Could this sporty Sonata redefine the affordable sports sedan concept?

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It’s hardly any news by now that Hyundai has come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. What used to be a Korean budget car manufacturer years ago turned into an automotive force to be reckoned with. With the Sonata N-Line, Hyundai extends its performance lineup to its midsize sedan.

No doubt, this brings back memories from the times when we had affordable sporty sedans like the Volvo S60-T5, Mazdaspeed 6, and Subaru Legacy GT. Although the Crossover/SUV fever is still going strong, it will be interesting to see if the new Sonata N-Line marks the return of affordable sport sedans.

Drivetrain & Performance

2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line Exterior
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What we know so far is that the Sonata N will be propelled by a 2.5-liter, turbocharged inline-four engine. Exact power and torque figures are not yet announced, but they are expected to be around 290 horsepower and 310 pound-feet (420 Nm).

The Sonata N-Line will also make use of Hyundai’s eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. All this should mean a 0-60 mph sprint in around 5.5 seconds. Power still goes to the front wheels only. Rumors suggest it will not have a limited-slip differential, at least for now.

It’s worth noting that the N-Line trim is beneath the N-performance versions, so it’s possible to see an even more-performance-oriented version of the Sonata in the near future. One that has a locking differential or even all-wheel-drive. At this point, we can only speculate. We do know that the Sonata is 0.2 inches (5.1 mm) lower and has different springs, dampers, and anti-roll bars, which are exclusive to the N-Line.

Exterior

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You do not need to look long at the Sonata N-Line to notice the more aggressive styling compared to the normal Sonata.

With the N-Line, the Korean sedan has been touched on all the right places for the sporty, yet subtle look. The front grille has the same shape, but now more of it is open. The side vents are bigger and additional small vents are integrated into the lower part of the front bumper. The integrated front splitter is now body-colored and gives the impression that the front section sits lower to the ground. Moreover, the car has a drag coefficient of just 0.27, partially due to its flat underfloor. The taillights feature small fins that work together with the diffuser in order to stabilize the airflow.

2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line Exterior
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The subtle changes continue to the side, where we now find 19-inch wheels, for a more aggressive stance. Going to the back, we have a diffuser finished in black gloss, which now accommodates the dual exhaust. In addition, you also get a couple of N-badges spread across the body of the car, to let you know that it is not an ordinary Sonata you are looking at. Overall, the N-Line Sonata scores a sporty look without being in your face.

Interior

2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line Interior
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Inside the cabin, the sporty sedan theme continues. You still get everything that makes the Sonata interior a great place to be. The N-line gives you a darker interior theme with lots of red stitching and sportier seats. The steering wheel is also different for the sportier Sonata, but they have resisted the urge to go for a flat-bottom design. The elegant dashboard has few very-well organized buttons. The main features are the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and the 10.25-inch high-definition infotainment screen, which is very intuitive. Overall, the interior perfectly matches the exterior of the car, with subtle but tasteful changes.

Price

2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line Exterior
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There is much we still don’t know about the Sonata N-Line. Hyundai is not giving us any prices either. But if we look at other sportier sedans, we might get a rough idea. Toyota Camry TRD is one of the closest analogs to the Sonata N-Line. The Japanese sedan can be had for $ 31,995. With this in mind, and the fact Hyundai has become quite bold with their pricing, we can probably expect the Sonata N-line to be somewhere in the $ 30,000 to $ 35,000 price range.

Competition

Toyota Camry TRD

2020 Toyota Avalon TRD and Camry TRD Exterior
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With the TRD package, Toyota aims to make a mild-performance sedan out of the mundane but comfortable Camry. Although the styling of the TRD is anything but mild, the car still retains its comfortable ride, even though it has a more performance-oriented suspension setting. Power comes from a 3.5-liter direct-injected, normally-aspirated V6. It produces 305 horsepower, which is slightly more than the supposed 290 horsepower figure of the Sonata N-Line. However, the Camry has 267 pound-feet of torque – significantly less than the 310 pound-feet (420 Nm) of the Korean sedan. The Camry also has an eight-speed automatic, but unlike the Hyundai, it is not a dual-clutch unit.

Read our full review on the Toyota Camry TRD

Mazda 6 Skyactiv-G 2.5 T

2018 Mazda6 Exterior
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2018 Mazda6

Although the Mazda 6 is a bit more on the sportier side compared to other mid-size sedans, it does not have any performance claims. It doesn’t have the Mazdaspeed badge or even a revised sportier suspension. It does, however, have a 2.5-liter turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder engine which packs quite a punch. With 250 horsepower, it’s a bit down on power but it has the same 310 pound-feet (420 Nm) torque figure as the N-Line Sonata. However, it has a traditional automatic with only six gears. Its biggest advantages are its nimble chassis and lightweight.

Read our full review on the Mazda 6 Skyactiv-G 2.5 T

Conclusion

2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line Exterior
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With the Sonata N-Line, Hyundai aims to be on the brunt of rediscovering the affordable sports saloon segment. Despite the crossover being the most popular type of car at the moment, sedans have always been the backbone of most automotive manufacturers.

We might just be on the verge of another trend that would potentially steal a lot of customers from the crossover segment. Cars like the Hyundai Sonata N-Line are proof that there is an option for those who want more performance and more fun from a daily driver. The Sonata N-Line is a cleverly designed sport sedan, which retains everything that makes a great family sedan and adds the right amount of sportiness without going over the top.

Dim Angelov
Born in 1992, I come from a family of motoring enthusiasts. My passion for cars was awoken at the age of six, when I saw a Lamborghini Diablo SV in a magazine. After high school I earned a master’s degree in marketing and a Master of Arts in Media and Communications. Over the years, I’ve practiced and become skilled in precision driving and to date have test driven more than 250 cars across the globe. Over the years, I’ve picked up basic mechanical knowledge and have even taken part in the restoration of a 1964 Jaguar E-Type and an Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint. Lately, I’ve taken a fancy to automotive photography, and while modern cars are my primary passion, I also have a love for Asian Martial Arts, swimming, war history, craft beer, historical weapons, and car restoration. In time, I plan my own classic car restoration and hope to earn my racing certificate, after which I expect to establish my own racing team.  Read More
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