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Hyundai Elantra N vs. Volkswagen GTI

U-Drags: Can the VW GTI Take Down the Hyundai Elantra N?

Garden-variety GTI takes aim at Hyundai's hopped-up sedan

  • We head to Edmunds' unique U-Drags course to determine whether the Hyundai Elantra N or Volkswagen GTI is the better overall performer.
  • Both feature turbocharged four-cylinder engines and dual-clutch automatic transmissions.
  • The GTI has a weight advantage, but the Elantra N is both more powerful and more overtly sporty.

The upstart Hyundai Elantra N is no stranger to the Edmunds U-Drags series. It edged out the new Subaru WRX last spring and now it's back on the prowl. This time around, it's gunning for the original hot hatchback: the Volkswagen GTI. The GTI weighs 119 pounds less, but the Elantra N enjoys a 35-horsepower advantage. The bewinged Hyundai also wears its sporting intentions on its sleeve, whereas the Volkswagen keeps a lower profile.

In this classic battle of exuberance versus experience, which car prevails? We headed for the U-Drags course to find out.

What is Edmunds U-Drags?

A classic drag race only tells part of the story. Edmunds' unique U-Drag format starts with side-by-side acceleration to the quarter mile, then adds a maximum braking section, a U-turn and a frantic race back to the start/finish line. It's the ultimate test of a car's all-around performance talents. You can familiarize yourself with the course layout below and then scroll down for the results.

U-Drags Track Layout

A tense back-and-forth exchange

In the first race, the Elantra N's excellent launch helped it beat the GTI to the quarter mile by 0.2 second, but the GTI's braking and handling reeled the Hyundai in. Ultimately, it nosed out the Elantra N with a 38.5-second overall time, winning by a mere tenth of a second.

The second time around, the Elantra N stumbled off the line, but its power advantage showed up as it fought back to almost a dead heat at the quarter mile. Alas, it wasn't enough. The Hyundai fell back again in the braking and handling section, ultimately losing this race by nearly a full second.

Hyundai Elantra N vs. Volkswagen GTI

Postrace bench racing

This was an incredibly close race and one that was hard to predict. On one hand, the GTI's lighter weight helped in all three aspects of the U-Drags race. On the other hand, the Elantra N's 35-horsepower advantage seemed to give it a slight edge on the straightaways. The margin was so narrow that we think stickier tires on the Hyundai could have changed the outcome.

Both models are vastly more entertaining than your typical compact car, especially on a fun winding road. Taking everything into account, the GTI goes home with the crown this time. As an added bonus, it costs $2,470 less than the Elantra N. Hyundai counters with a few more features and a much more generous warranty, though, so even in the value column, these two are neck-and-neck.

Edmunds says

You can't go wrong with either the Volkswagen GTI or the Hyundai Elantra N. It was the GTI's day in this particular U-Drags episode, but the Elantra N showed again that it's right up there with today's top sport compacts.

Hyundai Elantra N vs. Volkswagen GTI