Good things come in small packages (N)
I had the chance to review the standard Hyundai Kona a few weeks before driving the Kona N, and I have to admit I was not very impressed. It was a decent little car, but it never really accelerated as much as she sighed and reluctantly went a little faster. It seemed too expensive for the equipment available in the car, as if it was a few years old-fashioned and yet still brand new. It was, overall, a Mostly Okay experience that I had no desire to duplicate.
The Kona N was a whole different story.
I haven’t had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the Kona N; Hyundai was offering a 2.5 mile test route through winding California roads as a little extra treat at the Santa Cruz driving event so I won’t be able to give you the full lifestyle experience. for this car – but I can give you these very important first impressions and some of the hard facts while we wait for this car to hit press fleets.
Full Disclosure: I’ve said it before, but Hyundai invited me to California to drive the Santa Cruz and take a tour of the Kona N on behalf of A Girls Guide to Cars. All of my opinions are mine and mine alone.
Specifications to know
- Estimated price: $ 35,000
- Automatic transmission, 8-speed DCT
- 2.0-liter turbocharged in-line 4-cylinder engine
- 286 horsepower
- 289 lb-ft of torque
- Combined / City / Highway: 22/20/26 mpg
- Wheelbase: 102.4 inches
- Length: 165.9 ”
- Width: 70.9 inches
- Height: 61.0 ”
- Passenger volume: 95 cubic feet
- Cargo volume: 19 cubic feet
- Pirelli P Zero tires on 19-inch forged alloy rims
- 10 inch digital instrument cluster
The 2022 Hyundai Kona N is packed with features that make the N so special, including:
- No Power Shift, which allows a manual gear shifting mode with the steering wheel pedals.
- N Grin Shift, which adds 10 horsepower for 20 seconds.
- N Track Sense, which optimizes your gear changes for the track you are driving on.
- N Track Map, which shows your exact position when driving on one of Kona N’s track databases. This gives you the ability to calculate your lap time and analyze the data based on the location of your track.
There are also a handful of different drive modes – Eco, Normal, Sport, N, and Custom – which change both the dashboard color and settings for the engine, stability control, exhaust sound, and of management.
Despite being taller than its Veloster N counterpart, the Kona N was well balanced and responsive even on the most twisty mountain roads. The electronic limited slip differential helps you stay on the road and stay tight in the turn you take, so while this isn’t a race car, it will definitely give you the confidence of a racing car driver. Honestly, I was a little upset that I was on a public road and not a trail, as I couldn’t really push the Kona N into the limits I thought it wanted to go. I could only imagine how fun this thing would be on an autocross course.
Wear it at high speeds and you will notice a lot of wind and road noise. It’s not awful, but you will certainly be aware of it. If you’re looking to buy this car as a daily driver for a commute that takes you on rough highways, you’ll definitely want a test drive to see how you feel. That windier cabin admittedly lets in a lot more turbo hiss and exhaust growl, so it’s a compromise worth making.
Those rough highways will also give your suspension value for money, as the Kona N is stiff in its performance modes. If you are looking for an N version, you are probably well aware of this. But again, it’s worth noting.
All in all, you get a wonderfully equipped, performance-enhanced car for a pretty solid (although estimated) price tag. If you want a car that will make you happy at a great price, you’ll love the Kona N.
The verdict (so far)
Obviously, a test drive of another 10 minutes and 10 minutes digging into the car’s specs and asking questions isn’t enough to determine if the Hyundai Kona N 2022 is a good car – but considering that reporters tearing up some mountain roads with a loud exhaust made the police check what we were doing, I’m going to go ahead and say 10 minutes is more than enough time to determine this car is amusing.
And that’s what I liked about it. There is value in a car being a work house that can effectively meet your needs. It’s also helpful that you can press the “N Grin Shift” and do exactly what that button commands you to do. Not all cars need to be just practical. Some can be just plain fun.
Best part of all? Its starting price will be lower than its direct competitors – things like the Mini Countryman John Cooper Works All4, or the BMW X2 M35i, or the Mercedes-Benz GLA35 – which start around the $ 40,000 mark. The fun doesn’t have to be expensive.