It’s to Hyundai’s immense credit that it’s taken the slightly daft idea of a performance crossover and delivered an earnest, proper performance machine, one that feels very much like it belongs in the N line-up.
That said, part of the appeal of crossovers is their duality of purpose. In its pursuit of raucous, pure performance, you wonder if the Kona N’s singularity might limit its appeal.
But there’s little else like it at this price point of the performance SUV market, and for that reason you suspect it could become a cult classic among those prepared to accept the compromises inherent in the concept.
Hyundai Kona N review: A crossover with N's magic touch
WHAT'S THE VERDICT?
“The Kona N isn't without compromise, but few performance crossovers feel as close to a hot hatchback as this”
While we can expect future N Division cars to be electric (and perhaps hydrogen) powered, it’s currently providing an antidote to swelling technology by making rapscallion little cars like this; cars that draw their driver into mischief with little persuasion. Just with all of the active safety tech a family SUV needs a simple button press away.
It’s joyously silly. And if you can cope with mildly insatiable thirst and a firm ride, it ought to be more than capable of handling everyday life too. ‘Most fun small performance crossover on sale’ may sound like faint praise, but it’s a title true of the Kona N either way.
Engine: 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder petrol
Power/Torque: 110 kW and 180 Nm
Fuel efficiency: 6.5 L/100 km (claimed)
0-100 kph: 9.7 sec (claimed)
Top speed: 195 kph
Load capacity: 544-1296 litres
How much does the Hyundai Kona cost in South Africa?
The Hyundai Kona range starts from R449 900 for the derivative you see here – the 2.0 Executive – and prices go up to R579 900 for the sporty 1.6T N Line. Hyundai’s long warranty is standard (it is valid for 7 years or 200 000 km in the case of mechanical components), as is a 5-year/75 000 km service plan.
The Hyundai Kona is a fresh-looking contender with more than a few charms. While this CVT model may lack the go to match the show, it proved commendably fuel efficient in our experience. Besides, Hyundai offers the 1.6-litre turbocharged Kona derivatives (replete with quick-shifting dual-clutch automatic ‘boxes) for those who want a more spirited driving experience.
While the overall package is competent enough to tick most boxes, the Kona will primarily appeal to non-conformists, because, unlike the majority (of admittedly less distinctive) small crossovers, it ultimately prioritises style over practicality – even if the load bay is well-sized, rear legroom is limited. If you are shopping for a sensible compact family car, defer to the similarly-priced Creta…
Should you buy one? The Hyundai Kona looks very exciting, we just wish it was more involving to drive. Still, the 2.0 Executive is a high-quality product that is perfectly suited to the daily commute. The level of standard specification is excellent (even in entry-level guise) and then there’s that comprehensive manufacturer warranty and service plan that underscores Hyundai’s strong reputation in South Africa.
2022 Hyundai Kona N: Great Things Come In Small (N) Packages
If you're looking for something unabashedly fun, look no further.
The Verdict (So Far)
Obviously, a 10-minute test drive and a further 10 minutes poking around at the car’s features and asking questions isn’t enough to determine whether or not the 2022 Hyundai Kona N is a good car — but considering the fact that journalists ripping through some mountain roads with a loud exhaust brought out the police to check out what we were doing, I’m going to go ahead and say 10 minutes is more than enough time to determine that this car is fun.
And that’s what I liked about it. There’s value in a car being a workhouse that can efficiently serve your needs. There’s also value in being able to hit the “N Grin Shift” and do exactly what that button is commanding you to do. Not all cars need to be solely practical. Some can just be plain old fun.
The best part of all? Its starting price is going to be lower than its direct competition — things like the Mini Countryman John Cooper Works All4, or the BMW X2 M35i, or the Mercedes-Benz GLA35 — which start around the $40,000 mark. Fun doesn’t have to be expensive.
The potent Hyundai Kona N will be coming to South Africa in early 2022. Here’s what you can expect.
The Kona N was officially revealed in April 2021 and it’ll be the brand’s first hot SUV. At the recent SA launch of the Hyundai Staria, representatives of the brand confirmed the Kona N will be arriving in January/February 2022.
It features a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol engine which produces 206 kW and 392 Nm. All of that goes to the front wheels via an 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox. This is not a straight-line specialist either with Hyundai supplying a high-performance suspension, electronic limited-slip differential and performance brakes to help it take corners at pace.
Hyundai says the Kona N is good for a 0-100 kph of around 5.5 seconds, thanks to a neat overboost trick that increases power to 213 kW for a few seconds. Like the Hyundai i30 N, the Kona N features 5 drive modes which all offer variations in engine responsiveness, steering feel, stability control grip and even exhaust sound.
The car features plenty of N badging as well as some great-looking sporty wheels and twin exhaust pipes. Inside, the Kona N features racing seats, a 10-inch digital dashboard and a large infotainment screen that features performance data like lap times and G-Forces.
Hyundai Kona In-Depth Review 2021 - The Best Small Family SUV? - OSV
'You drive it. You define it.' That's how Hyundai wants us to view this car, their small Kona SUV, here usefully improved. If you like cars of this kind, you're probably going to like this one because it ticks all the usual boxes in terms of style and fashionability. There's more though, to this little Crossover than initially meets the eye...