I had the chance to review the standard Hyundai Kona a few weeks before driving the Kona N, and I have to admit: I wasn’t super impressed. It was a decent little car to put around, but it never went fast enough as it sighed and reluctantly went a little too fast. It looked too expensive for the features available in the car, as if it was a few years old and still brand new. Overall, it was a Most OK experience which I had no desire to repeat.
The Kona N was a whole different story.
I haven’t had the chance to spend a ton of time in Kona Ann; Hyundai was offering a 2.5-mile test route through some twisty California roads during the Santa Cruz Drive event, so I won’t be able to give you the full lifestyle feel for this car — but I can give you those all-important firsts. About the impressions and some hard facts as we wait for this car to hit the press fleet.
Full disclosure: I’ve said this before, but Hyundai invited me over to California to drive to Santa Cruz and take the Kona N for a spin from A Girls’ Guide to Cars. All my thoughts are mine and mine alone.
glasses to know
- Estimated price: $35,000
- Automatic Transmission, 8-Speed DCT
- Turbocharged 2.0-litre inline-4 engine
- 286 hp
- 289 lb-ft of torque
- Combined/City/Highway: 22/20/26 mpg
- Wheelbase: 102.4 inches
- Length: 165.9 inches
- Width: 70.9 inches
- Height: 61.0 inches
- Passenger Volume: 95 Cubic Feet
- Cargo Volume: 19 Cubic Feet
- Pirelli P Zero tires on 19-inch forged alloy wheels
- 10-inch digital instrument cluster
The 2022 Hyundai Kona N is packed with features that make the N so special, which include:
- N Power Shift, which enables manual-shifting mode with the steering wheel pedals.
- N Grin Shift, which adds 10 horsepower for 20 seconds.
- N Track Sense, which adapts your shift to the track you’re playing.
- The N Track Map, which pinpoints your exact location while driving on one of Kona N’s database of tracks. This gives you the ability to calculate your lap time and analyze the data based on your track location.
There are also a few different driving modes – Eco, Normal, Sport, N and Custom – that change the color of the dashboard and settings for both the engine, stability controls, exhaust sound and steering.
Despite being taller than its Veloster N counterpart, the Kona N was well balanced and responsive on even the windiest of mountain roads. The electronic limited-slip differential helps you stay on the road and stay tight from the corner you’re taking, so while this isn’t a race car, it’s definitely going to give you the confidence of a race car driver. I was honestly a little upset that I was on a public road and not a track, because I couldn’t really push the Kona N to the limit I thought it wanted to go. I could only imagine how fun this thing would be on an autocross course.
Get it up to high speeds, and you’re going to notice a lot of wind and road noise. This Terrifying, but you’re definitely going to be aware of that. If you as a daily driver are looking to buy this car for a trip that takes you through some rough highways, you will definitely want a test drive to see how you feel. We do. That airy cabin definitely lets in a lot of that turbo whistle and exhaust rumble, so it’s a trade-off worth making.
Those rough highways will also give your suspension a run for its money, as the Kona N is stiff in its performance mode. If you’re looking for an N version, you’re probably well aware of that. But again – it’s worth noting.
Overall, you’re getting a great performance-enhanced car for a very solid (albeit predictable) price. If you want a car that lets you have fun on the cheap, you’re going to love the Kona N.
Verdict (so far)
Obviously, a 10-minute test drive and 10 minutes of asking more questions about the car’s features isn’t enough to determine whether a 2022 Hyundai Kona N is a good car or not – but considering the fact that journalists have some rumbling through mountain roads with a loud exhaust brought the police to see what we were doing, I’m going to go ahead and say this car long enough to determine 10 minutes more fun.
And that’s what I liked about it. There is value in having a workhouse in a car that can efficiently serve your needs. There’s also value to being able to hit “n grin shift” and do exactly what that button is commanding you to do. Not all cars need to be completely practical. Some can be just plain old fun.
The best part of all? Its starting price is going to be lower than its direct competition – things like the Mini Countryman John Cooper Works All 4, or the BMW X2 M35i, or the Mercedes-Benz GLA 35 – which start at around $40,000. Fun doesn’t have to be expensive.