Pity the poor sedan. Once the go-to vehicle style for well-built, dependable and comfortable transportation, sales of the former family favorite have been decimated by sales SUVs and pickup trucks.
The 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line presents a strong case for reconsidering a sedan.
Introduced last September as a 2021 model in the Sonata’s 35th year, the N Line brings back a sporty appearance and performance to the sedan. It’s powered by a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine producing 290 horsepower. It advances with an eight-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. The Hyundai’s sporting cousin is the 2021 Kia K5 GT
2021 Hyundai Sonata: N-Line offer sportiness
A sporty engine, with a 0-to-60 mile per effort in 5.4 seconds, bodes well with the new trim’s sport-tuned suspension and similarly offered steering. It also necessitates a sporty-looking interior design and features and a sporty-looking exterior.
The N Line includes 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and tires, a darkened exterior trim and N Line badging on the rear trunk line. Its sloping roof and clean lines added to the Sonata’s
A leather-wrapped steering wheel, red interior stitching, special interior trim and combination leather and Alcantara-trimmed seating surfaces provide the upscale interior and its sporting approach.
The N-Line adds to the Sonata’s versatile trim lineup. It joins SE, SEL, SEL Plus, Limited and Hybrid.
All Hyundai vehicles are well-equipped with standard features, which means even the entry-level SE model is a sound choice, albeit with a four-cylinder engine with 191 horsepower. It also includes an eight-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive, LED headlights, 16-inch alloy wheels, an eight-inch central touchscreen, a six-speaker sound system and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.
It’s impressive for a $25,299 manufacturer’s suggested retail price. The N Line trim is priced at $34,814 and the best-selling Limited edition has an MSRP of $35,579. Further appealing is the performance-slated sedan’s gas mileage averages: 27 miles per gallon in city driving, 33 mpg on the highway.
As a sedan, the Sonata can’t match SUVs for cargo space. But Hyundai throughout its lineup does a credible job with interior space. The four-door, front-engine, four-wheel-drive N Line seats five without issue unless rear-seat occupants define substantial. Total cargo space is 16 cubic feet, a middle-of-the-pack tally or sedans.
Driving the Sonata N Line further eliminates any sedan stigma of stodginess. It looks like a sports car but drives like a sedan with an edge. It’s controlled rather than spunky. It accelerates without hesitation, even steep or otherwise awkward inclines or curvy roads. The overall vision is strong.
Hyundai’s SmartSense package of driver-assistance features is standard and includes automatic high-beam assist, adaptive cruise control, and a driver-attention warning that can sense drowsy or distracted driving.
The Sonata earned a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It was also named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Still, it’s tough for family sedans. The Sonata sold a tenure-best 230,605 units in 2012 and it was a budding competitor that year for the Toyota Camry (404,886) and Honda Accord (331,872).
The coronavirus has stifled many businesses, including a quickly diminish market share for sedans. The Toyota Camry remained the sedan sales leader in 2020 with 294,348 units sold. The Honda Accord (199,458) followed, with the Hyundai Sonata stumbling to 76,997 sales.
Pick-up truck and SUV sales aren’t likely to decline soon, particularly with more hybrid and electric offerings on the near horizon. But sedans once rules motorways and there’s plenty to enjoy on the open road and the crunch of city driving in a sedan.
The Hyundai Sonata is a worthy alternative to the Camry and Accord. It likely won’t drastically change the buying habits of the masses. But kudos to the South Korean manufacturer for trying some new.
Article Last Updated: February 21, 2021.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.