Sedans & Coupes

2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line vs. 2021 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

Who doesn’t love getting behind the wheel of a fast, agile compact? Performance-inspired models like the 2021 Hyundai Elantra N and 2021 Volkswagen Jetta GLI are affordable and fun to drive. However, some shoppers find it difficult to determine which one offers the most value.

There are countless reasons why so many gearheads fall in love with these race-inspired compacts. These models offer a more athletic design and have sportier tuning than traditional models. Plus, sport compacts typically have a lower price tag and lighter weight than other high-octane performers like the Dodge Challenger or Porsche 911.

The Honda Civic Si once reigned supreme as an affordable sport compact. However, after the Civic Si’s discontinuation, the Elantra N Line and Jetta GLI are vying for the championship belt.

The 2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line holds a significant advantage at first glance, thanks to its ultra-affordable price. It has a starting MSRP of just $24,100, while the 2021 Volkswagen Jetta GLI starts at $26,345. Does the Jetta GLI’s higher price indicate better performance, or does the Elantra N Line just offer a better deal?

The 2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line holds an edge with a sharp design

A red 2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line on display in front of a building
The 2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line on display | Photo via Hyundai

One might confuse the Elantra N Line and Jetta GLI for cars in different classifications upon first look. 

The 2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line has the design of a bold sports car. Its exterior features 18-inch alloy wheels, glossy black accents, and a low, wide stance. Inside, you’ll find alloy sport pedals, an N sport steering wheel, a unique shifter, a sunroof, fabric sport seats, and red stitching.

Meanwhile, the 2021 Volkswagen Jetta GLI takes a more sophisticated approach reminiscent of sporty luxury models from Audi or Mercedes-Benz. The most noticeable addition to its exterior is a red accent across the grille. Meanwhile, accents and customizable ambient lighting graces the Jetta GLI’s interior. 

Notably, the 2021 Volkswagen Jetta GLI comes in two trims – the base-level S and the top-tier Autobahn. The premium model has a starting MSRP of $30,745, and it affords you luxuries like a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, and ventilated front seats.

The 2021 Volkswagen Jetta GLI surprises with a robust engine

Those who buy a sport compact are looking for an adrenaline rush. Thankfully, both models deliver impressive performance.

The 2021 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is the more powerful of the two. It has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that kicks out 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission for a hands-on driving experience, which is becoming a rarity these days. Although, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is available for those who prefer one. 

Additionally, the Jetta GLI features a performance-tuned suspension, optional sticky summer tires, variable-ratio steering, and an available adaptive damping system.

Meanwhile, a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine powers the 2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line. This powerplant delivers 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, and it also utilizes a six-speed manual transmission. A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is available at an additional cost. The N Line also has a performance-tuned suspension, as well as larger brake rotors.

Both vehicles come with an array of driver-assistance technologies. Notably, lane-keep assist and high-beam assist are standard on the 2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line. Meanwhile, you must upgrade to the 2021 Volkswagen Jetta GLI’s Autobahn trim to obtain these safety systems.

Which sport compact should you buy?

RELATED: 5 Reasons Why the Volkswagen Jetta GLI Is Better than the Honda Civic Si

The 2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line presents better value with a lower price tag, a sportier design, and more safety systems. While the 2021 Volkswagen Jetta GLI may win in a drag race, the Elantra N Line is better suited for everyday driving. 

All-in-all, the Elantra N Line still delivers the adrenaline-pumping performance you desire. And like the value-packed standard Elantra, you’ll get a whole lot more for your money.