It's not often that an automaker creates a one-of-a-kind product, but the 2022 Hyundai Kona N is such a car. Based on the budget-friendly Kona, the Kona N injects a sporty flavor into the subcompact crossover segment the likes of which we've never seen before. With a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder pumping out 276 horsepower (286 hp on overboost), the Kona N's performance specs outmatch nearly every compact crossover on the market.
We struggled to find a close competitor to the Kona N. The Mazda CX-30 Turbo offers nearly as much power, but with a focus on luxury rather than performance. Likewise, the Ford Bronco Sport offers punchy power with its EcoBoost engine, but its priorities lie off the pavement, not the race track. The Mini Countryman John Cooper Works outmatches the Kona N with 301 hp, but at $41,500 to start, it exists in a higher price category. It's like we said… the 2022 Hyundai Kona N sits in a class of one. This might be the most hilarious crossover we've ever driven.
The Hyundai Kona N enters 2022 as an all-new high-performance submodel for the Kona lineup. The second US-bound N model after the Veloster N, the Kona takes a similar angle of attack with a high-power 2.0-liter turbo engine, front-wheel drive, an enhanced chassis, and a lightning-quick eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission to put it all to the ground through the "N Corner Carving Differential." Bigger brakes, stiffer suspension, and bespoke styling inside and out all differentiate this as not your average Kona.
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2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
Already one of the most excitingly-styled subcompact crossovers around, it doesn't take much to make the Kona stand out from the crowd. The Kona N succeeds, however, with more aggressive cues similar to those seen on the Veloster N. Triple intake slats above the main grille, a bespoke N mesh grille, and a smattering of N badges are just the beginning. There's also a liberal helping of extra winglets, finished in black with red pinstripe detailing, bespoke side skirts with debossed N logos, body-color flared arches, and around back, two large round exhaust pipes with an aggressive diffuser and a roof-mounted wing finished in black. 19-inch alloy wheels with Pirelli P-Zero summer performance tires. Other Kona design elements remain like split-design LED headlights and black roof rails.
In keeping with its subcompact classification, the Kona N is a pint-sized dynamite package sharing the same 102.4-inch wheelbase as the regular model. The bespoke bodywork alters the rest of the dimensions slightly, and it measures longer than a standard model at 165.9 inches, 61 inches tall, and has 6.8 inches of ground clearance. Its width remains identical at 70.9 inches. At a curb weight of 3,340 pounds, the Kona N is even heavier than AWD-equipped base Kona models, despite being FWD-only.
If you're wanting your Kona N in Hyundai's signature Performance Blue from other N models, you're out of luck. For some reason, that particular shade is not included in the four-strong exterior color palette available. The colors that are included are the pale N-exclusive shade of Sonic Blue which replaces performance blue and looks much better in person than in photos, but you can also opt for Lunar White, Phantom Black, and Racing Red. The latter stands out the most, while white is the hero color from the original reveal, but we can't help but feel like not including Performance Blue is like a Ferrari not being available in red. It's just wrong.
Albert Biermann, formerly of BMW M fame, has made one thing clear in his tenure as chief at Hyundai's N division - numbers don't matter half as much as fun. That's why there are features like N Grin Shift, N Grin Control, and N Track Sense Shift, and why Hyundai doesn't really make any massive claims about 0-60 mph sprint times, top speeds, or Nurburgring lap times. That's despite the Kona N being developed almost exclusively on the famed Green Hell.
The Kona N may have ample power, with overboost generating up to 286 hp, but it's all about the experience. Curiously, in the most powerful Kona money can buy, you only get front-wheel drive, with no immediate plans to offer all-wheel drive to compete against the Mini Countryman JCW. 60 mph comes up in around six seconds (the butt dyno says closer to five when launch control is engaged), and you'll likely spend more time concerning yourself with wrestling torquesteer than chasing top speeds, but the Kona N is refreshing in its pursuit of fun above all else, even if it comes at the expense of a rock hard suspension.
Inheriting an engine from the Veloster N is good news. That means the Kona N is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 producing 276 hp and 289 lb-ft of torque. Hit the bright red N Grin Shift (NGS) button on the steering wheel and you activate a push-to-pass style overboost that delivers an extra 10 hp. Unfortunately, there's no manual gearbox here, with Hyundai relying instead on the N-specific 8-speed wet-type DCT gearbox, although steering-mounted paddle-shifters allow some semblance of control from the driver's perspective.
The base Kona with the 1.6T engine was never what we'd consider weak, but in full-fat N guise, the Kona is an absolute riot, with the strong torque delivery capable of lighting up the tires with ease. It's not exactly an orchestral performance in the sound department, but upshifts reward you with various pops and bangs from the exhaust, adding to the overall pantomime of the driving experience.
The Hyundai Kona N takes the notion that crossovers are boring and turns it upside down. The base Kona was already a pretty fun vehicle to drive, but the N takes it to a new level. We've never met a crossover that could make us grin like this. It all starts with the engine. Hyundai did its best to manage all 289 lb-ft of torque going out to the front wheels using a clever N Corner Carving Differential, but the Kona N can still break its Pirelli tires loose from the pavement with ease. A fair amount of torque steer is transmitted through the steering wheel, though it's never enough to lose faith in the Kona's handling abilities. Speaking of which, the Kona N is a delight through the bends. The car feels nimble through the well-calibrated steering being one of the factors that make the Kona N handle more like a hot hatchback. High-performance brakes with large 14.2-inch front rotors help keep things under control, too.
Drivers can select five modes on the N Grin Control System (drive mode selection), including Eco, Normal, Sport, N, and Custom. The Kona N offers fine-tuning for the engine, exhaust, suspension, traction control, and more, and once you find the ideal combination for these settings, you can save it on one of two programmable N buttons on the wheel. We found the standard suspension mode firm but reasonable, while the harshest N mode was too uncomfortable for anything besides a newly-paved road. If we were programming the N buttons for ourselves, we'd have everything in the sportiest setting with the suspension in its softest mode.
Though it sacrifices comfort, the Kona N makes up for this shortcoming by putting a big dumb smile on the driver's face. Push the red N Grin Shift (NGS) button on the wheel, and the car delivers a 10-hp boost for 20 seconds along with the lowest possible gear and quickest shifts possible. If you weren't smiling before, the NGS button will have you bursting with laughter. The Kona N truly creates a new category for the hot crossover.
Despite not boasting AWD, the Hyundai Kona N SUV is predictably not very frugal in the grand scheme of things and is the thirstiest Kona by some margin. The EPA predicts gas mileage of 20/27/23 mpg city/highway/combined and with a claimed 304-mile range from its 13.2-gallon gas tank. If those figures sound reasonable to you, bear in mind that the new 2022 VW Golf GTI manages 25/34/28 mpg with its own dual-clutch transmission. The Kona N is thirsty, but if there's any consolation to be found, it's that it only requires regular unleaded gasoline while most turbocharged rivals need premium.
Ignore the slanted H on the steering wheel, and for a brief moment, you could be fooled into thinking you've climbed behind the wheel of one of the latest BMW M cars. That's how overtly sporty the interior of the Hyundai Kona N is. The leather steering wheel has prominent thumb grips, perforated leather at the 3 and 9 o'clock positions, a bright red button labeled NGS for when you need an extra 10 hp, and two N buttons in blue for you to save your preset drive modes. There's Performance Blue contrast stitching, the seats are N sport buckets, and the large touchscreen and simplistic dash layout let you focus on the important bits rather than getting distracted by little details. It's mostly high quality, too, although digging around reveals out-of-the-way plastics with sharp edges that cheapen the overall effect slightly.
Though the Kona N was developed on the Nurburgring, it doesn't skimp on the base model's practicality. It still fits five occupants in reasonable comfort, but it's the front riders who are treated to the best seats in the house. The N model gets sport bucket seats that offer more support than the standard car, though they are less grippy than the buckets offered in the Elantra N and Veloster N. This is likely for the best, as the Kona N was developed more as a family fun car than a track monster. Rear space is generous for a subcompact, with a little over 35 inches of legroom in the back.
Keeping it simple and letting the Kona's fun antics do the talking is the route Hyundai has taken with the interior, selling it in a single choice of material color - black. The N sports seats are black cloth and leather combination items, with the steering wheel and N-badged gear shifter finished in perforated black leather. Throughout the cabin, Performance Blue contrast stitching features, and the pedals are finished in sporty aluminum. The dash is simply finished with black textured inserts that do little to shake up the segment but look pleasing overall.
Just like the cabin retains the standard Kona's practical accommodation, so too does the trunk. Behind the rear seats, you get 19.2 cubic feet of storage capacity, increasing to 45.8 cubes with the split-folding rear seats lowered. These seats utilize the traditional 60/40 split. While this may not be the most practical, falling behind the levels of practicality proffered by in-house siblings like the Kia Seltos, for its size, weekly shopping for a small family can still be easily accommodated. Curiously, the Kona N does away with the dual-level load floor of the standard model.
Typical in-cabin storage spaces are provided, like a map pocket on the back of the front seats, dual front cupholders, cupholders in the rear armrest, standard door pockets, and a few storage cubbies in the center console of the car.
It may top the range, but the Kona N doesn't just throw everything at the spec sheet for the sake of it. It's a performance car first, which is why you won't see things like a sunroof available here. Instead, once the keyless entry and push-button start has given you access to the cabin, you'll find an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, automatic climate control, and a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster greeting you. Hyundai throws in the drive mode controls and quick-access buttons on the steering wheel, too. From a driver-assistance perspective, most of the features you want are included. A rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision avoidance, lane keep assist, cruise control, driver attention warning, and even a safe exit warning are all here, but the Kona N misses out on highway driving assistance and rear park sensors.
The Kona N comes standard with a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system that's simple to use, with an intuitive split-screen mode that lets drivers view multiple functions at once. Sadly, this screen doesn't get Hyundai's wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, so you will have to remember to bring your cables. In addition to the standard infotainment features, the N model gets a special screen filled with performance goodies, such as a lap timer, gauges, and more. Drivers can view this information on the central infotainment system, or on the standard 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster with multiple design layouts.
Being a range-topper, you get a Harman Kardon sound system with eight speakers, and wireless device charging helps you keep your phone fully charged while streaming all your favorite tunes. Navigation, SiriusXM, and HD Radio are all included in the suite, as is traffic flow data.
The 2022 Hyundai Kona signifies the halfway point of the first generation's lifespan. That means most of the kinks have been ironed out by now. While the N model itself is all-new for 2022, the fact that there have only been a handful of recalls since the Kona first debuted bodes well for its overall reliability. At the time of this writing, the N itself is recall-free.
Where Hyundai wins big points is in its mega warranty coverage. While the standard limited warranty is impressive at five years/60,000 miles, matched by 24-hour roadside assistance for the same time, the powertrain warranty covers a stellar 10 years/100,000 miles of driving. As if that wasn't comprehensive enough, the company also includes complimentary scheduled maintenance for the first three years or 36,000 miles.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has a full safety review of the 2022 Hyundai Kona N, although the former has awarded it five stars for side-impact tests and four stars for rollover resistance in partial testing. The regular Kona has been fully evaluated, however, returning a five-star overall safety rating, while the IIHS gave it best-possible scores of Good in all crashworthiness categories.
Some might see the Kona N's high-performance brakes as a safety feature, while others might see it as an excuse to go even faster and be more reckless. However, in either case, when something goes wrong, you need real safety gear. To that end, ABS, EBS, stability and traction control all feature, and if things still go wrong, six airbags including side-curtain airbags will cushion your noggin. There's an added layer with active safety systems comprising blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision avoidance, lane keeping systems, and automatic high beams, and a rearview camera. Driver attention warning and safe exit warning are lesser spotted but equally as impressive.
The 2022 Hyundai Kona N is unlike any crossover we've ever experienced, at least not at this price level. Once again, Hyundai's N division has created a stellar vehicle that delivers class-leading driving dynamics and grin-inducing fun. The Kona N faces little competition elsewhere in the industry. Neither the Ford Bronco Sport nor the Mazda CX-30 Turbo matches the Kona N's performance, and the Mini Countryman JCW is too expensive. If you've been looking to replace your hot hatchback with a fun-to-drive crossover, this is the best one available.
If we had any hesitation in recommending the Kona N, the stiff suspension would be the number one culprit. Some conventional crossover buyers might hop into the Kona N, not expecting a sports car-stiff ride. It's better in normal mode, but the firmest suspension settings are pretty brutal. And, although the Kona just received a refresh for the 2022 model year, this vehicle is now in the second half of its life cycle, and there are one or two spots where you can feel its age.
While the similarly-powered Veloster N asks $32,500, the Kona N charges a little more. The price of the Hyundai Kona N starts at $34,200 excluding a destination fee of $1,225. That makes the base price more than a new Golf GTI's starting MSRP in the USA, but less than even a mid-spec GTI, representing great value for money in our eyes.
The 2022 Kona N is a single range-topping model at the top of the Kona pyramid.
Powered by a 276-horsepower turbocharged four-pot, the front-wheel-drive hot crossover benefits from an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Bespoke bodywork sets it apart while 19-inch alloy wheels wear Pirelli P-Zero summer performance tires. LED headlights are standard, as is a sport exhaust, launch control, drive mode selection, and electronically adjustable damping.
Inside the cabin, heated N sport seats in front, power driver's seat adjustment, automatic climate control, and an N steering wheel feature, while ahead of the driver, a 10.25-inch display houses various instrumentation. This is matched by a 10.25-inch infotainment system with HD Radio, SiriusXM, navigation, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and eight speakers from Harman Kardon. Cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, and safe exit warning are all included in the safety suite.
As pricing still hasn't been announced, neither has package availability. But from historic data, it's unlikely there will be any extra features available for the Kona N, and don't even think about asking for a manual gearbox. Instead, make do with choosing various accessories like a cargo net.
The 2022 Hyundai Kona N only comes in one easy-to-digest configuration, so there's not much to choose from when optioning one out. Hyundai will offer a few color choices on the exterior, but we think the N-specific Sonic Blue looks best.
You have your heart set on a Hyundai N model, but don't know whether the Veloster N or Kona N is best? Well, the two are similar in many ways, right down to the 2.0L turbocharged engine producing 276 hp. Both are FWD, but while the Kona N is DCT-only, you can have the Veloster with a manual gearbox and three pedals. Being closer to the ground with a lower center of gravity, it handles just a little better than the taller Kona, but the Kona feels more theatrical because of the extra height. It's in the practical areas that the two differ. The Kona N is lighter on gas, for example, at 23 mpg combined to the Veloster automatic's 22 mpg; that said, the Veloster manual can achieve 25 mpg combined. The Kona N has four doors and five seats while the Veloster has three and four, respectively. The Kona N has more than an inch of extra rear legroom, but the trunk is seven-tenths of a cubic foot smaller.
When it comes time to decide, these two are very similar packages. To us, if practicality matters most, the Kona N is a winner, but if you don't need rear seats that often and if you value three pedals instead of two paddles, the Veloster N is a winner. Either way, you won't be disappointed
Do you really need a full-fat Kona N when Hyundai's own N Line - which forms part of the regular Kona lineup - looks the part and has nearly 200 hp on tap? That's the question many buyers will ask, and at $25,700, the 2022 Hyundai Kona N Line is several grand cheaper than what the Kona N is going to cost. You have to make some concessions though, like losing out on the adaptive suspension, Pirelli P-Zero tires, a fruity exhaust, and all the extra drive modes. You also only have 195 hp and 195 lb-ft, and the dual-clutch gearbox only has seven ratios and isn't quite as sharp. It comes with the smaller eight-inch infotainment screen as standard, but that has wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Still, the Kona N Line is quick, fun, and easy to live with, and because you can spec it with AWD, it's better suited to states that see snowfall in the winter. You get the same levels of practicality, a much more pliant suspension setup, and a little more versatility, while the Kona N is all-in on performance focus at the expense of things like ride comfort. For enthusiasts, the Kona N is a new breed of hot hatch that they'll love, but if you're a little worried about a stiff ride, the Kona N Line will surprise you with its balance.
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