- Hot hatch handling in a compact SUV
- Great eye-catching design
- Corners brilliantly
- Interior is a little drab in places
- Not particularly spacious
- Quite noisy (even when driven sensibly!)
The all-new Hyundai Kona N brings the excitement of motorsport power to the SUV sector. With ridiculously high power outputs this car features the likes of launch control and a corner carving differential. They may sound like fancy names, but balance and control at high speeds is what this N model is all about.
The performance stats are certainly not for the faint-hearted, but when you need something a little calmer, the Kona N is happy to slow things down and delivers a very mild-mannered performance. After all this is a five-door family SUV, albeit with attitude.
This Kona N costs something in the region of £14k more than a standard Kona which certainly isn’t a small outlay, but with all that power and dynamism on tap, it’s worth every penny for thrill-seekers out there.
The development of the Kona N was a collaboration between the Hyundai N Division and Hyundai Design Centre working together on an SUV for the first time. The result is a five-door car with a modern style that boasts a powerful road presence.
Up front, there are large air intakes and the Kona’s LED light signature. A low grille and red accents hint at its motorsport inspiration. At the back is a double-wing roof spoiler with brake lights and large exhaust pipes. Aggressively-styled 19-inch alloys and tinted rear windows add to the appeal.
Move inside and it is again race-inspired with bucket sports seats with pronounced side bolsters, lots of N badging, a 10.25-inch digital N cluster with plenty of driving stats and instant feedback concerning torque and turbo boost.
A high-definition 10.25-inch infotainment screen offers access to the navigation system, along with smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There is a premium Krell sound system, separate controls for all the air con functions plus heated and ventilated seats.
A head-up display means you can keep your eyes focused on the road ahead with the speed in your sightline and many systems can be controlled from a smartphone via Bluelink.
On The Road
Handling & Performance
Powering the front-wheel drive Hyundai Kona N is a 2.0-litre, 280PS turbocharged petrol engine with 291Nm of torque. It can sprint from 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds and tops out at 149mph.
The acceleration through the eight-speed DCT automatic gearbox is blisteringly quick, with paddles for added driver fun. And that fun increases further thanks to drive modes called Eco, Normal and Sport. There are also extra traction modes for Snow, Mud and Sand – well, this is an SUV after all.
But it’s the red button on the steering wheel that screams ‘press me’ and has the letters NGS on it. They stand for N Grin Shift – not the best title, but press the button and it will put a smile on your face as it gives the car maximum everything as it counts down from 20 seconds to zero.
There are N buttons that change the displays and handling. But, gimmicks aside, the Kona N is an absolute hoot to drive. It’s very fast, beautifully balanced, full of grip, deceptively agile and boasts perfectly weighted steering.
If you need SUV practicality, but want to still enjoy your driving experiences, then look no further. This is a proper driver’s car.
Space & Practicality
The Hyundai Kona N is a fairly compact five-door SUV that stretches 4,215mm in length, is 1,800mm wide (excluding door mirrors) and has a wheelbase measuring 2,600mm.
The sports seats have side bolsters which hold you nicely in position when fizzing through the lanes and the seats can be heated, ventilated and power-operated for convenience too.
There is bags of space up front, but adults would feel a little cramped in the back on longer journeys with limited knee and head room. The Kona N is ideal for three youngsters in the back though and there are Isofix child seat fixtures on both outer rear seats.
The boot can hold 361 litres of luggage, a limit that increases to 1,143 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat. There are numerous storage options scattered throughout the cabin too, including a glovebox, door bins with space for a bottle, a central cubby, trays – one is a wireless charging pad – seat back nets, a sunglasses compartment and plenty of USB ports to keep devices connected and charged.
With the elevated driving position, the all-round visibility is good, although the B pillars are quite wide and hinder the over-the-shoulder view slightly.
The Hyundai Kona N is not cheap to buy, or to run. In fact the ‘N’ adds about £14,000 to the price compared to entry-level models. Our test car cost £35,820 and there were no optional extras to factor in.
According to official figures, under WLTP testing, it can deliver a combined 33.2mpg with carbon emissions of 194g/km. That fuel efficiency stat would plummet considerably if the car is driven hard.
The CO2 figure would result in a first year Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax) charge of £1,420 dropping to the standard £165 fee after 12 months. And for anyone thinking about the Kona N as a business option, don’t expect too much tax relief as it sits in the worst Benefit in Kind category at 37 per cent. The car is in insurance group 27.
On a plus point, Hyundai does have an excellent reputation when it comes to reliability so repair bills should be few and far between. And for added peace of mind, the Kona N comes with a five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty as standard.
There is something very wrong about the Hyundai Kona N but in a very good way. After all, this is a family SUV. Yet it behaves like a delinquent teenager having a hissy fit. No SUV should be this much fun to drive, but it is. It’s powerful, dynamic, boasts outstanding handling ability and corners at silly speeds.
This is a car that you drop the kids off to school in waving bye-bye as you drive away, drop grandpa at his allotment and then go in search of quiet country lanes for some ‘me time’ – it really is that good.