This is a topic that comes up often on the Elantra N Forum, so I put this post together for anyone thinking of buying an 'N' but are not sure which way to go- 8 Speed DCT or Six Speed Manual?
I've owned the DCT version since August and the six speed for three weeks. I had the opportunity to take the six speed for a spirited drive this week over a 150 mile run on some back roads that have made up for the short time of ownership, giving me a good basis for comparison. Here's what I found.
Sound: The forums have said the manual is louder, I disagree. There is no big differece in how loud they are, but there is a difference in the way the sound comes out. The DCT has a satisfying change in tone with each gear change when accelerating from a stop and you don't have to be hammering the throttle. It does this even in normal mode and the tone change is more pronounced in sport mode. I really like it as it sounds a lot like a Porsche with a DCT. (I owned a 2014 Cayman with the 6 cylinder)
This exhaust system is magic as I have not heard a better sounding 4 cylinder turbo motor.
With the six speed you have full control on how you make your sound by keeping it in gear to your liking. You can wind it up or short shift it. You can change the modes from Normal to Sport to 'N' and you get different effects. It really is the best of all worlds involving engine and exhaust sounds.
Strangely, the DCT seems to be a little more deep throated and a little meaner sounding, but the manual is more versatile for altering the sounds. Hard to say which is better- they are just different.
Handling - This is subjective because it depends on your purpose at the time. Are you on a back road with lots of curves, are you on a track, or are you crusing in traffic? There are advantages to both depending on the situation. The DCT is definately quicker and it can be controlled by the paddles or gearshift giving lots of options. For sheer fun, the manual has the advantage though. Each car handles extremely well, they should as that's what they were designed to do but the you can feel a slight difference between them because of the weight difference. Not a lot- around 120 pounds but I would give the edge to the manual because it is lighter. But that's where Hyundai makes it harder to pick because the DCT has a little more horsepower estimated by all accounts to be about 15 ponies. On an overall scale, they are very, very close in the handling department.
Fun Factor - Again this is subjective. If you like shifting and don't mind being in traffic, the manual is the choice. With the Rev Match system, even a novice can look good in the 6 speed. It is a very easy shifter to operate and although not as rigid as a Honda Si shifter in some ways it is easier. Yes easier than a Honda! Many of you might disagree but I drove the new gen Honda Civic Si for a year and on my 50 mile torture test in traffic on Rt 19 in Florida I feel more rested and relaxed shifting the Hyundai. This route is one I take twice a month to visit my daughter and I can make this claim!
The Honda's shifter is wonderful but it feels like the difference you feel wearing a shirt and tie all day vs wearing a comfortable tee shirt with the Hyundai. The Hyndai shifter is a little more loosey goosey, but in a good way. The shifts are still crisp and precise, just not as crisp. The clutch might be the difference, or the fact you have a 2.0 liter vs a 1.5 liter engine. The clutch is just a bit easier to operate in the Hyundai.
But back to comparing the two Hyundais. The DCT is easy as it gets and it make the engine sounds that you love as you accelerate up through the gears. Yes, you can have a ton of fun with the DCT, and it is super quick. Which is better? Hard to say and a personal choice. Overall most people will probably like the DCT is my guess.
Conclusion - If you are really on the fence, the safe bet is the DCT. Plenty of fun and you will not be dissapointed. You also get a sunroof and the NGS button with 10 extra horsepower and remote start. For $1,500. it is well worth it. If you are used to driving a manual and want the maximum driver engagement the manual would be for you. we are lucky that Hyundai gives you a choice and moreover, we are lucky Hyundai is bringing amazing performance at an affordable price. I've owned performance cars costing way more than this and they are not really that much better, if better!
I hope this has helped anyone seriously thinking of buying an Elantra N. Here's some pictures of my two N's - the best two cars I've ever owned for the price.
Cyber Gray Elantra N With Six Speed Manual
Ceramic White Elantra N With 8 Speed DCT
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