Hyundai Kona N review
The Hyundai Kona N is a small SUV that majors in exciting hot hatchback handling and performance. Practicality isn’t outstanding though, and it looks dull inside
What's not so good
Hyundai Kona N: what would you like to read next?
The Hyundai Kona N is the sort of car you’d end up with if you threw sports car performance, hatchback-sized dimensions, and a jacked-up SUV driving position into a massive blender and hit the ‘mix’ button.
Alternatives such as the Ford Puma ST are cooked up using a similar cocktail of ingredients; but where that car makes just 200hp and costs from around £28,000, the Kona N turns things up to 11 with 280hp and a price tag of over £35,000. Talk about a stiff drink.
Unsurprisingly, it’s based on the regular Hyundai Kona – and much of that small SUV’s quirky styling still shines through in a clearly recognisable fashion. But for the N version, it’s been garnished with a tonne of additional performance touches to lend it an even meaner, feistier image.
So there are big exhaust pipes at the back, three nostrils on its bootlid, a sporty bodykit and aggressive looking 19-inch alloys beneath its puffed out wheelarches. It’s an acquired taste, perhaps, but there will certainly be plenty of people who take a liking to its sharpness.
It’s a pity, then, that the interior is so bland. Sure, you sit in comfy, supportive sports seats that give you a good view out and let you easily get a handle on all the main controls; but lots of dark, drab looking plastics means there isn’t much to stimulate the senses in here.
There’s just about enough space in the back for two adults to sit in reasonable comfort, but the 361-litre boot is considerably smaller than what you’d get in the cheaper Puma ST. Meanwhile, the infotainment suite is easy to learn and features plenty of useful features such as satellite navigation, voice control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; but the graphics are a bit basic.
The Hyundai Kona N is seriously quick in a straight line, and really good fun on a twisty road. It’s just a shame its interior is so dull.
The biggest source of annoyance, however, was the fact that the dashboard creaked and groaned like an old cupboard door for the entirety of our test route. We’d hope that this problem was unique to our early test car, because you should get a far smoother finish at this price point.
So it’s a good thing it’s such a hoot on a twisty road. The steering is quite heavy, but the Kona N is super light on its feet, and thanks to its electronically-controlled limited-slip differential it changes direction with a huge amount of enthusiasm, grip and stability – particularly in its sportier driving modes. It’s bloomin’ fast, too.
On its firm sports suspension there are certainly comfier ways to travel around town, but it’s forgiving enough over bumps and there’s plenty of visibility front and rear. Helpful driver aids such as a reversing camera, all-round parking sensors and adaptive cruise control with lane-keep and lane-change assist are all fitted as standard, too.
It’s a fun car this, even if it’s not quite as sweet to drive as similarly-priced hot-hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI or Ford Focus ST undoubtedly are. But if you want that slightly taller driving position, then the Kona N certainly isn’t a bad shout – even if it’s not quite as spacious as its SUV-shaped exterior suggests it should be.
Ultimately this particular cocktail might not appeal to everyone, but if the Hyundai Kona N sounds like it’s right up your street, then keep an eye on our Hyundai deals page.
You’ll be comfy if you’re sat up front, but there isn’t acres of space in the second row, and the boot is on the small side
The Hyundai Kona N comes with nicely bolstered, supportive sports seats as standard. Not only do these do a fine job of holding you in place and keeping you comfy over distance, they’re heated, ventilated and electrically adjustable too – so getting settled in position behind the wheel is super easy.
The back seats are a bit of a different story. Impressively, the chairs back here are also heated as standard, but kneeroom and headroom are a little bit tight. Two averagely tall adults will likely feel comfortable enough over short- to medium-distance journeys, but that’s about it. The middle seat, meanwhile, is best left for children.
There are isofix anchor points on both of the outside rear seats, and the backdoors open fairly wide – so fitting a carseat shouldn’t be a job that’s too taxing.
Storage space up front is average at best. The door bins are only big enough to hold a regular-sized drink bottle, and the small cubby beneath the central armrest will easily hold a wallet or two. There are two good-sized cupholders in the centre console, and other than a reasonably-sized glovebox that’s about it.
In the back you get similarly-sized door bins to what you’ll find up front, and two additional cupholders in the fold-down armrest.
The Kona N gets the same 361-litre boot as the regular Kona, so it’s not the most capacious fast SUV you could put on your driveway. Just for comparison’s sake, a Volkswagen T-Roc R has 392 litres of boot space, while the Ford Puma ST’s boot measures in at 456 litres.
Still, the Kona’s boot opening is decently wide, and there’s no load-lip at all – which will help if you’re loading in bulky items. Beneath the floor you’ll find a spare wheel and tyre, as well as a shallow storage tray for any bits and pieces you might want to keep in the car at all times; think small tools, high-visibility jackets – that sort of thing.
The Kona N is fairly firm around town, but get it on a good road and it’s a huge amount of fun
You’ve only got one choice of engine and gearbox with the Hyundai Kona N, but it’s a pretty serious set-up. Under the bonnet sits a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, which makes a mighty 280hp and 391Nm of torque.
All of that shove is sent to the front wheels through an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission and an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential, and makes for a 0-60mph sprint time of just 5.5 seconds. That compares very well to the cheaper Ford Puma ST (200hp; 320Nm; 6.7 seconds to 60mph); and not too badly at all against the pricier, four-wheel-drive Volkswagen T-Roc R (300hp; 400Nm; 4.9sec).
As for economy, Hyundai claims that you’ll see about 33mpg on average, although we saw closer to 19mpg during our test drive. That said, it’s incredibly easy to drive the Kona N with a heavy right foot…
Despite its sporty, aggressive set-up the Kona N is civilised enough around town. With its adaptive dampers in their softest setting it doesn’t crash too badly over lumps and bumps, but you certainly won’t mistake it for anything other than a performance model.
Its steering is quite meaty and heavy – a set-up that’s intended to play into the Kona N’s sporting character. You might find this synthetic sense of weight takes a bit of getting used to, but the view out of the front and back is at least very good – so that helps with manoeuvrability. Parking sensors and a reversing camera are also there to assist you.
On the motorway there’s a fair bit of road roar to deal with, but then again that sort of thing is expected from a car with this much performance at its disposal. The ride becomes a bit more forgiving as you go faster, too, and with those comfy, supportive seats there’s no reason why you couldn’t cover long distances in the Kona N.
But it’s obviously on a twisty road where the Kona N really comes alive. It darts into corners with a huge amount of energy, and you can sense the electronically-controlled differential working hard to maximise the amount of grip you have. The satellite navigation can even detect when you’re coming up to some S-bends and prompt you to put the car into its sportiest setting. It really is a lot of fun.
Meanwhile, the turbocharged four-cylinder engine takes a bit of time to wind up, but once it gets going it hits harder than a shot glass full of cheap tequila. It’s a quick car this – so it’s a pity it doesn’t quite have the soundtrack to back its performance up. The dual-clutch transmission, meanwhile, is smooth enough – but it could be a bit snappier to change gear when you pop it into manual mode.
Still, it does have a cool little party trick. On the steering wheel there’s a little red button with ‘NGS’ written on it. Press it, and you enter N Grin Shift mode. This turns the engine and throttle response up to their sharpest settings, and instantly kicks down a few gears on the dual-clutch transmission so you can perform incredibly quick overtakes. It’s a similar feature to what you get in a lot of high-end Porsche sports cars, which is a nice little bragging point.
There’s not a lot going on in here that’ll really stimulate the senses. The infotainment system is well-equipped and easy to use, though