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Hyundai reveals fire-breathing Kona N, here Q3

With up to 213kW/392Nm, the Hyundai Kona N is a hot hatch on stilts

27 Apr 2021

AFTER months of teasing and drip-feeding information, Hyundai Motor Company (HMC) has finally debuted its Kona N, a compact SUV packing up to 213kW of power and capable of a sub-six-second dash from standstill to 100km/h.


Due to touch down locally in the third quarter of this year, the Kona N is powered by the same highly strung turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine as the incoming facelifted i30 N hot hatch with peak power and torque rated at 206kW/392Nm.


That is unless the ‘N Grin Shift’ function for the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is engaged which liberates an extra 7kW for up to 20 seconds, (over)boosting the kilowatt count to 213.


When all is said and done, the Kona N will sprint from 0-100km/h in a claimed 5.5 seconds with launch control fitted to all versions as standard – overseas markets will get the ‘N’ as well as the ‘N Performance’ trim, the latter of which will be the only one offered here as per the rest of the local N range.


In an interesting but not overly surprising move, HMC opted to make its ‘hot SUV’ front-wheel-drive only which ultimately makes sense given it shares its platform and powertrain with the i30 N, however it is also at odds with the all-paw N-Line which proves the platform would have been receptive.


Speaking at the global media reveal, HMC research and development boss Albert Biermann said the front-drive configuration was chosen for its combination of fun, simplicity and cost effectiveness.


“In the winter time depending on where you live, if you put a good set of winter tyres to the Kona N, you’ll have no problem to keep the fun going even in the winter time,” he said.


“I tested the Kona N in Sweden and I have to say it’s a real winter beast with good winter tyres on it … we have a deep snow mode that you can keep that fun going, even on the slippery road, the snowy road.


“Why carry around the all-wheel-drive system all year long and why adding all the cost – our N story is also to be the best in fun-per-dollar.


“Kona N is clearly following that script, and then it was easy to decide front-wheel-drive; the way we tuned it, the way we deliver it, is the right way to go.”


As alluded to by Mr Biermann, the Kona N features the same electronic limited-slip differential (e-LSD) mounted to the front axle as the i30 N, officially dubbed the ‘N Corner Carving Differential’.


Cornering capability is the name of the game for the Kona N with the e-LSD being just one of the many N-specific upgrades fitted to help transform the Kona into a “corner rascal”.


Despite having around the same ground clearance as a regular N-Line, the Kona N rides on a far more aggressive suspension set-up with the whole package rolling on forged 19-inch alloy wheels shod with high-performance Pirelli P-Zero tyres.


N Performance brakes are fitted as standard to help haul the flying family hauler up again from its 240km/h top speed while advanced traction and stability control systems combine with the e-LSD to keep things in check both in slippery conditions or just when pushing hard.


To help the driver extract the absolute maximum from their cars, the transmission is fitted with another two ‘N performance functions’ besides N Grin Shift, those being N Power Shift and N Track Sense Shift.


N Power Shift speeds up the gear shifts during hard acceleration to mitigate any torque dips during gear changes and keep progress as rapid as possible.


When in full automatic mode, N Track Sense Shift can detect optimum conditions for “dynamic driving” and as such, adjusts the transmission’s shift pattern and change characteristics to match.


Five drive modes will also be featured – Eco, Normal, Sport, N and Custom – along with an array of adjustable and configurable settings for the engine, exhaust, steering and stability control.


Visually, the Kona N largely resembles its lesser N-Line sibling in flaunting a sports bodykit, body-coloured cladding and aggressively styled alloy wheels, but there are a few select differences.


For starters, the front fascia dons a unique N mesh grille, enlarged lower intake, refined light signature and a red-accented front splitter with the red theme being continued both down the flanks and at the rear of the car.


The aforementioned forged alloys are bigger than those on the N-Line, not to mention a completely different design – and finish – behind which peek out the red N-branded brake callipers.


At the rear, the N has replaced the N-Line’s subtle twin exhaust tips with a huge dual-pipe set-up exiting from a far more aggressive diffuser, matched at the roofline by a new twin-wing rear spoiler and integrated triangular N brake-light.


Similar touches have been made within the interior where we find N sports seats, Performance Blue stitching, a head-up display, N steering wheel, metal sports pedals and an N-branded gear lever.


Whereas the i30 N (Fastback included) and smaller i20 N both debuted in the now-signature Performance Blue paintwork, HMC designers have opted to launch the Kona N in a new ‘Sonic Blue’ hero colour to help it “fly under the radar” given it is still ultimately an SUV.


For reference, Performance Blue will still be available along with the familiar array of N colours.


Local pricing and specification details are still a way off from being revealed yet but global highlights will include a digital instrument cluster, 10-inch infotainment system with N-specific displays, readouts and functions, head-up display and configurable N modes.


As you would expect from a new model in 2021, active safety features are in abundance with the Kona N boasting forward collision-avoidance assist, lane keeping assist, lane following assist, driver attention warning, high beam assist, blind-spot collision-avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance alert, safe exit warning and smart cruise control which will all come as standard.


With the N-Line Premium currently asking $42,400 plus on-road costs, we expect the Kona N to land around the $50,000 mark.


“Kona N is a true hot SUV with the performance level of a hot hatch. It breaks the rule that SUVs are less fun to drive,” Mr Biermann said.


“As an N model, it goes beyond the limits of an ordinary SUV.”


HMC Australia sold 3876 Konas through the first quarter of 2021, accounting for a solid 12.1 per cent of the sub-$40,000 compact SUV segment, outsold only by the budget-minded MG ZS (4065/12.7%).

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