2022 golf gti vs 2022 kona n
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2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI vs 2022 Hyundai Kona N

We’d never thought we’d one day pit a Golf GTI – one of the most iconic hot hatchbacks of all time – against a subcompact crossover. On paper, it doesn’t make sense, but neither does a near 300-horsepower Hyundai Kona N.

But this is Hyundai, a carmaker that’s been having a bit of fun lately creating new segments with its quirky little Veloster and its Santa Cruz SUV pickup truck thing. The Kona N is yet just another bold take at a “what if” segment.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen has been very busy cooking up the eighth generation GTI, a car which is hitting Canadian showrooms just now. It’s also very good and does its best to remain the benchmark in its segment, even if that segment now includes a Kona. 

We therefore felt it was important to pit them face to face to help you figure out which one deserves your hard-earned money.


  • Our Pick: Golf GTI
  • Why we like it: it still looks like an actual car, while staying true to the GTI’s lineage.

2022 VW Golf GTI | Photo: Volkswagen 

We prefer the GTI’s styling simply because it stays more in tune with the car’s legacy, but we admit the latest iteration isn’t as coherent as the previous car. We’re not fans of the slimmer headlights and gigantic honeycomb plastic component in the lower section of the front bumper. 

Out the rear, however, the GTI harvests a clean, elegant, and typically understated German look. The proportions from this two-box design are spot on. This is what a hot hatchback should look like: mature, refined, yet still properly sporty.

That’s not to say we’re dismissing the Kona N’s styling. It may look a little unusual due to its stubby rear and high roof, but there’s a charming blend of purposefulness and creativity in the way it was designed. The front section, with the blacked-out grille and Hyundai logo hidden underneath three large intake inlets looks appropriately sporty, and we continue to appreciate the Kona’s resemblance to a training shoe. Extra points go to those beautiful wheels, and massive twin-pipe exhausts.


  • Our Pick: Golf GTI
  • Why we like it: The GTI’s cabin isn’t only roomier, it’s also more upscale, appearing more modern and up to date with today’s standards.

2022 Golf GTI interior vs. 2022 Kona N interior | Photos: Volkswagen, Hyundai 

This category is a bit unfair for the Kona as it sits in a lower segment than the Golf – the subcompact category – but also because it’s been on sale since 2018. This forces it to take a back seat to the GTI in terms of fit and finish and overall cabin space. 

Hyundai did at least give the Kona N a few interior updates, such as a pleasant suede-like texture on the seats and door inserts, as well as a fully digital gauge pod. But this feels like a Hyundai from another generation.

The GTI has a roomy, comfortable, and highly modern interior. Both the digital display and the infotainment system show better graphics, and overall fit and finish is considerably superior to the Kona’s. 

As a matter of fact, the GTI’s interior could very well be an Audi cabin. That’s how good it is. But we still prefer the bolstering of the Kona N’s sport bucket seats, as well as the way its steering wheel feels in our hands.


  • Our Pick: Hyundai Kona N
  • Why we like it: There’s more power and torque, the vehicle is lighter, the adaptive dampers are superb, and there’s a much louder exhaust with crackles and pops to boot.

2022 Hyundai Kona N | Photo: Amee Reehal 

The basic ingredients for a good hot hatchback include an overabundance of power and superb driving dynamics. Both vehicles hit the nail right on the head. We appreciate the GTI’s fantastic chassis calibration, available manual transmission, and limited-slip differential. 

It’s a car we had a blast putting through its paces, one that’ll happily wag its tail upon throttle lift off for some good old fashion lift off oversteer. Power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder good for a stout 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. 

Praise for the GTI's 7-speed dual-clutch automatic

If you don’t like shifting for yourself, the GTI offers the option of a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, which is so good it’ll have you rethinking the manual gearbox. The GTI is well composed over broken roads, feels upscale and mature, but also allows its driver to properly hoon it. We’re however not a fan of the pumped in synthesized engine sounds, and that engine has quite a bit of turbo lag.

2022 VW Golf GTI | Photo: Volkswagen 

The Kona may not feel as polished or refined as the GTI, but it sure knows how to slap a smile on its driver’s face. For starters, it weighs less than the Volkswagen, but also has more power on tap. It too is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four, but it’s rated at 276 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque. 

Kona N's grin-inducing N Grin Shift

We’re disappointed that it can’t be had with a manual transmission like the GTI, but its eight-speed dual-clutch automatic is fantastic. There’s even an N Grin Shift feature which cranks things up to 286 horsepower for 20 seconds thanks to overboosting. During that time, the transmission shifts even faster.

We drove the 2022 Kona N on the Sonoma race circuit, in Northern California, and we were impressed by its impeccable chassis calibration, neutral feel at the limit, and overabundance of power and torque. The adaptative dampers allow the little Kona N to tone things down on public roads, to the point where you quickly forget it’s a high-performance version. And the obnoxiously loud bangs that come out of its massive exhausts are highly amusing. This is one fun little hatch!

2022 Hyundai Kona N | Photo: Hyundai 

Verdict: the iconic VW hatch or Hyundai’s speedy new Kona?

We’re going to have to give it to the Golf GTI here because it’s the most rational purchase. It’s simply a better all arounder, with more than ample performance and a well-tuned chassis, all wrapped around a premium, well put together and comfortable cabine. 

Its trunk is considerably larger than the Kona’s, making it more usable year-round, its rear seat is more spacious, it’s more fuel-efficient and the entire thing looks and feels of better quality.

However, if what you’re after is pure fun behind the wheel, then there’s no denying how good the Kona N is. With this vehicle, Hyundai is proving that there can in fact be a market for a high-performance sub-compact crossover from a mainstream brand, and that it can be good enough to take on the best hot hatchbacks in the business. 

If you’re shopping for a 5-door hatch, check out our current inventory here.

Specs: 2022 Kona N vs GTI Golf


2022 Hyundai Kona N

2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI

Base Price




Turbocharged 2.0L I4

Turbocharged 2.0L I4


Eight-speed dual clutch automatic

Six-speed manual / Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic




Peak Horsepower

276 hp (286 during N Grin Shift)

241 hp

Peak Torque

273 lb-ft

289 lb-ft

Fuel Economy

11.7 / 8.7 / 10.2 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb

9.4 / 6.9 / 8.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb

Cargo Space

538 liters (1,274 liters total)

481 liters (1,500 liters total)

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