Hyundai Kona N debuts; 280 PS, 392 Nm, 5.5s hot SUV

As promoised, Hyundai has unveiled the Kona N today. A play on the hot hatch description, the Korean carmaker calls the Kona N its first ‘True Hot SUV’ that combines racetrack capability and the versatility of a utility vehicle. The press pics are of the Kona N doing its thing on the Nurburgring.

It’s apt, given that the Kona is a compact Euro-flavoured SUV that’s not much bigger than the i30, Hyundai’s VW Golf rival. Of course, the i30 was the first model to receive the full N treatment. We’ve also seen N versions of the Veloster and i20 supermini. Now is the Kona’s turn.

“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,” said Thomas Schemera, EVP and head of customer experience division at Hyundai. Propulsion? Hyundai has committed to “sustainable e-performance” and the N brand will continue into the electric age.

“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. Kona N can carve corners on the racetrack and bring excitement to everyday driving,” said N man Albert Biermann, president and head of R&D at Hyundai.

The hot Kona is powered by a 2.0 litre turbo-four with 280 PS and 392 Nm of torque, paired to an eight-speed wet dual clutch transmission that the i30 N received last year. The outputs quoted here are similar to the facelifted i30 N with the Performance Package.

This N DCT gearbox is the enhanced version of Hyundai’s in-house developed 8DCT. To make it suitable for N models, the 8DCT received improvements in durability. It has unique gear ratios and the transmission control unit is calibrated for N, resulting in faster shifts. There are modes such as N Grin Shift (NGS), N Power Shift (NPS) and N Track Sense Shift (NTS). The powertrain makes an extra 10 PS (290 PS) in NGS, which has a red button on the steering wheel. With Launch Control, 0-100 km/h is done in 5.5 seconds. Top speed is 240 km/h.

Making the most of the power is the N Corner Carving Differential, an electronic limited slip differential. The Kona N rides on 19-inch lightweight forged alloys with upgraded brakes and tyres. The body’s extra welding points, improved strut ring structure and reinforced skeleton enhance rigidity to minimise body roll.

Hyundai says that even in the base trim, the Kona N comes with Launch Control, Variable Exhaust System and the N Grin Control System. The latter offers drivers five drive modes (Eco, Normal, Sport, N, Custom) that alter the operating parameters of the engine, stability control, exhaust sound, and steering.

The carmaker calls the interior a “gaming experience in real life”, and that’s from all the displays. There’s a new 10-inch infotainment and digital cluster system featuring a “racing head-up display” that is said to add a game-like dimension to in N or Sport modes. The N mode design gets digitalised elements and communicates updates such as lap time and N track maps that help place the car’s location within the circuit. There are also widgets for other info.

In addition, the 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 the lap timer on and off. For the European market, this Kona is equipped with N Road Sense, which automatically recommends the activation of N mode when double-curved road signs are detected.

As for looks, the Kona N doesn’t look very different from the N Line (coming to Malaysia soon), and that’s because the latter is rather aggressive already. From what we can see, at the front, the lower honeycomb grille on the N is full width and it gets the big N emblem. The red lip continues on the side skirts (which have N on them) and rear diffuser. The lack of black SUV-style body cladding is already on the N Line.

The N is more obvious at the back, where there are two big pipes (two small ones on one side for N Line) and a double-wing roof spoiler integrated with a triangular brake light. The other unique details are the 19-inch N-specific wheels and the red brake calipers, both with N branding.

This car debuts a new N-exclusive Sonic Blue exterior colour, which Hyundai says is a new spin on the N division’s trademark Performance Blue. While the Kona N is the only car that can wear Sonic Blue at the moment, this “previews a possible SUV lineup expansion”. Does that sound like a hint at a Tuscon N?

The Kona N is not covered in it, but Performance Blue accents can be found inside the car, along with N logos and unique seats, steering wheel, shift knob and metal pedals. What do you think of this hot crossover?

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