Driven: The 2022 Hyundai Kona N Proves Good Cars Don’t Need to Make Sense


Hyundai launched the Kona in 2018 as a subcompact crossover based on a modified version of the i30 platform. Ten years ago, a crossover like the Kona didn’t exist and people just bought the i30. People don’t get tired of SUVs and crossovers these days. Thus, the Kona was born. But what about the Kona N?

The South Korean automaker warned the industry of hot hatchbacks with the launch of the i30 N a few years ago. Created to rival the Renault Megane RS and Honda Civic Type R, the i30 N makes a lot of sense. Ditto with the i20 N, launched as a rival to the Ford Fiesta ST. The Kona N is a bit different because it wasn’t launched in an established segment of the industry and carved out a market for itself.

Was it a Hyundai masterstroke? It absolutely was.

A familiar powertrain

The Kona N features the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine as the i30 N hatchback, developing 206 kW (276 hp) between 5,500 rpm and 6,000 rpm and 392 Nm (289 lb-ft) of torque from 2,100 rpm to 4,700 rpm. rpm. Unlike the i30 N hatch, no six-speed manual gearbox is offered and the only gearbox available is an eight-speed wet dual-clutch that powers the front wheels.

Transferring all that power to the pavement is an electronically controlled mechanical limited-slip differential and a set of bespoke Pirelli P Zero tires measuring 235/40R19 on all four corners. Other key features include adaptive suspension and impressive disc brakes measuring 360×30mm at the front and 314×20mm at the rear.

Driven: 2021 Hyundai Kona N Line Premium exudes fun and eccentricity

Hyundai engineers have also equipped the Kona N with the same drive modes as the i30 N hatchback while also including its N Grin Shift, N Power Shift and N Track Sense functions. Unlike other N products, however, the Kona N combines all of its configurable drive modes with four different traction modes designed for snow, deep snow, mud and sand. It is a crossbreed after all.

Make a bold statement

The visual differences between the Kona N and lower variants are obvious. They start at the front where the performance crossover sports a distinctive black grille and features a trio of Audi Quattro-inspired vents just above. The front also includes blacked-out air intakes and bright red trim on the splitter.

The crossover stands out even more thanks to 19-inch wheels with an intricate spoke design and sitting on red brake calipers. The side skirts are new and intricate with an N logo while at the rear are a bold diffuser, massive twin tailpipes, N badging, reinforced bumper and two-piece roof-mounted spoiler. . This thing looks seriously nasty and is definitely more interesting to look at than the i30 N hatch.

The changes continue in the cabin where the Kona N has sports seats distinct from other Kona models, a three-spoke steering wheel with two customizable N buttons and alloy pedals. Our Kona N test car was the flagship Premium model which also includes power seats, panoramic sunroof, ambient lighting, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats and a head-up display.

A large 10.25-inch infotainment screen sits in the center of the dash offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A 10.25-inch digital dashboard is also featured, as is a Qi wireless charger.

Want to know how this thing rolls? Extraordinarily well

In terms of overall size, the Kona N is 4,215mm (165.9 inches) long, 1,800mm (70.8 inches) wide and 1,550mm (61 inches) high. That means it’s 125mm (4.9in) shorter than an i30 N while being 5mm (0.19in) wider and 105mm (4.1in) taller. It also has a slightly shorter wheelbase of 2,600 mm (102.3 in) compared to the 2,650 mm (104.3 in) of the i30 N hatch. The front and rear tracks are also slightly wider than the i30 N and the crossover weighs 30 kg (66 lb) more than an equivalent i30 N.

One of the first things that strikes you when driving the Kona N is how much it resembles its hot hatchback sibling. You sit a little higher, but the handling is just as amazing. There is also more body roll than the hatch.

With the crossover switched to N mode, the steering weighs beautifully and the cornering is simply huge. As soon as the P Zero tires bite into the pavement, the Kona N encourages you to hit the throttle halfway through a turn, making full use of e-LSD to seamlessly transmit power to the ground and propel you forward. through the exit.

Sticks for days

The crossover’s e-LSD is just as tenacious as the i30 N’s and the crossover seems to have just as much grip. Just like in the i30 N, the e-LSD often tugs at the steering wheel, pulling you straight to the apex of a turn, even if you’re not actually steering to the apex. It works a little more subtly in the Kona N but is just as effective. We also noticed less steering torque than its hot hatch sibling, despite having identical power.

The 2.0-liter turbo-four and eight-speed dual-clutch remain as sharp as ever. Pin on the gas and the engine blasts you down the road at frightening speeds, pulling hard to the redline. Engage N Grin Shift mode and peak power jumps to 213kW (285hp) for 20 seconds and while you can’t quite feel that extra power, you definitely notice the wild shifts that keep you stuck in the seat. The exhaust is also a bit louder with NGS on.

We praised the eight-speed dual-clutch when we first experienced it last year and remain very impressed with it. Shifts are quick and smooth and at low speeds the transmission handles very well. You get a good idea of ​​how well the engine, transmission, e-LSD, and traction control systems are tuned when using the launch control system.

Simply select the desired rev limit and press activate on the touchscreen, and the system is ready to go. Step on the brake and throttle and the Hyundai cranks up the power and spins you off the line with surprisingly little wheel spin, despite the front-wheel-drive layout. It will reach 100 km/h (62 mph) in 5.5 seconds and will continue up to 240 km/h (149 mph).

As with so many other Hyundai models sold in Australia, the Kona N has also received bespoke suspension tuning to suit local roads. Left in its Normal mode, the suspension is firm but handles imperfections and bumps in the road well. The Sport and Sport+ settings step things up even further and are usable on the street, although we suspect those settings will be a bit too harsh for most. Better to leave them for the track or exceptionally smooth roads then.

And what about all-wheel drive?

Did Hyundai miss an opportunity by not building the Kona N with all-wheel drive? May be. In some markets, the less powerful Kona N-Line is indeed available with all-wheel drive and if the N division had experimented with it, the Kona N would have been the vehicle to do so. This would have allowed it to compete with the more expensive and more powerful VW T-Roc R and would have given it a unique character from other N products. However, when it comes to front-wheel-drive performance crossovers, the Kona N is hard to beat.

Australian prices for the Hyundai Kona N start at AU$52,105 ($39,031) for the entry-level model and climb to AU$55,231 ($41,373) for the N Premium we tested. Atlas White, Performance Blue and Ignite Flame are the only colors that don’t require extra cash, with Cyber ​​Grey, Phantom Black and Dark Knight adding AU$595 ($445) to the price and Gravity Gold increasing the price by AU $1,000 ($749). An equivalent i30 N Premium sedan starts at AU$53,672 ($40,205) while a comparable i30 N Premium Sedan starts at AU$55,756 ($41,766).

The Hyundai Kona N is a truly impressive vehicle. Sure, that might not make a whole lot of logical sense, but that only makes him kinder.

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Photo credits: Brad Anderson/CarScoops

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