Hyundai Kona N could be killed off after existing generation

Brett Davis

With the unveiling of the next-gen 2024 Hyundai Kona earlier today, consumers and fans might be wondering if there is a new N high-performance model on the horizon? In short, not likely. Hyundai has confirmed an N Line, though.

Like many other carmakers, Hyundai is a global brand that provides products for most markets around the world. And so it must adhere to various rules and regulations and produce products that have the widest reach possible, for the best economies of scale. That means meeting ever-tightening emissions laws that are imposed in big markets like Europe and USA.

This brings about questions regarding the possibility and feasibility of Hyundai’s next-gen N models. Of course, we know there are the fully electric IONIQ 5 N and IONIQ 6 N on the way, but according to former Hyundai-Kia development boss and now advisor to the group, Albert Biermann, electric powertrains in smaller vehicles, such as the i30 and Kona, especially track-capable ones are challenging.

During a press conference at the 2022 N Festival at The Bend Motorsport Park near Adelaide in December, Biermann answered questions regarding possible future products. When asked if there could be a Kona Electric N based on the new model featuring a smaller battery setup compared with the IONIQ N models, he said:

“I would say it’s not a good idea to put a 400V system into an N vehicle if in the same company we have the finest 800V system available, with silicon-carbide inverters and high-speed motors and everything available. Why just go there and be eaten by all the pack of 400V guys. Why do that? Strategically, it makes no sense.

“If you think about an affordable EV, let’s say like 30,000 euros, either it has a small battery or a cheap battery. But N, race track capability, with a cheap battery? That is not going to work. You need the finest battery you can buy, in mass production scale, and this is what we have in our E-GMP platform.”

In other words, a Kona Electric with full N performance credentials would need the complete 800V system to maximise its overall performance. Doing so would add a lot of weight, however, which goes against the N philosophy. So, what about a next-gen Kona N with a petrol engine? Biermann said:

“Europe, Hyundai Europe right now is in EV heaven. Having Kona EV, IONIQ 5 EV, they are so happy selling those EVs, they’re not really fighting to get a Kona with a combustion engine. We really are fighting for it… It’s probably different from Australia. These guys here [Hyundai Australia] know what matters and they take every N car they can get. But in Europe, no, it’s a different story.”

Since Australia is a relatively small market in terms of overall sales numbers, it would be difficult to produce a vehicle just for us – although the Kona N is sold in the USA in left-hand drive.

In terms of the next-generation of combustion N cars, regardless of the model line, the former N boss said there is a future, suggesting that regulations in some areas will be the limiting factor. Beirmann said:

“At least for Australia, there can always be, not always but for quite some time there can be combustion cars out there [N models]. At least one. This is a pretty safe bet. Other areas it’s not so easy. With euro 7 regulations you can imagine it is a little bit more challenging. But for Australia we can clearly see something like a next-generation Elantra (i30 Sedan N)… That can survive, technically.”

Hyundai will launch the IONIQ 5 N some time in the next 12 months, followed by the IONIQ 6 N likely in late 2024. The current Kona N is expected to remain on sale and overlap with the new regular Kona for at least the next 12 months.

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