Home Hyundai A tale of two Sonatas – Choose N Line or Limited?

A tale of two Sonatas – Choose N Line or Limited?


2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line in Phantom Black

Recently, we had a week-long opportunity – again – to drive test the Hyundai Sonata, not the Limited like last year, but their new Sonata N Line model.

Last Fall, we reported to you that the 2020 Hyundai Sonata  was the best value in the mid-size sedan segment.  Not just at the entry level, but the loaded, top-of-the-line, Limited trim level.

For just $34,890, you got a Sonata Limited – with all of the whistles and bells including the innovative ‘smaht pahk’ feature – in your garage. It was impressive. 

Read our report on the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Limited at inwheeltime.com. 


2021 Hyundai Sonata

In 2021, for roughly the same money, you have two top-of- the line choices in a Sonata.

Keeping Sonata essentially unchanged from 2020 – Hyundai expanded their N Line product offering to the Sonata line, adding the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line to the offering.

For the traditional premium mid-size sedan buyer, a 2021 Sonata Limited, equipped as last year, will set you back about $36,000.  For the Sonata buyer wanting a sportier styled sedan coupled with more performance, there is the new 2021 Sonata N Line at about $35,000.

The new Sonata N Line – adds an attractive entry point to the N Brand – giving  Sonata a distinctive sporty performance appearance along with selected performance features that broaden its appeal. 

We like that.


Limited vs N Line

Comparing our test 2021 Sonata N Line, to the 2021 Sonata Limited, we find many similarities along with several differences.  Importantly, the N Line comes with most of the upgrade features of the Limited – but there are a few not included. 

For many buyers, no big deal.  For ‘senior’ buyers like ourselves, we would like those features too.

Let’s look at our most recent test drive – the 2021 Sonata N Line.

N Line Styling

Based on Hyundai’s ‘Sensuous Sportiness’ design, Sonata N Line’s exterior presents bold and athletic styling. N Line design elements are evident throughout, starting with the signature cascading grille, bold front and rear N-Unique fascia, three air intakes and N Line badging.

Sonata N Line’s side skirts and 19-inch N-Unique Alloy Wheels deliver an aggressive stance with dynamic side styling carrying to the taut rear end where a sleek black lower bumper, dual twin exhausts and N Line rear diffuser amp up the sport sedan’s ready to roll attitude.

Interior design elements reinforce the dynamic feeling of the exterior with a high-tech flair.

 Elements include Dark Chrome trim, signature N Line Red Stitching on the leather-wrapped N-Unique Sport Steering Wheel, N-Unique Sport Seats w/Nappa Leather/Dinamica seating surfaces, higher side grip seat bolsters and Aluminum Pedals.

N Line Performance

In addition to the performance styling, the 2021 Sonata N-line delivers enhanced performance – starting with a more powerful powertrain.

In contrast to the 1.6T powerplant in Limited, the Sonata N Line is equipped with a N-Unique Smartstream 2.5T Turbo-GDI in-line 4-cylinder delivering 290 horsepower at 5800 rpm and 311 lb.-ft of torque between 1650-4000 rpm.

Delivering that added power to the road is the quicker-shifting N-Unique 8-speed Automatic Wet Dual Clutch Transmission w/Steering Wheel Mounted Paddle Shifters.

Plus, did we mention that the 2.5T powertrain also features a Launch Control?

Fitted with Smart Cruise Control with Start/Stop and Drive Modes (NORMAL, CUSTOM, SPORT and SPORT +), the 2021 Sonata N Line is fuel economy rated at a very respectable 23/33 mpg city/highway and 27 mpg combined.

All elements of the running gear are ‘N Line’ enhanced including a stiffer Chassis fitted with N-Tube Monotube Shocks, MacPherson Strut front and Multi-Link rear suspension, N-Line Rack-mounted Power steering and larger ABS brakes (13.6-inch Ventilated disc front and 12.8-inch solid disc rear) w/Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist.

Completing the performance package, the Sonata N Line rolls on bigger 19-inch N-Unique Alloy Wheels mounted with Pirelli P Zero 245/40R19 All Season Tires.

And last but not least, the Sonata N Line has a distinctive – yet subtle – exhaust note.

2021 Sonata N Line vs Limited

In addition to the N Line and N-Unique features referenced above, our N Line also  included the following elements found on the Sonata Limited.


  • Phantom Black with Black-on-Black Interior
  • Panoramic Sunroof
  • LED Headlights w/Automatic High Beam Assist, LED Daytime Running Lights and LED Tail Light and Turn Signals
  • Heated, Power exterior mirrors, Variable Intermittent, speed sensitive windshield wipers
  • Hands-Free Smart Trunk


  • 8-way power adjustable driver and 6-way adjustable passenger seating
  • Heated (adjustable level) Front Seating
  • 60/40 Fold-Down Rear Seats with Center Armrest and Cupholders
  • Dual Fully Automatic Climate Control w/Rear Seat Vents
  • Remote Keyless Entry w/Proximity Entry and Push Button Start
  • Four Assist Grips
  • LED Adjustable 64-Color Interior Lighting
  • 16 cubic foot trunk

Technology / Infotainment

  • 12.3-inch Color LCD instrument cluster w/custom settings
  • 10.25 Color Touchscreen Navigation System with Bose Premium Audio w/12-Speakers
  • HD Radio, SiriusXM Blue Link, Smartphone integration and Rearview Camera, USB and 12V Charging ports
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Compatible
  • Wireless Charging

Safety / Convenience

Blind Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, Forward Collision Avoidance Assist w/Pedestrian Detection, Lane Follow and Lane Keeping Assist, Highway Driving Assist (Lane Centering and Vehicle Distancing), Rear Occupant Alert,Safe Exit Warning (warns back seat exiting passengers of oncoming traffic), Electronic Parking Brake w/Vehicle Hold, Vehicle Stability Assist w/Traction Control and Tire Pressure Monitoring (individual tire)

Our Decision – N Line vs Limited

We priced a 2021 Hyundai Limited at $36,079 and a 2021 Hyundai N Line at $34,784. (Both are current local Austin area delivered prices). 

The N Line $1,295 is less than Limited making it an exceptionally good deal. If you want the bold sporty styling along with the enhanced performance elements – plus ‘most’ of the Limited’s features – this new 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line is for you.

As for us, we will pass.  Twenty years ago, yes.  These days, no.

Those Limited features like ‘Smaht Pahk’ Remote Parking Assistance, Color Heads Up Display, Surround View Camera, Blind Spot View Monitor, Ventilated Front Seating and Power Passenger Seat rank pretty high on our list.

For us, our choice would be the 2021 Hyundai Sonata Limited.

In either case, a Sonata – loaded up like either one of these – for right about $35,000 makes both a best buy in a solidly done mid-size sedan.

Check out the 2021 Hyundai Sonata lineup at https://www.hyundaiusa.com/us/en/vehicles/sonata

If hybrids are your thing, Hyundai has a Sonata Hybrid too.  See it here https://www.hyundaiusa.com/us/en/vehicles/sonata-hybrid

KEY DATA (2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line)

  • Model:                  Sonata
  • Trim:                     N Line (base on SEL)
  • Class:                    Sedan 
  • Segment:               Mid-Size           
  • Seating:                 Five     
  • MSRP:                   $33,300
  • As Tested:             $34,784 (estimated based on local dealer availability)              
  • Powertrain            2.5L Turbo GDI CVVT In-line 4-cylinder                                                   
  • Horsepower:         290 @5,800 rpm        
  • Torque:                 311 lb.-ft @1,650 – 4,000 rpm          
  • Transmission:       8-speed Wet Dual Clutch w/Paddle Shifters
  • Drive Modes:        Normal, Custom, Sport, Sport +
  • Drive System:        Front-wheel Drive  
  • Suspension:          MacPherson Strut front and Multi-link rear  
  • Wheel size:           19-inch N Line Unique Aluminum Alloy
  • Tires:                     245/40R19 All Season
  • Fuel Economy:      23/33 mpg City/Highway 27 mpg Combined
  • Fuel Capacity:       15.9 gallons
  • Range:                   525 miles (highway)


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