Hyundai introduced its all-new Kona N, the latest addition to the automaker’s N series, on Tuesday. The 276-horsepower Kona N is the company’s first hot SUV, but the N performance series is growing to include EVs and fuel-cell vehicles.
The automaker also stated that by 2022, it expects to increase its fleet of N and N Line models to 18 global models, with the N range being expanded to include battery electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.
Hyundai’s eight-speed dual-clutch transmission sends 276 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels through the Kona N the Barbarian’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
A limited-slip differential aids in putting the power to the track, but Hyundai’s press release makes no mention of the Veloster N’s six-speed manual transmission, which is available as an option. All-wheel drive is also unavailable, as it is on the non-N Kona.
The DCT has a few bespoke N shift modes aimed at enhancing efficiency and feel on the road and track, including N Grin Shift, which boosts production to 286 hp for a 20-second overboost blitz. The Kona N will sprint from 0 to 62 mph in 5.5 seconds with standard Launch Control engaged, and on to a top speed of 149 mph.
Kona N is the brand’s first hot SUV
“[The] 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, Hyundai Motor Group’s head of research and development. “[The] Kona N can carve corners on the racetrack and bring excitement to everyday driving.”
Functional aerodynamics, such as a front lip spoiler, a double-wing roof spoiler, widened grilles, and a larger diffuser, distinguish the Kona N visually. The Kona N has stiffer frame and suspension mounting points, as well as large 19-inch alloy wheels covered in summer performance tires to extend the SUV’s track slightly.
The hot SUV is also available in Sonic Blue exterior paint, which contrasts sharply with the red detailing on the aggressive lower trim and performance brakes on the N model. The new blue is a shade lighter than the Veloster N’s Performance Blue, which can still be seen on the Kona’s interior, from the change lever to the stitching on the seats to the N steering wheel buttons.
From the digital instrument cluster and visor-style head-up display to the 10-inch infotainment screen with N Track Maps, the Kona N’s cabin and technology was inspired by racing video games. The engine, stability control programming, tone of the variable exhaust system, and steering can all be tweaked by the driver.
A bright red N Grin Control System button toggles between preset drive modes like Eco, Normal, Sport, and N, while large N buttons on the steering wheel can be programmed to toggle instantly between those custom modes.
N Road Sense, which detects when approaching a double-curved road sign and recommends activating the sporty N mode for full twisty driving enjoyment, will be available on Kona Ns sold in Europe. This feature is unlikely to make it to the United States, so owners will have to keep an eye out for their own great driving roads.
The Kona N joins the Veloster N in the N Performance sequence in the United States, as well as the i30 N, i30 Fastback N, and i20 N globally. Expect to see more N badges in the future; according to the automaker’s release, the company expects to grow to 18 vehicles by 2022, with examples covering “every major vehicle category, suiting the needs of all forms of automotive enthusiasts.”
Hyundai is also looking for ways to N-ify its burgeoning fleet of battery electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. EV platforms, such as the E-GMP that underpins the Ioniq 5, Hyundai believes, have an inherent “driving fun” that makes them suitable for N and N Line models. For years, the automaker has been experimenting with hybrid touring cars and fuel cell concepts.
The new Kona N’s global and North American availability, as well as pricing, have yet to be revealed, but stay tuned.