What happens when you put almost 300 hp through only the front wheels? You get something called Torque Steer. It was a characteristic of high power cars a decade or two ago but has modern technology curtailed the characteristic?
Engine – The 2.5L turbocharged engine under the hood of the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N-Line 290 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque (216 kW & 422 Nm). With this much power and torque going through the front wheels, the Hyundai Sonata still has a tiny bit of torque steer. Most of the torque steer is kept under control by the traction control system but you can feel the brakes trying to fight the power of the engine through the steering wheel. Turn off the traction control system and the engine’s power overwhelms the front tires. In particular when exiting a corner under full power, the inside wheel just spins uncontrollably.
However, if you’re more gentle with the throttle, the Sonata N-Line can be a very quick sedan. 0-100 km/h can be done in as little as 5 seconds. This is thanks to a traction control system that has to work overtime to limit wheelspin off the line. Where the engine’s power really shines is when overtaking another vehicle on a highway. The peak torque figure is achieved below 1,700 rpms and is sustained through to 4,000 rpms. Gently roll on the throttle pedal and the Sonata effortlessly accelerates to very illegal speeds… unless you’re on an unrestricted autobahn.
But even with all this power, the fuel economy figures are not that bad. It is rated for 10.1 L/100km (23.3 MPG) in a city and 7.2 L/100km (32.7 MPG) on a highway. Better yet, premium fuel is not a requirement. Furthermore, the fuel economy figures are achievable in the real world as I averaged 8.8 L/100km (26.7 MPG) during my time with the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N-Line.
Transmission – The 2.5L turbo engine is paired with a new 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. This is a fantastic transmission. Not only for everyday driving, but also if you want to have a bit of fun. First and foremost, the shifts are smooth in the regular Comfort drive mode. They do become more noticeable in the Sport & Sport+ drive modes. Secondly, the shifts are quick regardless of which drive mode the car is in. As well, the steering wheel mounted paddles shifters are also very responsive to driver inputs. Just be aware if you plan to use launch control often, it requires a cool off period.
Braking – The Sonata N-Line receives larger front brake discs compared to the regular Sonata models. The brake calipers are not fancy 4-piston blocks with Brembo written on the side but rather regular calipers that every normal car uses. However, this doesn’t mean that the Sonata N-Line doesn’t stop well because it does. The car weighs 1,626 kg (3,584 lbs) but the brakes have no problem stopping the mass quickly and easily. Better yet, the brake pedal doesn’t feel overly assisted making it sensitive to light applications. It has a smooth and predictable motion. Automatic emergency braking is standard on the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N-Line.
Handling – This is where things get a bit interesting. If you’re gentle with the throttle and the steering input, the Hyundai Sonata N-Line rewards you with a responsive and direct front end. The front tires point to where you point the steering wheel and the engine’s power doesn’t get wasted with wheelspin or traction control interference when gently accelerating out of a corner.
But if you behave like a hooligan, then you are constantly fighting against the traction control system. The system works overtime to limit the wheelspin if you mash on the throttle pedal. As a result, the engine’s power is reigned in and you can feel through the steering wheel the brakes being applied to either wheel. Turn off the traction control and the car feels like a FWD car from the late 90’s / early 00’s. It understeers like no tomorrow and has a lot of wheel spin when exiting a slow corner. Again, if you behave like a hooligan.
Ride Comfort – Predictably, the Sonata N-Line receives stiffer springs to cope with the extra oomph and sporty nature of the car. Thankfully, the stiffer suspension does not hamper on ride quality. It is noticeably stiffer than a standard Sonata, however, you can daily commute this car through the downtown cores of any major city without feeling like your back is going to break over every deep pothole. The shocks are compliant over uneven surfaces and deep potholes.
The seats do have a bit more side and thigh bolster than a regular Sonata so make sure you sit in both at the Hyundai showroom before you make your decision. For my 6’4” frame, the extra bolsters fit me just fine but not everyone is the same.
Interior Space – On paper, the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line is a spacious vehicle in all areas but one; rear legroom. In the back, it offers less legroom than the Honda Accord, Mazda6, & Toyota Camry. But in reality, I can comfortably sit behind my driving position. My knees gently rub against the back of the front seat but they’re not squished and I’d be Ok to sit back there for longer road trips. In the front, it has the most legroom on paper and it shows. I could have moved the seat further back if I needed to but I didn’t. Headroom is also plentiful with the Sonata having the most amongst its closest rivals.
Trunk space is also generous at 453 L (16 cu-ft) of cargo volume with the rear seats up. This is only behind the Honda Accord with the Mazda 6 & Toyota Camry providing less. The rear seats can fold 60/40 for more cargo capacity.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – The Sonata N-Line receives a dual exhaust system with quad tips to match the overall sporty look of the N-Line package. Unfortunately, it’s not that loud. The exhaust has a deep tone that makes the Sonata N-Line sound a bit better than a standard Sonata but it’s just not loud enough to enjoy it. On highways, it’s mainly road noise that intrudes into the cabin but it is very minimal.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – This being a sporty version of the Sonata with an engine that no other trim level gets, you’d think that it is the most expensive trim. Not so. The Ultimate trim of the Sonata is $750 more expensive than the N-Line which costs $37,999 CAD ($33,300 USD).
For this price, the Sonata N-Line receives heated front & rear seats, heated steering wheel, a 10.25” touchscreen with Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, wireless phone charging, a head-up display, a 12.3” full digital driver instrument cluster, ambient lighting, panoramic sunroof, remote start, adaptive cruise control, lane centering system, and of course the 2.5L turbocharged engine.
Interior Design – The look of the cabin is unique in its own right. All of the controls are where you’d expect them to be and using the features, such as the climate controls, is very straight forward. The push button gear selector may not be to everyone’s taste and neither may be the 4-spoke steering wheel but they’re unique features to Hyundai products. My only major complaint about the interior is the greyness of it. Grey seats, grey dashboard, grey door panels, grey steering wheel, grey headliner – albeit a darker grey – but it’s all grey. There is some splash of colour from the red stitching and the subtle ambient lighting but it’s still all grey. My other minor complaint is regarding the buttons that flank the touchscreen. They’re capacitive buttons rather than physical buttons. They work just fine but I’d prefer to have a physical button to touch if it’s not a screen.
Exterior Design – Full disclosure, I haven’t been a fan of the current Sonata’s exterior design when it came out. With the N-Line, the Sonata definitely looks the part of a sporty sedan with the subtle lip spoiler, quad exhaust tips, large 19” wheels, and slightly tweaked front bumper. But I still don’t like the look of it, in particular from the front. To me it looks like a fish from the bottom of the deepest oceans on Earth.
Warranty – The Sonata N-Line has the same powertrain warranty as its closest rivals; 5 year / 100,000 km. In the United States, it’s even better with a 10 year / 100,000 mile powertrain warranty. However in Canada, the new vehicle warranty is the same as the powertrain warranty whereas the competition only offers a 3 year / 60,000 km new vehicle warranty. Anti-corrosion warranty is 5 years / unlimited mileage (7 years in USA) as is roadside assistance (5 years in USA).
The 2021 Hyundai Sonata N-Line costs $37,999 CAD ($33,300 USD) which is surprisingly more expensive than its competitors. Usually Hyundai vehicles cost less and offer more features but not in this case. The Kia K5 GT – its sister car – is the only one that’s more expensive at $39,995 CAD ($34,590 USD w/ GT1 Pack). The Mazda 6 Kuro Turbo, Toyota Camry TRD, & Honda Accord Sport are less expensive at $37,950 CAD ($32,950 USD), $36,540 CAD ($32,110 USD), & $37,370 CAD ($32,185 USD) respectively. So while the price of the Sonata N-Line is broadly similar to the others, it’s not the one I’d take because I can’t stand looking at the front end nor the grey interior. Personally, I’d probably take the Honda Accord Sport but that’s just me. However, if you do like the looks of it, it is the fastest of the bunch…. in a straight line.
Thank you to Hyundai Canada for providing the vehicle. www.HyundaiCanada.com