CHATHAM, Mass. – Hidden inside the sharply-creased character lines and high-technology architecture of the all-new, seventh-generation 2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line is a true sport-sedan with an old-world soul.

This seeming contradiction results in a highly satisfying performance machine combining the straightforward driving pleasure derived from blasting around challenging roads while manually shifting the six-speed transmission with modern safety and driver-assist features helping to ensure the fun never gets out of control.

And the entire roomy, five-passenger sub-compact package does all this with great efficiency and economy:  38.7 miles per gallon under my heavier foot (the federal Environmental Protection Agency rates the Elantra N Line manual at 28 mpg overall, 25 in the city, 34 on the highway) and an all-in price for the comprehensively equipped machine of $25,260 (including $1,005 for inland freight and handling as well as $155 for carpeted floor mats).

Thorough redesign inside and out

Hyundai Elantra once meant a relatively plain-Jane entry-level vehicle: long on basic transportation value, short on pizzaz. That image has been thoroughly erased with the new generation, especially in N Line trim.

To transform 2021 Elantra into its new four-door fastback coupe look Hyundai engineers and designers made it longer, lower, and wider compared to the sixth-generation model. The 2021 Elantra gained 2.2 inches in overall length, 0.8 inch in its wheelbase, while the overall width is increased one inch. The overall height also dropped 0.8 inch and the front cowl point was moved back almost two inches . These minor changes dramatically changed the shape of the car but had limited impact on cabin space . In fact, most key interior dimensions increased.

Technology shares cabin space and system operations with old-fashioned buttons and knobs on the Elantra N Line. The dual-zone automatic climate-control system has dials for driver and passenger temperature control.

Knobs for volume, tuning and power on/off — along with both touchscreen and steering-wheel-mounted controls — facilitate infotainment operation. Unusual in a subcompact is the wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capability which means, if you have a smartphone using one of these operating systems, navigation plus their other apps are seamlessly available – very cool and simple!

The system also includes SiriusXM satellite radio and travel link information as well as Hyundai Blue Link® Connected Car System which uses embedded telematics to allow drivers to remotely start their vehicle and control interior temperature using the MyHyundai smartphone app. The app also allows users to either remotely lock or unlock their doors, and to find their vehicle in a crowded parking lot with Car Finder and remote horn and lights.

Not specifically part of the Blue Link® package but another Hyundai smartphone feature is the digital key which, once programmed, allows your smartphone to replace the key fob.

Other interior features of the Elantra N Line are heated sport seats (which grip their occupants during spirited motoring) up front, the driver’s being power adjustable for position and lumbar support; 60/40 split rear seat to extend an already large trunk’s capacity, and a power tilt-and-slide moonroof.

Platform provides refined driving

Underneath the Elantra N Line is a new Hyundai compact-sized platform with several refinements producing both a more dramatic appearing and dynamic performing vehicle.

The Elantra’s stance was sharpened by reducing the front and rear overhangs while lengthening the wheelbase.

These changes, along with the lower center of gravity, improved steering by moving the gearbox position upward and the lowering of the drier seating position both helped “connect” the driver more closely with the Elantra and improve driving feel.

Four-wheel independent suspension, sport tuned, separates the N Line Elantra from the non-performance gasoline-engined versions. It features MacPherson-type struts, twin-tube hydraulic shocks and a stabilizer bar up front and multi-link, gas-filled hydraulic shocks and a stabilizer bar in the rear.

The 18-inch N Line alloy wheels are shod with 235/40 R18 Goodyear Eagle F1 tires.

Four channel, four-sensor anti-lock braking (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and 12-inch ventilated brake rotors up front are the heart of the brake system.

Providing the motivation for all these platform pieces are a 201-horsepower, 195-pounds-feet-of-torque turbocharged four-cylinder engine which, in my case, powered the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox (a seven-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission with steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters is available).

Full complement of advanced driver-assist system (ADAS),

Hyundai groups its advanced driver-assist systems under the SmartSense umbrella and the extensive list which comes with the Elantra N Line consists of: Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), Lane Following Assist (LFA), High Beam Assist (HBA), Driver Attention Warning (DAW) and Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist (BCA) with Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA).

A rearview monitor system, with dynamic guidelines, uses the eight-inch color touch screen that is the center of the infotainment system.

Frugal fun the real bottom line

There is a lot to like about the Elantra N Line for anyone who enjoys driving. Choosing the six-speed manual transmission for those who relish shifting for themselves, harkening back to a time when all sporting cars were thus equipped.

And like any true sport sedan, the Elantra N Line turns a very competent four-door, five-passenger car into a scintillating driving experience when the driver wants to have fun or back to the family mover when that is the reason for a drive.

All totaled, the Elantra N Line is a lot of car for not much money in today’s automotive world.

Next week TBR Drives the new Jeep Grand Cherokee L