This week I'm bringing you something special in Hyundai's lineup - its first N-badged SUV. N is Hyundai's fairly new high-performance sub-brand and is not to be confused with the N Line trim, which is an appearance package only. The first-ever 2022 Hyundai Kona N serves up a lot more excitement than your typical subcompact crossover - and then some. Hyundai delivers on its high-performance promises which results in a welcome addition to the hot-hatch segment.
The Kona N gives off a sporty, aggressive, road-hugging vibe at first glance. It looks terrific in N-exclusive performance Sonic Blue with contrasting red accents skirting the lower edge of the body. You'll find N-specific badging on the unique black mesh grille as well as on the statement- making tail-end which features a double-wing roof spoiler, rear diffuser and large bore dual-tip exhaust. N-specific 19-inch alloy wheels are outfitted with Pirelli P-Zero summer tires.
Design is about more than style - but also function. The front lip spoiler, double-wing roof spoiler and side valance help enhance aerodynamics. The wide, functional, lower air intake on the front bumper helps keep the engine cool. The double-wing roof spoiler, with an N-specific triangular brake light, enhances downforce.
The N is equipped with LED headlights, daytime running lights and taillights, gloss black heated side mirrors and side roof rails.
The Kona N is at its core about hot-hatch performance. Hyundai's N models are tested at the famed Nürburgring race track in Germany. It's equipped with a flat-power, 2.0-liter, turbocharged engine mated to an N eight-speed wet, dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters. (This is the same engine used in the discontinued Veloster N.) The result is 276-horsepower (a big boost compared to the the Kona Limited's 195-hp) along with 289 lb.-ft. of torque.
The N doesn't end there. It's equipped with N Grin Shift (NGS), N Power Shift (NPS) and N Track Sense Shift (NTS) — features designed to enhance the driving experience. Punch the can't-miss-it red N Grin Shift overboost button on the steering wheel and you'll get a temporary horsepower boost to 286-hp for 20 seconds. The timer counts you down on the digital info cluster and it only works in certain conditions.
An N-specific exclusive racing display provides lap time, maps and other performance data. Another key feature is all the customization offered to really tailor your driving experience to, well, you. Eco, Normal, Sport, N and Custom modes adjust various aspects like the engine, Electronic Stability Control, exhaust note, and steering feel. There's also a launch control for track use. Large performance brakes are excellent and the Variable Exhaust System doesn't disappoint either -- especially when dialed up in Sport+ mode.
Inside you'll find a driver-centric interior that matches the hot-hatch sporty vibe of the exterior. N-branded details included Performance Blue color accents on the N sport bucket seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
The interior is a mix of soft-touch materials and plastic - though with a bit more plastic than I'd like to see. Aluminum door-sill plates and alloy sport pedals jazz up the mostly black interior. Overhead, you'll find a black headliner, but no sunroof.
I'm definitely a fan of the N leather and suede heated front seats. While on the narrow side, the 8-way power driver's seat with power lumbar support is comfortable with great bolstering that limits body roll.
Everything about the leather-wrapped tilt and telescopic steering wheel is great - from the design, look and feel to the steering-mounted controls and added N features. Above it, Hyundai's 10.25-inch fully digital driver’s display features great graphics, animation, and easy to read information.
The N also benefits from the Kona's newly available 10.25-inch responsive, multi-media split-screen equipped with Navigation and Dynamic Voice Recognition. Map quality is great as is the the backup camera. Hyundai’s voice recognition remains one of my favorites. Connectivity includes available SiriusXM Radio, Bluetooth and three USB ports. It's equipped with non-wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Further down on the center stack, you'll find automatic climate controls. The center console sports the leather-wrapped gear shift knob with great Performance Blue accents and stitching, along with buttons for the drive modes and heated seats. You'll find a hand parking brake instead of an electric one. The cupholders are on the smaller side, but feature ambient lighting. The center console bin is also on the smaller side.
In front, the Kona felt roomy for a compact SUV with plenty of leg-room. A little less leg room in back but plenty of headroom throughout. Rear seat passengers share a single USB port and the 60/40 split folding rear seat offers passengers a center drop down armrest with - again - small cupholders.
I'm impressed with the Kona N's cargo space. But unlike the Limited model I reviewed, the N does not have a dual level cargo floor or an under floor storage tray.
Standard features include remote start, Valet and Quiet modes, Digital Key, automatic temperature control, heated front seats, power driver’s seat, proximity key with push-button start, a terrific 8-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system, ambient lighting and dual front USB outlets, and one USB for the second-row.
I do miss a power lift gate.
Ride and Drive
The Kona N is a fun, engaging hot-hatch to drive and despite its performance status it also makes a terrific, practical daily driver. It sure is fun jetting around town in one. Acceleration doesn't disappoint in city or highway driving. Though it's not all-wheel drive, the Kona N feels confident on the road and delivers impressive, sporty handling. The N-tuned suspension delivers a distinctive tight handling that's also impressively customizable. The only con for me is the road noise.
Hyundai’s SmartSense advanced driver assistance system is one of my favorites. Kona N ADAS features include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Following Assist, Driver Attention Warning, High Beam Assist, Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Alert and Safe Exit Warning.
Unfortunately, the N misses out on Hyundai's fantastic Highway Drive Assist system, Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Blind Spot Monitor View and Parking Distance Warning- Reverse.
What You’ll Pay
There is no official MSRP provided for my test model, but Hyundai's website lists the base N price as $34,200.
If you want to spice up your life and add a jolt of excitement to the everyday, the high-performance Kona N will do it and for a not-bad mid-30K price point. It's a fun, daily driver that'll make your commute anything but boring and it's more than ready to hit the track when you are.
- What I liked most: Performance, N Grin Features, Looks, Seats, Premium Audio.
- What I would change: A little less plastic and more soft-touch materials please for this price point, add USB-C ports. Add availability of optional Highway Driving Assist.
- MSRP: Base: $34,200 without destination/Estimated: $35,495 with destination.
- Fuel Economy: 20 city/27 highway/23 combined.
- Odometer reading when tested: 3,029 miles.
- Weight:: 3,340 pounds.
- Spare Tire: Tire Mobility Kit.
- Length-width-height: 165.9” long/70.9” wide/61.6” high with roof rails.
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 13.2 gallons with the filler on the driver's side.
- Official Color: Sonic Blue.
- Towing Capacity: Not recommended.
- 2022 Hyundai Kona N in a few words: Hyundai successfully does its part to help keep hot-hatches alive with this exciting, fun new entry to the segment.
- Warranty: 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty, 5-year/60,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty, 7-year anti-perforation warranty Complimentary Maintenance: 3 years/36,000 miles of normal oil changes and tire rotations.
- Final Assembly Location: N/A
- Manufacturer's website: Hyundai