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 place the emphasis on 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. The automaker has claimed a 0-62 mph time of 5.5 seconds, while independent testing has shown that it can hit 60 in under five seconds. You'll likely spend more time concerning yourself with wrestling torque steer 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.
|Hyundai Kona N Trims||Hyundai Kona N Engines||Hyundai Kona N Horsepower||Hyundai Kona N Transmissions||Hyundai Kona N Drivetrains||Hyundai Kona N MPG/MPGE|
|N||2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas||276 hp @ 6000 rpm||8-Speed Automatic||FWD||23 MPG|
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 VW Golf GTI manages 24/34/28 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.
|Hyundai Kona N Trims||N|
|Hyundai Kona N Fuel Economy (Cty/Hwy)||20/27|