It’s no surprise that we love Hyundai N cars here at DriveLife. Both the i30N hatchback and i30N Fastback are awesome machines, providing viable alternatives to the other juicy options out there, like the Honda Civic Type R, Ford Fiesta ST, Toyota GR Yaris and the VW Golf R.

The Kona too is a nice, small SUV. We’ve driven the EV model to Auckland and back and overall – loved it.

So, why not mix the Kona shape with N performance? Why not indeed. So that’s exactly what Hyundai have done, and you’ll be able to purchase your own Kona N or N Line in the second half of this year.

Being Hyundai’s first ‘Hot SUV’. They’ve certainly gone hard out, with Hyundai saying the car ‘offers a winning combination of versatility, spirited acceleration, agility and racetrack readiness’.

“We are thrilled to share the mindset, spirit and vision of the N brand to be a leader in the high-performance category powered by traditional internal combustion engines as well as our proven industry-leading battery electric and fuel cell electric vehicle technologies,” said Thomas Schemera, Executive Vice President and Head of Customer Experience Division at Hyundai Motor Company. “Our continuously growing and more balanced N portfolio will open new high-performance options, delivering the ‘grin factor’ no matter what the propulsion technology or body type may be.”

“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. As an N model, it goes beyond the limits of an ordinary SUV,” said Albert Biermann, President and Head of R&D Division at Hyundai Motor Group. “Kona N can carve corners on the racetrack and bring excitement to everyday driving.”

Like the I30N, the Kona N is powered by a 2.0L turbocharged GDI engine with an 8-speed wet dual clutch transmission (N DCT). N DCT is the enhanced version of Hyundai’s in-house developed 8DCT, an eight-speed wet-type dual-clutch transmission. To make it suitable for N models, the 8DCT received improvements in durability, allowing it to handle the demands of high-performance vehicles. With the 2.0-litre T-GDI engine, it apparently gives the best performance by applying unique gear ratios. The transmission control unit is calibrated for N, resulting in what Hyundai says is faster shifting and enabling a range of exclusive driving features ― including N Grin Shift (NGS), N Power Shift (NPS) and N Track Sense Shift (NTS).

The powertrain delivers a maximum output of 280 PS / 40.0 kg-m. With N Grin Shift (yes, that’s the name of it, honestly), the power is upped to 290 PS. Kona N has a maximum speed of 240 km/h and can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 5.5 seconds, when Launch Control is activated.

Hyundai implemented N Corner Carving Differential, an electronic limited slip differential (E-LSD) on Kona N for control of torque distribution to driving wheels, and the car is equipped with 19-inch lightweight forged wheels with high-performance brakes and tires.

In base trim, Kona N comes with Launch Control, Variable Exhaust System and most notably N Grin Control System, offering the same driving fun at all levels. N Grin Control System offers customers a high level of customization, with five distinct drive modes: Eco, Normal, Sport, N and Custom. These drive modes change the character of the all-new Kona N by adjusting the operating parameters of the engine, Electronic Stability Control, exhaust sound, and steering to optimise them for a variety of driving conditions.

The body’s extra welding points, improved strut ring structure and reinforced skeleton enhance rigidity to minimize body roll during manoeuvres.

Kona N is equipped with a new 10-inch infotainment and digital cluster system featuring an exclusive racing head-up display (HUD) that apparently adds a game-like dimension to every driving experience under N or Sport drive modes. The new infotainment system’s ‘N mode design’ which provides game-like experience with digitalised elements, communicates updates such as lap time and N track maps that help place the driver’s location within the circuit along with other information. The Kona N also uses various widgets that allow monitoring of driving information in real time.

Just like popular racing video games, Kona N has customisable N buttons that can be set to toggle custom modes. The custom modes can be pre-set according to the driver’s preferences. The buttons can also turn on and off the lap timer.

For Europe, Kona N is equipped with N Road Sense that automatically recommends the activation of N mode when double-curved road signs are detected, enabling drivers to enjoy every second of their drive to the fullest. Yes, you read that right. They are confident this SUV will carve the corners up.

The combination of body-coloured fenders and 19-inch wheels provides Kona N with its wide, confident stance. The body-coloured fenders emphasise a close-to-the-ground appearance. The N-specific, 19-inch wheels ― that have wider track than other wheel options ― are pushed to all four corners to ramp up Kona’s already powerful visual impression.

The newly developed, N-exclusive Sonic Blue exterior colour is a new spin on Performance Blue, the colour most associated with N brand to date. That means Kona N is the only car that can wear Sonic Blue at the moment but previews a possible SUV lineup expansion.

Kona N’s front lip spoiler, double-wing roof spoiler and side skirts enhance aerodynamic efficiency and provide styling cues that declare its racetrack readiness. The wide lower air intake dominates the front bumper with a shape inspired by an aeronautic fuselage, providing much-needed engine cooling during hot laps and spirited driving. The double-wing roof spoiler, which is integrated with an N-specific triangular brake light, enhances downforce while providing visual flair.

Driver assistance and safety features

KONA N is equipped with a full array of advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) features, including Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), Lane Following Assist (LFA), Driver Attention Warning (DAW), High Beam Assist (HBA), Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist (BCA), Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Alert (RCCA), Safe Exit Warning (SEW) and Smart Cruise Control (SCC).

Also available in the Kona N is Bluetooth Multi-connection support and an enhanced natural language voice recognition system that incorporates Speech-to-Meaning and Deep Meaning Understanding technologies.

The Kona N is also equipped with Traction Control to handle a variety of terrain and surfaces, including snow and mud.

N brand’s new claim and strategy

Hyundai says that the N’s mission is to push the limits of performance to help drivers discover how fun driving can be. With that in mind, Hyundai Motor also revealed the N Brand’s new brand claim, ‘Never just drive.’, on Hyundai N Day. This claim fully captures the N mindset and spirit: “Do more than simply drive. Enjoy every second of it.”

Every high-performance N model — including i30 N, i30 Fastback N, Veloster N, i20 N and Kona N — is apparently designed by passionate experts and engineered at the Hyundai Motor Namyang R&D Centre. Throughout the development, they go to the Nürburgring in Germany, one of the world’s most demanding racetracks, to undergo rigorous testing and validation. N brand takes its name from Namyang and Nürburgring.

“As a successful challenger in the performance category for almost four years and proactive player of Hyundai brand, N addresses and adapts to the upcoming changes in the performance category,” said Till Wartenberg, Vice President of N brand Management & Motorsport Sub-Division at Hyundai Motor Company. “Driving was never meant to be boring and with N. It never will be. This is reflected with our new N brand slogan ‘Never just drive.’ And will also be the guiding principal of the future electrification of Hyundai N.”

Hyundai Motor is expanding its N and N Line lineup to 18 models through 2022. The flow of new N and N Line models will include variants in each major vehicle segment.

Technical specifications

Dimensions (mm)Overall length4,215
Overall width1,800
Overall height (roofrack)1,565 (1,565)
Wheelbase2,600
Engine2.0-litre T-GDI w/ flat power
Transmission8-speed wet-type DCT (N DCT)
Curb weight (kg)1,510 (Global)
1,515 (North America)
Power (PS) / Torque (kgf.m)280 / 40.0
Top speed (km/h)240

New Zealand market

Kona N will launch locally in the second half of 2021. Local specification and pricing will be released closer to launch.

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How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.

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