes standard with a matching stitched-leather-wrapped steering wheel and stitched leather trim on the door interiors. Lastly, the model comes standard with race-car-like metal brake and accelerator pedals.

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2021 Hyundai electronics
Jerry Kronenberg


My test car's dashboard had an excellent LCD instrument cluster with a large digital speedometer and tachometer and three smaller digital gauges to measure oil temperature and other features. The N Line also comes standard with a 10.25-inch touchscreen to control the vehicle's navigation and Bose AM/FM/SiriusXM/Bluetooth Premium Audio system, which boasts 11 speakers plus a 9-inch subwoofer. This system also accommodates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and comes with a cool feature called "Sounds of Nature": If you're stuck in traffic, Sounds of Nature will play calming sounds like those of a crackling fireplace or a peaceful forest. Other nice touches on the N Line include a wireless phone charger and a good voice-activated control option for the vehicle's various systems. (I couldn't get the suggested command of "I need coffee" to work, but saying "Get coffee" did get the nav system to pull up a list of all nearby coffee shops.)

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2021 Hyundai rear seats
Jerry Kronenberg

Rear Seats

In back, the N Line's rear seats are surprisingly comfortable, with very good headroom, legroom, and hip room. Even the center seat was reasonably comfortable. And just as with my test car's front seats, the back seats were done in tasteful stitched leather and suede. 

These seats could realistically accommodate three adults for city trips or even moderately long highway drives, and could definitely handle two adults or three kids for even lengthy intercity journeys. And when there aren't three passengers, the rear seats come with a handy fold-down center armrest/cupholder.

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2021 Hyundai road test
Jerry Kronenberg

Road Test

Of course, the N Line's whole raison d'etre is to combine a Sonata's practicality with souped-up performance. My test model's keyless startup, 290-horsepower turbocharged engine, front-wheel drive, high-end tires and eight-speed wet dual-clutch automatic transmission combined to provide an unusually sporty ride for a midsized sedan. The N Line offers four drive modes — Normal, Sport, Sport+, and Custom — and in a rare occurrence, I actually noticed some differences between them: While the Normal mode offered a smoother, sedan-like ride, the Sport and Sport+ modes provided a firmer, sportier feel. My test N Line rather jerkily went from zero mph to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds and revved to 6,200 rpm in Normal mode, but did the same move a bit more smoothly in 6.6 seconds and 7,200 rpm in Sport+. (In both cases, front-wheel drive hampered performance a bit, which is why most sports cars have rear-wheel drive.)

As for fuel efficiency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rates the N Line at 23 mpg/city, 33 mpg/highway, and 27 mpg/combined. I logged a combined 29 mpg during a weeklong test drive.

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2021 Sonata N Line grille
Jerry Kronenberg


The N Line comes standard with a long list of sport and comfort features for its $33,300 base price. In fact, the only options that my test model had were $200 summer tires and $169 carpeted floor mats. That took the total MSRP to $33,669, or $34,674 after adding in a $1,005 freight charge. Hyundai offers some generous incentives on all Sonatas (including the N Line) as of this writing, though. That includes $2,000 of bonus cash, or your choice of a zero percent five-year loan or a 1.9% six-year loan.

All of that stacks up pretty well with other performance midsized sedans, such as the Honda Accord 2.0T ($37,895 including destination fee) or the Toyota Camry TRD ($33,180 counting the destination charge). Another competitor worth checking out is a turbocharged version of the Mazda 6 — which, depending on the trim line chosen, runs from $30,970 to $36,695 including the destination fee.

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