2022 Hyundai Kona N First Test: Performance Crossover Smashes Hot-Hatch Party

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Despite its efficient positioning, the new Hyundai Kona N 2022 does not hide its crossover roots. The automaker would rather have it resting on its own SUV merit than masquerading as another hot-hatch. Michael van runkle

Hyundai’s N family of high-performance compacts expands into the crossover market with the launch of the new 2022 Kona N, which made its first public appearance last week at Sonoma Raceway alongside the 2022 Elantra N sedan. New additions to Hyundai’s US lineup join the Veloster N sold in the US and the i30 and i20 N variants it sells overseas.

Hyundai hopes the Kona N will attract buyers looking for a combination of performance and everyday utility. Packing a turbocharged inline-four with 276 horsepower – and up to 286 with a fun overboost mode – the little Kona N certainly has the prerequisites covered. Plus, it offers the same customizable and sporty drive modes available on the Veloster N and Elantra N. However, being suitable for the US market, the Kona N will only be equipped with an eight-speed dual-clutch transaxle.

Hyundai Peppy Turbo-Four and Snappy DCT

For the Kona N and Elantra N, Hyundai bolted larger turbochargers onto a reworked 2.0-liter inline-four to produce horsepower ratings of 276 and 289 pound-feet of torque. Shift paddles control the eight-speed DCT, while a red NGS button on the steering wheel signifies N Grin Shift and allows the turbo overboost to boost power up to 286 horsepower for 20 seconds before turning off. require 40 seconds to recharge.

Hyundai’s vice president of N brand management Till Wartenberg said the same eight-speed appears in many different applications for the company, including diesel models in Europe, so it’s well equipped to handle the additional couple. The gearbox also includes Hyundai’s N Corner Carving Differential, an electronic limited-slip unit with two drive modes controllable from the center console touchscreen. Essentially, it distributes engine power differently to each wheel to allow for stable cornering in difficult driving. Despite its SUV origins, the Kona N is a front-drive-only proposition.

With 276 horsepower available, the Kona N has 81 horsepower more than the Kona Limited and N-Line variants, and 129 horsepower more than the base naturally aspirated Kona. Michael van runkle

The Kona gets a bubbling N-spec exhaust, tighter suspension, tighter steering ratios and 19-inch wheels, just like the Elantra N. The 19 x 8-inch wheels hide 14-inch front brake discs. , 2-inch and 12.40-inch rears (up from 11 and 10.3 inches, respectively, on lower-grade Konas) and are shod with 235-series tires.

The performance focus of the two new N cars includes a braking system that senses when the accelerator is taking off and pressurizes the brake fluid lines to increase responsiveness. Unlike most new cars, the Kona N uses a true mechanical emergency and parking brake lever, just like the Elantra N.

Kona N exterior styling 2022

Albert Biermann, Hyundai and Kia R&D manager, shared a story about the development of the Kona N in which the designers of the first concept immediately lowered the body. Still, Biermann told them to pick it up to differentiate the Kona in appearance from little more than a raised hatchback, the kind exemplified by Hyundai’s own Veloster. He wanted to keep the crossover character intact.

It achieves that goal, but the overall design of the Kona appears to be a holdover from Hyundai’s last generation aesthetic, especially when parked alongside the clean lines of the new Elantra N. Reducing the use of plastic sheeting around it. Lower wheel arches and taillights help the Kona N look more upscale than the lower-performing versions. Still, the now body-colored flares create an impression of double-lined bulges at the back, especially around two different sets of taillights, almost like computer-generated Avatar creatures with four eyes or two sets of wings. .

From the front, two similarly sized grilles and headlights at the waistline and below extend the feel. Still, the three narrow air intakes, roof spoiler, rear diffuser, and large exhaust tips can help the Kona look almost like a miniature Lamborghini Urus from the right angle. Choosing Phantom Black over Racing Red, Lunar White, or a Kona N-exclusive Sonic Blue paint tone helps camouflage the design’s weakest spots.

Still, many N badges leave no doubt that this crossover offers a lot more dynamism than a base Kona, all in a utility package that includes roof rails for mounting crossbars, racks, and boxes.

Interior & Technology

Inside, the dimensions of the Kona N reinforce the model’s proportions compared to the new Elantra N, especially on the dashboard, where two split 10.25-inch touchscreens appear much smaller. However, they still allow much of the same technology, like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as customizable drive modes ranging from throttle response to steering assist, stability control, exhaust note and suspension damping. The steering wheel is identical to that of the Elantra N, with two light blue N buttons and the red ‘N Grin Shift (NGS) button for overboost and controls for phone calls and Hyundai’s Smartsense security suite.

The interior of the Kona N retains the same configuration as the base Kona. While functional, the 10.5-inch dual screen configuration of the new Alantra N 2022 feels much more contemporary. Michael van runkle

Kona N aims to attract buyers looking for a small family transporter that doesn’t sacrifice fun driving dynamics, so the small crossover comes standard with a front collision avoidance system with automatic braking, lane departure warning. , automatic high beam, driver monitoring, safety exit warning, blind spot warning, collision avoidance assist and rear cross traffic collision avoidance assist. The cabin features 60/40 split folding rear seats that lower almost flat, with respectable head and legroom for the front and rear seats.

Where the Elantra N still uses manual seats to keep the price down and reduce weight, the Kona N gets a power adjustable driver’s seat. The two front buckets are firm and reinforced, but not as low as those on the new Elantra N.

Daily utility With only minor performance sacrifices

Launching the two new members of the N family at Sonoma Raceway may seem like an aggressive move on Hyundai’s part. Yet neither the Kona N nor the Elantra N disappointed in terms of performance. Of course, the Kona N makes some sacrifices compared to the Elantra N, but only during the most aggressive ride. On the big track, the small crossover boasted about the same predictable handling, body roll, and straight-line acceleration as the Elantra N.

The autocross circuit revealed most clearly where the Kona N has traction issues due to a combination of narrower tires and being around 150 pounds heavier than a manual Elantra N. He also feels a lot higher off the ground. In addition, it turned out to be nearly impossible to synchronize the finicky launch control system with the overboost, so locking the front wheels affected almost all drivers.

Hyundai’s Veloster N has a dedicated following, and the automaker hopes the Kona N and the new 2022 Alantra N will increase that fan base. Hyundai

Meanwhile, pushing the Kona N into a tight turn caused a heavier nose slide, where the brakes quickly overtake the tire grip, and torque direction began to creep in despite the impressive eLSD making its sound. better. The lively DCT also keeps the Kona N so perfectly in the torque band of the rev range that with traction control completely disabled, the front wheels start to peel off at about three-quarters of the throttle, fun, but not ideal for reduce lap times.

Biermann also left no doubt that Hyundai remains committed to the front-wheel drive setup and the accompanying steering torque issues. Kona, in particular, could likely benefit from an all-wheel-drive version, although the adoption of full electrification seems likely to happen first.

On public roads and Sonoma highways, the Kona actually felt stiffer than the Elantra, even selecting the smoothest suspension and steering settings. At speeds above 30 miles per hour, the more vertical airfoil increases wind noise and significantly reduces acceleration compared to the lower sedan. And another fun detail once popped up: The Kona uses a louder horn, perhaps another nod to family-focused safety.

No space penalty for fun here, the Kona N offers the same amount of space for passengers and cargo as the base model. Michael van runkle

Competition and price

A unique set of performance features and customizable ride modes differentiates the Kona N from the standard trim and much of the growing crossover market. Still, price will largely determine whether this sporty micro-SUV can lure buyers towards a lively, stiff ride for their family transporter and away from the competition. The official MSRP remains under wraps, but Hyundai hints at a sticker just below the one on the Elantra, which is expected to fetch around $ 34,000.

Although the base Kona competes with models like the Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR and Mazda CX-3, the 2022 Mini Cooper Countryman S could be the closest competitor to the Kona N. With a starting at $ 31,900, it only produces 189 horsepower from a turbo-four and weighs a few hundred pounds more than the Kona N.

On the other hand, given that the aforementioned five colors represent the one-time option pick for Kona N buyers, the price of this sporty crossover is unlikely to increase near the region of a larger Volkswagen Tiguan R. -Line, which is also about 100 less. horses under pressure. But, of course, moving sideways to the hatchback segment opens up a world of possibilities led by the Volkswagen GTI. But Hyundai is very keen on making the Kona stand out as a sporty and stylish micro-SUV.

Production of the Hyundai Kona N is expected to begin by the end of 2021.

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