2022 Hyundai Kona N review (video)

Hyundai has successfully matured into a reputable performance car manufacturer with its N division. By now, any driving enthusiast would know about them. But as many buyers crave SUVs, how can we still get that performance? Por qué no los dos? The Hyundai Kona N combines its small SUV origins with a serious amount of ‘N’ coated zing.

It’s a new and arguably odd synergy to combine a soft-roader with a performance angle. And that draws our interest. Especially when SUVs usually have a higher centre of gravity – an aspect that generally does not go together with speed and agility. So how does the Kona N do it?

Filched from its smaller sibling, the i30 N hot hatch, the Kona N gets a red hot 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that produces a keen 206kW and 392Nm of torque. But unlike the i30, a manual gearbox is not an option here. It is only available with a wet-type dual-clutch eight-speed automatic that delivers power to the front wheels. Prices commence at $48,000 (plus on-road costs).

2022 Hyundai Kona N – THE SPECS

Engine: 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder
Output: 206kW@6000rpm / 392Nm@2100-4700rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
Drive type: Front-wheel drive, limited-slip differential
Wheels: F & R: 19×8.0, 235/40
ANCAP: Not tested (regular Kona 5 stars)
Tare weight: 1539kg
Power-to-weight: 7.47:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 9.0L/100km
Economy during test: 8.2L/100km

Fuel capacity/Type: 50L/95 RON
Power efficiency: 22.88kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 3.00 seconds*
0-100km/h: 5.69 seconds*
60-110km/h: 3.67 seconds*
1/4 mile: 14.02 seconds at 165.4km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.938g
100-0km/h braking: 2.94 seconds at 36.69 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.337g
Decibel at idle (/N mode): 46/50*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 86/91*
Priced from: $47,500

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2022 Hyundai Kona N – THE PACKAGE

For the record, N models are not necessarily made to be the flagship in luxury variants. This is great for those who don’t care much for elegance but more for performance, to help keep the price down. But you still get those important safety features, like blind-spot sensors with active assistance, lane departure warning with active lane keeping aid, forward and reverse collision mitigation with pedestrian avoidance and braking, distance-controlled cruise control, driver attention detection, door exit warning, rear cross-traffic warning, and auto-dipping high beam.

Other features worth mentioning include a premium eight-speaker stereo that connects to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, 19-inch alloy wheels, puddle lamps, power folding and heated door mirrors, an integrated digital stopwatch, tyre pressure monitoring, and a wireless phone charging pad.

A Kona N Premium variant is also available for $3000 extra, adding head-up display, suede/leather seats, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, sunroof, front parking sensors, a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.

Judging interior presentation, it’s not spectacularly elegant, but it is easy to pilot. There is a fully digital instrument cluster, and there are a few areas of boring and hard plastics. In terms of comfort levels, being a small SUV at heart, a higher roofline makes the cabin feel more spacious than the i30 hatch. Legroom in the front is decent, but a bit tighter in the back compared with some rivals.

Turning to the exterior, in our humble opinion, we’re not fans – though, we were never big fans of the standard Kona’s design. The dual headlights and taillights make the front and rear look busy and confusing. Kind of like bulgy rolls of fat. Then the N spec adds front and rear spoilers, skirting all around, and a rear apron. Those, along with roof rails and the higher roofline than a hot hatch, make the Kona look overweight and disproportionate.

In terms of value for money, the Kona N is well-equipped when you consider the feature list and those performance cred’s. Interestingly, the Hyundai i30 N hatch in automatic guise is the exact same price as the Kona N. The difference with the Kona N is in the quirky design, a 37mm taller ground clearance, and a taller cabin. Surprisingly boot space is 20 litres smaller in the Kona N – at 361 litres. It’s a pity the Kona is not available in all-wheel drive form to help differentiate it from the i30 N.

Hyundai has an industry standard warranty term, lasting five years and unlimited kilometres. But servicing intervals are required more frequent than some, at 10,000km or 12 months, with the first service after 1500km. You also receive one year of complimentary roadside assistance, and five years (or five services) can be pre-purchased for $1675. Hyundai also provides its full warranty even after non-competition track driving.

2022 Hyundai Kona N – THE DRIVE

The real reason we’re all here is for that hot-hatch-like performance. The 2.0-litre turbo engine is ripped straight out of the i30 N, which is tried and tested. It is a thriller, and it loves to play. The 0-100km/h sprint is claimed at just 5.5 seconds. Our testing revealed a time of 5.69 seconds. Pushing it hard unleashes a boom, crash, opera from the exhaust. It feels comfortable revving high, and when it does, it acts with urgency as it buries your head into the headrest.

To make things even more exhilarating, the N has what is called “N Grin Shift” or NGS. At the push of a hot-red button on the steering wheel, engine and transmission performance is maximised for 20 seconds. In fact, power increases to 213kW from 206kW. It will shift down a ratio or two, create some crackling exhaust notes, and launch away. There are also five drive modes, including a customisable one, and many other fun settings to play around with; launch control, lap timers with track maps, and exhaust loudness modes.

There is also an electronic limited-slip differential or e-LSD that mechanically controls the power to each front wheel. This helps to improve steering and stability in high-speed cornering, somewhat negating the call for all-wheel drive. All of that 206kW is well-controlled through the front wheels. You even have two settings to choose from for the LSD.

The new eight-speed dual-clutch transmission is superb, and well-suited to a high-performance car like this. It seems very intuitive, repeatedly knowing exactly when to shift gears based on your driving style and shifting down on descents to help with braking. It is well behaved in slow stop-start traffic as well. It slips into progression with no delay on initial launch, doing away with that infamous dual-clutch take-off delay.

Official fuel consumption for the N is rated at 9.0L/100km. That’s commendable when you consider the power output and performance. Our test revealed an average of 8.2L/100km. And we were indulging ourselves with the accelerator pedal a fair bit. We’re confident the fuel average would drop somewhat when/if that performance novelty starts to wear off. It does require a minimum of 95 RON petrol.

In the corners, the Kona N handles like a high calibre hot hatch. But that raised SUV height gives a little more suspension travel, making it a tad more pleasant to live with on a daily basis. So, the i30 N will out-corner the Kona N thanks to a lower centre of gravity. But i30 N aside, the Kona N still glues to the road securely with minimal lean and grin-inducing vigour.

It is much firmer than a standard Kona, though. If you want a smooth ride that will put your infants to sleep, maybe look for something else. Make no mistake, the Kona N has been developed on racetracks. Grip is also on the money with 235/40 Pirelli P Zero tyres.

The brakes are beefed up to performance levels too. 360mm ventilated front discs and 314mm ventilated rear discs are highlighted with bright red brake calipers. They stop the SUV on a dime and endured our testing with no notable fade.

On that note, during our test Hyundai Australia invited us to compete in a local round of a Rally Sprint series in the Kona, carried out in the grounds of Sydney Motorsport Park. It was kind of like a tarmac rally. In these conditions, the Kona N performed perfectly. The brakes withstood very harsh and sudden demands, the tight suspension helped us tackle the tight right-angle corners, and the engine provided more than enough get-up along the straights. And let’s not forget this is a fairly humble SUV straight from the showroom floor.

The best round result we achieved was 10th position overall, out of about 100 entrants. That included many WRXs and Mitsubishi Evos. We’ll remind you again, this is a practical SUV. It is hugely entertaining and capable when pushed in highly-demanding conditions. And a lot of it is thanks to things like the limited-slip differential, the special N suspension and brakes, and of course that fantastic new eight-speed auto. You can read more about our experience in the rally event here.

2022 Hyundai Kona N – THE VIDEOS

2022 Hyundai Kona N – THE VERDICT

Hyundai has performed an ambitious yet very successful act here. It has essentially blurred the lines between an SUV and a performance hatch. Hyundai has kept the price in a similar league to the i30 N as well, making it an extremely tempting alternative.

We think it’s a perfect companion for those who desire a car with serious clout but also one that’s liveable and suitable for everyday use, including some off-road capability. So if you can forgive its peculiar design, rest assured as you will jump in with no regrets.

PROS:
– Slick, high-performance engine we love from the i30 N
– ‘NGS’ N Grin Shift is fun, gives after-burner-like boosts
– Extra SUV height gives a little more suspension travel, a bit more practical than i30 N
– Impeccable new eight-speed DCT auto

CONS:
– Quirky Kona external design looks confusing in N guise
– No all-wheel drive or manual gearbox available
– Smaller boot than i30 N hatchback

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