Every so often a car comes along that surprises you, and right now that car is the 2022 Hyundai Kona N. Not quite a full-blown SUV, but also not quite a road-hugging hatchback, the Kona N defies description. Instead, it’s a ripsnorting 286 horsepower firecracker in a class of its own. Hyundai’s crafted the whole package here with the Kona N, and it’s one of the most underrated vehicles on the market today.
Price and value
While the base Hyundai Kona is available in the low $20,000 range, the Kona N is considered its own model and is only available in one trim: fully loaded. The MSRP for the 2022 Hyundai Kona N is $34,200. It is available with a suite of standard features.
- Kona N: $34,200
19-inch alloy wheels with Pirelli P-Zero performance tires
8-speed wet dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters
10.25-inch touchscreen navigation screen with N Grin control system
Given the excellent combination of practicality, performance and fun, the Kona N is an appealing value for buyers who want a little spice in their drive. It comes with a nice warranty, too: 5-year/60,000 miles bumper-to-bumper coverage, and 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain coverage.
The first time I fired the Kona N up and heard the gurgling, boisterous exhaust note being emitted from the large dual tailpipes, I literally laughed out loud. Could this micro-SUV really have that much attitude? Did the bite match the bark? Well, after a week of testing, I can tell you that it absolutely does. The Hyundai Kona N is a giggle factory of fun that will make you wonder why you’d drive anything else.
The Kona N’s 4-cylinder turbocharged engine produces 276 horsepower, but press the N Grin Shift button and you’re treated to 10 extra horsepower for 20 seconds. It’s a ridiculously fun gimmick that will have your passengers giggling out of simultaneous joy and fear. Mash the throttle and the whip-snap, quick, 8-speed dual clutch automatic transmission rockets you to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds, as recorded by Car and Driver.
The hilarious sensation of accelerating that quickly in a microsized SUV, with a dual-pipe exhaust bellowing out the rear, cannot be overstated — all the while achieving about 25 mpg in our week of combined driving. The Environmental Protection Agency projects 23 combined mpg for the Kona, or 20 city/27 highway.
The different drive modes add to the Kona N’s appeal, especially given how customizable they are. We preferred to put everything in Sport or Sport+ mode, with the exception of the suspension. We kept that in Normal mode to maximize the daily driving comfort of the Kona N.
Acceleration and handling
Handling and steering is also surprisingly impressive, especially in N mode. Steering is sharp, tight and direct. Handling is flat and planted, far more so than you’d expect this SUV to be. Maybe it’s due to the sticky Pirelli P-Zero tires, but we never felt anxious chucking the Kona N around corners — even with the absence of all-wheel drive. The multilink rear suspension and adaptive dampers work wonders here to help the caffeinated Kona N punch above its weight in performance.
If there is a weak link, it might be the brakes. While they did a fine job during normal driving circumstances, we were surprised they didn’t bite harder and more progressively under hard braking. A high-performance braking upgrade would be welcome here.
Interior comfort and convenience
It doesn’t take more than a first impression of the Kona N’s interior to see that the development dollars were spent on the performance goodies. It’s spartan. There are some nice performance touches like contrast stitching on the Alcantara sport seats, blue drive mode buttons and the red NGS button, but overall, it looks and feels more akin to an economy car than the price tag would have you expect.
Still, the seats are comfortable, heated and ventilated, well-bolstered and comfortable enough to daily drive in. The driver and front passenger have plenty of leg, head and shoulder room and even larger passengers will be comfortable. The rear seat is tight and best reserved for children and smaller adults. Ease of entry and exit is a breeze due to its higher ride height and SUV stance.
Cargo space and cabin storage
Fold down the rear seats and you’re treated to a spacious cargo area. Need to run to Home Depot? The Kona N is up to the task. While the interior isn’t anything fancy, it’s a worthwhile sacrifice to have a car that’s capable of doing just about anything you need it to — as long as you’re OK with a little highway road noise.
The exception to the car’s economy car interior is the crystal clear 10.25-inch digital gauge display and the 10.25-inch high-definition touchscreen. Both screens are customizable and can show you more driving and track data than you probably want to see. Hyundai has even preloaded race track circuit courses in the center display should you decide to swing your Kona N around some of the country’s best courses.
Exterior appearance and functionality
If you want a unique looking vehicle, it’s tough to beat the Kona N. It looks like nothing else on the road today. Is it a hot hatch, or is it an SUV? No one can really tell. There are a lot of sporty elements present on the exterior, including large air intakes, slim light signatures, split taillights, N badges, a blacked-out grille, a creased hood, large, dual exit exhaust pipes, low profile tires, a rear diffuser, side skirts and red pinstriping along the bottom front and sides of the exterior. It’s truly a unique look that stands out, especially when finished in Lunar White like our tester was. The Kona N is only available in two other performance-oriented colors: Racing Red and Ultra Black.
The only drawback might be how often you have to replace the Pirelli P-Zero tires that wrap the 19-inch wheels. While they provide loads of grip, our tester’s were getting worn down quickly with less than 10,000 miles on them.
Cameras and side mirrors
All the practical features work well here. It’s easy to see out of, the rear-view camera is clear and the lights give off plenty of light.
The Hyundai Kona and Kona N have received numerous awards from various outlets for its safety and performance.
The Kona N comes fully loaded with a host of safety features.
- Rear cross-traffic avoidance assist
- Blind spot collision assist
- Forward collision avoidance assist
- Lane following assist
- Smart cruise control
Awards and ratings
The 2022 Kona N had not been fully tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as of this writing, but the base Kona received a five-star overall crash test rating for acing all but one of their tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded its highest rating of Good in all but one of the testing criteria. J.D. Power listed the Kona as a Residual Value Award winner, projected to keep its value more than other vehicles for three years.
The 2022 Hyundai Kona N checks just about every box buyers could want. Its ripsnorting laser-focused attitude (when you want it) is a welcome addition to its otherwise practical nature. The specs will tell you it's an SUV, but really it's more of a hot hatch in crossover clothing. It’s quick, powerful, agile and spiced with just the right amount of crazy. It’s an underrated offering in the segment, but it’s definitely one worth considering if you need a car that can do it all.
If your life’s been lacking a little joy and laughter, the Kona N might just be the fix you need. Find your Hyundai Kona on KSL Cars.
Is the Kona N good for families?
If your kids are very small, then yes, it could be for short distances. However, rear seat space and legroom is limited, as is the cargo space with the rear seats up.
Is the Kona N a good value?
If performance is your priority, then yes. It’s very quick, handles impressively and is loaded with performance technology like adaptive dampers and customizable drive modes — features not always standard on other vehicles in this segment.
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