2022 Hyundai Kona N
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First Drive: 2022 Hyundai Kona N Review

The Hyundai Kona N may be alone on its rock, but we’re darn glad it exists. Canada Drives takes this 276 hp high-performance subcompact crossover to the track to learn more.

Key Features:

  • Fantastic drivetrain
  • Impeccable chassis dynamics
  • Still practical

Direct Competitors:

  • Volkswagen Golf GTI
  • Mercedes-AMG GLA 35
  • MINI John Cooper Works Countryman

When Hyundai announced it would trickle down everything it learned from the Veloster N hot hatchback to the Elantra, it all made sense. But nobody expected the company to also N-efy the Kona subcompact crossover. 

The thing is, Hyundai’s been on a roll with surprises lately, with out-of-the box thinking like the Santa Cruz pickup truck, or the equally quirky IONIQ 5 electric hatchback. The Kona N is fast, loud and in your face, yet it doesn’t really make much sense on paper. That doesn’t prevent it from being highly amusing.

New Kona N’s pricing and rivals

Hyundai Canada hasn’t yet announced pricing for the 2022 Kona N yet, and the vehicle doesn’t really have a great deal competitors. At least, not from mainstream brands. Nobody currently sells a high-performance subcompact crossover, which allows the Kona N to be sort of alone on its rock. 

2022 Hyundai Kona N | Photo: Amee Reehal 

The closest rivals we can think of are the MINI John Cooper Works Countryman, the Golf GTI (even if it’s technically not a crossover), and the Mercedes-AMG GLA 35. 

2022 Hyundai Kona N interior

While the Kona’s interior is beginning to show some age, Hyundai allowed itself to spice up the cabin with some N-specific performance gear. There are sports bucket seats covered in a fine suede-like material, blue stitching and blue N performance buttons on the steering. Those buttons link to preconfigured settings. Why blue? Because blue is the official color of N.

2022 Hyundai Kona N | Photo: Amee Reehal 

The Kona N also gets a bespoke digital gauge cluster with its own N performance displays. That steering houses the red NGS (N Grin Shift) button which adds 10 horsepower thanks to overboost for 20 seconds. The Kona N also gets an N menu for its infotainment system where the driver can customize the vehicle to its liking, and even record lap times.

2022 Hyundai Kona N | Photo: Amee Reehal 

Performance and driving impressions

Under the hood lies the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder as in the Veloster and Elantra N. It’s good for 276 horsepower (286 hp with NGS) and 289 lb-ft of torque. This engine can only be fitted to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. If you’re wondering why the Kona N can’t be had with a stick like the Veloster and the Elantra, the answer is that its platform was never designed to receive a manual gearbox.

Hyundai invited us to Sonoma raceway to test out its latest pocket SUV, alongside its sister, the Elantra N. Doing so, we discovered two entirely different vehicles with their own personalities, even if they share the gist of their technical components.

Below, a quick look at the Kona N’s specs:

  • Engine: 2.0L Turbo-GDI “Flat Power” DOHC 16-valve Inline 4-Cylinder
  • Displacement: 1,998cc, Full Engine Cover
  • Transmission: N 8-speed DCT (Wet friction); SHIFTRONIC manual shift mode with paddle shifters
  • Horsepower: 276 @ 5500~6000
  • Torque: 289 @ 2100 ~ 4700

A well-handling subcompact crossover built for the track (and everyday driving)

Very much like the Elantra N, the Kona N gets chassis reinforcements at key areas, but keeps the trunk opening intact behind the seats to retain its sport utility abilities. Dampers are of the adaptive type, and springs are firmer. The Kona N also gets a limited slip differential up front, as well as beefier brake components on all fours. Hyundai didn’t forget to stuff a pair of gigantic exhaust pipes back there to give it a proper soundtrack. And boy does this little rascal pop!

Out on the track, the Kona’s more upright seating position instantly changes the experience behind the wheel, feeling more like some sort of high-performance joke instead of an actual canyon carver. We were however impressed by the level of grip the limited-slip differential created upon corner exit and how well planted the entire thing felt albeit its higher center of gravity.

2022 Hyundai Kona N | Photo: Amee Reehal 

The Kona is also much more forgiving than the Elantra N. Releasing the throttle at high cornering speeds won’t lead to lift-off-oversteer as easily. It is a quicker-reacting machine, however, due to a considerably shorter wheelbase. Steering is light and communicative, and the brakes bite hard, which help keep everything under control.

By far the most noteworthy element is the engine. There’s always pull, no matter what gear you’re in. Even down low, before the turbocharger starts spooling, the Kona N exhibits nearly imperceivable turbo lag, all while allowing itself to rev its engine to redline. Power delivery is smooth, linear, and constant. Meanwhile, the automatic gearbox makes sure to quickly hand you to the proper gear, but we did notice some unwanted delays when requesting quick downshifts. 

Back on the road, the Kona N quickly calms down and becomes a subcompact crossover again. One simply needs to set its suspension, steering, transmission, and exhaust back to their softest settings, and the car will happily turn itself back into the unassuming urban runabout it was always meant to be.

Here are other key performance features you won’t find on the non-N 2022 Kona models:

  • N Power Shift (NPS) S 
  • N Grin Shift (NGS) 
  • Launch Control 
  • Rev Matching 
  • ECO, Normal, Sport, Snow, N, Custom Drive Modes 
  • Sport Exhaust Tone Modes

Verdict: is the 2022 Kona N worth it?

It’s obvious that with the Kona N, Hyundai wanted to try something different, and perhaps only a handful of buyers will buy one. But this opens the door to a new form of high-performance SUV. Will its competitors follow along? We’re not sure, but until they do, we’re not going to complain about Hyundai’s bold move.

Shopping for a pre-owned SUV? Take a look at our current sport utility inventory here.

2022 Hyundai Kona N | Photo: Amee Reehal 

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