Hyundai Explains Why The World Needs The Kona N

Sports Cars / 4 Comments

There's nothing else quite like it.

Albert Biermann is a genius and is responsible for Hyundai becoming a serious competitor in the go-faster segment. He recently sat down with MotoManTV to explain why Hyundai's latest hot cars exist, but before that, we need to introduce him to those who don't follow automotive news that closely.

Hyundai poached him from BMW in 2014. He had been working for BMW's M department since 1983, which means he was directly involved in every iconic M car ever made, including the E39 M5.

The question of whether Biermann could deliver a suitable front-wheel-drive rival to the Golf GTI was quickly answered. Instead of hitting his target, Biermann overshot a bit. Since then, he has been churning out hit after hit. His best work to date is the Veloster N, though his latest products are right up there.

The Kona N and Elantra N were recently launched in the US market, and Biermann was there to talk more about his latest projects. The big question is why the Kona N exists? Why a hot version of a compact crossover? The case for the Elantra N is much simpler. Performance sedans are still a big drawing card. And Hyundai needed something to go up against the beloved Honda Civic Si.

The justification for the Kona is simple. Biermann saw a sketch of a Kona N in the media and liked it so much that he cut it out and put it on his office wall. "It just looked cool," said Biermann. "And of course then the discussion about how to bring N to more customers came up, and Kona already has a huge customer base."

Interestingly, Biermann mentions that the Kona is no lower than the standard car. Dropping a car is usually performance car 101, but retaining the practicality was more important to Biermann. This added an additional layer to the engineering complexity, yet somehow Biermann and the team at Hyundai made it work.


Biermann makes another surprise revelation. He sees torque steer as a feature and not something that should be avoided. "With torque steer, you can sense the power you put on the road," said Biermann. "It gives you very nice feedback in terms of how close you are to the limit. In a front-wheel-drive car, that is all that matters. The car talks to you nicely."

The same is true when it comes to the Elantra N. Biermann says that it's possible to kill torque steer completely via the steering algorithm, but that it's something they'd never do.

He also doesn't hold back on the stiffness of the chassis in N Mode, which is something we noticed during our test drive. "Yeah, it's very stiff, but our customers love it, so we will keep tuning it that way," said Biermann.

2022 Hyundai Elantra N Steering Wheel Controls CarBuzz

This statement clarifies that Hyundai uses customer feedback to engineer N models, which could be another reason for their success in the US.

Finally, Biermann reveals the secret behind Hyundai's affordability. The Elantra N competes directly with the Jetta GLI, which has a 228 hp and 258 lb-ft turbocharged engine. Hyundai gives you a 276 hp and 289 lb-ft turbocharged engine with an overboost function for the same amount of money.

Retailing for just $34,200, the Kona N makes an even better case for itself. Mini's John Cooper Works Countryman is its closest rival, and that costs $41,500 before you add options.

"No competitor should ever outrank an N car in fun per dollar," Biermann concludes.

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