ArticleJournal10 days in California with a 2023 Hyundai Elantra N

10 days in California with a 2023 Hyundai Elantra N

Since I was a kid, I’ve had one passion: cars. Throughout my life, they have been a major part of my life, and most of the things I do revolve around them. Cars & Coffees, local night meets, classic car shows, car spotting—I do it all. One thing I had never done before was travel for my passion, but that changed last year when I took the plane—for the first time—to go to California to finally experience Monterey Car Week in all of its glory. It was my first time going but I had friends for whom it had already become a tradition, and so, I asked them for tips. Turns out there are many things to consider, but three things are the most important. The plane tickets themselves, the place where you’ll sleep for a week, and what you’ll be driving during that time. After managing the flights and the Airbnb with the boys, it was time for arguably the most important thing, what would our ride be? According to my friends, the best thing to get is something comfortable, compact, and with good gas mileage since there’s a lot of driving and you need to be able to quickly park to take photos of some million-dollar car driving by. For this trip, we had decided to spend a weekend in LA before driving to Monterey and so I went online to hunt down a compact car near LAX that would best suit our needs. After some research, I found what I was looking for, a car rental agency had a hatchback for a reasonable price. All it said was “Hatchback” without a specific brand or model, but who really cares? My first flight ever went well and the first thing we did after landing was head to the rental car agency where we waited in line for a solid hour just to be told they ran out of hatchbacks, despite my reservation—cue the Seinfeld bit about this exact situation. After some talking with the employee, they got me behind the wheel of the exact opposite of what I had booked, a minivan. Comfort-wise, hard to beat, but the furthest thing from compact, and don’t get me started on the gas consumption. 

Since one simply can’t go to Car Week only once, I went back again this year, and, this time, there wouldn’t be any waiting at a rental car agency. I had seen other journalists and people in the industry get press cars in other countries and decided to give it a try. With a plan and some hope, I contacted my friends at Hyundai Canada, who in turn contacted Hyundai USA, and they immediately came back with a list of cars to choose from—I was ecstatic. I had most of the latest Hyundai models at my disposal: Tucson, Santa Cruz, Palisade, IONIQ 5, etc. There were many hybrid options, which would have been great for my needs, but the car guy in me had already set his mind on something else. That something else was a 2023 Hyundai Elantra N equipped with a manual transmission. Since I had spent time with the Kona N in the past, I was excited to experience this drivetrain again, this time with three pedals. After a few e-mails back and forth, it was confirmed that Elantra would be waiting for me near LAX. After I landed, I headed straight to a shuttle that brought me pretty much directly to the car. I met an employee there who made me sign a few things and after a few minutes, I was on my way! A vastly different experience than the year prior. Walking to the car, you can just tell from afar it’s something cool. My press car was painted in Performance Blue, which is the launch colour for all N models, and my personal favorite. Upfront, the N gains a unique, more aggressive bumper as well as a red pinstripe that goes all around the car. On the side, there is an N logo engraved in the side molding as well as exclusive 19-inch alloy wheels. The most noticeable changes happen in the rear where can be found a spoiler, which is quite big, an aggressive rear diffuser as well as two massive exhaust pipes. 

Entering the Elantra N, I was surprised by the room inside the cabin; I was expecting something more snug, but it turned out to be quite spacious, even in the back. The front bucket seats are quite tight but still rather comfortable, even for a big boy such as myself. Looking around, I quickly noticed how fairly nice everything was, not as many cheap materials as I expected and the build quality was more than adequate. While exploring the car, I discovered a few things in the rear that were a bit of a disappointment. The two biggest things were that the folding rear seat isn’t split at all, so you have to keep it up or fold it completely, and the lack of amenities for the rear passengers, such as cup holders or USB ports. After I was done with my quick walk-around, I started the car, put it in first, and left the parking structure. After driving around the area for a bit, spotting old cars and getting used to the Elantra N, which has kind of a weird clutch, by the way, I decided to put it in N Mode and I was not ready for the exhaust note in that particular mode. It’s insanely loud, especially on the shifts, pops, bangs, crackles, whatever you want to call them, they’re there. I spent the rest of the day driving alone around Los Angeles, enjoying the weather as well as the car until later that night when I picked my friend up from the airport. I drove the car in that area for 3 days, parking it from time to time to spot some cars, and I enjoyed every second of it. Despite all the crazy cars in Beverly Hills, the Elantra N still managed to grab the attention of many. 

Monday morning, it was time to leave the Los Angeles area for our true destination, Monterey, 5 hours away. This was the perfect opportunity to test the comfort of the Elantra on longer trips, and honestly, it performed flawlessly. The gas consumption was reasonable and in Eco mode with the cruise control on, it felt just like a normal car—and not the 276-hp pocket rocket that it really is. For the rest of the week, I drove it hundreds of kilometers every day, and it never let me down in any way. Whether it was normal highway driving or something more spirited, it was always a pleasure to be behind the wheel of the Elantra N. As mentioned previously, the clutch felt kind of odd to me, I can’t explain how, but it took me a long time to get used to it, which doesn’t happen usually. As I said, the Elantra N has 276hp, which is a lot, in fact, it’s more than pretty much anything else in the same category, such as the WRX or the GTI/GLI. The power comes from a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder, and it really is great. Despite its size, it is very potent, torquey, and feels like it never runs out of power. In spite of the clutch not being my favourite thing, the shifter itself felt very nice to use, and the rev match feature worked beautifully. Taking it in some twisties near 17 Mile Drive, the handling was fantastic, thanks to the Electronically Controlled Suspension, the Electronic Limited-Slip Differential, and the rear strut bar as well as the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. Sure the N is great, but it is not perfect; for some reason in the US, you can’t get a manual and a sunroof, which is strange. Furthermore, the ride can be quite rough with the sporty suspension and the low profile tires, not as bad as I expected it to be, though. I was expecting a ton of torque steer because of my experience with the Kona N, but it wasn’t the case with the Elantra. 

After 10 days and over 1,500 km of turning heads and seeing some of the craziest cars on the planet, it was time for another 5-hour ride back to LAX, but this time, the trip was a bit more eventful. Most of the ride went well but, thanks to my luck, we got caught in the hurricane that was hitting this part of California at the time. The roads were filled with water and we had to be careful not to lose control of the car this close to our final destination. Just like it had done for the rest of the trip, the Elantra N plowed right through it with no problems and I managed to get the car back to where we had first met 10 days prior, in a lower level of a parking garage near the airport. I went upstairs, gave the employee the keys to the car, reviewed some paperwork, and my friend and I were on our way to the airport, using the first available shuttle. In conclusion, the Elantra N made an already fantastic experience even more memorable. It was everything I wanted it to be and even more, and despite not being perfect, none of its defaults affected me for the entirety of my trip. It was loud, thrilling to drive, and turned heads everywhere it went, pretty much everything you would want from a car like this. I would like to extend my gratitude to Hyundai Canada & Hyundai USA for the opportunity to spend time with the 2023 Hyundai Elantra N and even though I could have saved money on gas by choosing the Santa Fe Hybrid, I do not regret my choice for a second.

PS: During my trip, I had the chance to visit the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, and you can imagine my surprise when I found out that Hyundai N is the Exclusive Automotive Partner of the track. I included a photo of the car with a sign I found in the paddocks as well as the Elantra N pacecar.

Vehicle provided by Hyundai Canada / Hyundai USA

Photography by Olivier Lessard