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2023 Hyundai Kona N Highway Test: Ultimately, an cost-effective, incredibly hot crossover


Feb 8, 2023
2023 Hyundai Kona N Road Test: Finally, an affordable, hot crossover


DETROIT, Mich — For all the SUVs and crossovers on sale, there’s a unique absence of very affordable, non-luxurious efficiency selections. You’ll discover no shortage of them in the luxury area with rates previously mentioned and past $75,000, but what about the individual who desires some more zest with extra practicality on a budget? Say howdy to the 2023 Hyundai Kona N.

And in advance of you head to the comments, yes, contacting the Kona “practical” is undoubtedly a extend, possibly even the N’s undoing. The real usability of its cargo area and rear seat is about on par with what a VW GTI gives. Nonetheless, it does have the larger seating situation and increased ground clearance that American SUV purchasers get pleasure from. In addition, it serves a realistic purpose in Hyundai’s N division lineup. With the Veloster N dying, the Kona N takes about as the only N model with a liftgate. The Elantra N could have a spacious backseat, but there’s no denying the included usefulness of a hatch with foldable rear seats to create a massive, airy dumping location for all your things when you are not hotfooting it on your most loved roads.

Slam the throttle down from a stop in the Kona N, and the front tires light up as shortly as boost builds, sending you into a insignificant skirmish with the steering wheel. Yeah, there’s torque steer on tap right here. When the Veloster N and Elantra N do exhibit a little amount of money of torque steer, the Kona N appears to be to do a tiny fewer to quell it. If you can get into the humor of a tiny crossover acquiring so significantly electric power that it can yank you all-around under acceleration, then you could come across it charming. No person is (well, maybe no person) making an attempt to established rapid lap periods with the Kona N, so take into consideration it extra character.

Of course, I’m positive there are numerous — including other people on employees — who would relatively see the Kona N with an all-wheel travel system that’d wholly remove torque steer and improve overall performance. A torque-vectoring rear differential à la Golf R would be the icing on the cake of explained AWD program, too. There’s no doubt the Kona N would be a much more controllable and capable car with power to the two axles, but it would arrive at the cost of included price and body weight. As is, the Kona N expenses $36,285 and weighs 3,340 pounds. I’d somewhat not see possibly of people figures enhance.

You are getting an absolute hoot of an SUV for the funds. Hyundai’s 2.-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 276 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque is on hand, and just like in other N products, the Kona N’s exhaust is completely hilarious. You can generate around in a tailor made drive method that retains the valves open and the outrageous bang-and-backfire soundtrack on at all moments, or you can shut it all up for quieter, albeit nonetheless loud, cruising. Be expecting loads of double requires with the Kona N in its extroverted manner, as number of count on these noises from a small Hyundai SUV.

Beyond the theater of seem, the Kona N has pleasurable enthusiast-oriented capabilities like the “N Grin Shift” mode that gives you 20 seconds of further overall performance by using an overboost operate (with 10 excess horsepower). It’s activated by using a button on the steering wheel, just like Porsche’s “Sport Response” button, that’ll quickly prepared the car or truck for most effectiveness. With N Grin Shift activated, Hyundai claims the -62 mph sprint takes 6.4 seconds. You get there by way of the fast-shifting eight-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission. Stated transmission is pleased to be subjected to a good deal of start handle begins, exactly where the Kona N jumps off the line adeptly for a front-drive vehicle. Just keep a limited maintain on the wheel less than acceleration to hold it pointed straight.

When you’d instead go remaining or correct, the Kona N is pleased to oblige. It has an electronically-controlled adjustable suspension with varying concentrations of stiffness. They range from “stiff” to “wow, my back is commencing to hurt” levels of firmness. The Kona’s small wheelbase inherently suggests a choppier experience, and introducing the managing ability envisioned from an N model indicates even a lot more compromise to each day driving comfort. On Michigan’s damaged roads, the Kona N can grow to be grating to even those with a tolerance for rigid-driving cars. 

Substantially can be forgiven when you discover a twisty bit of pavement, however. The Kona N turns in correctly and with the amount of sharpness and experience envisioned from the N badge on the back again. There is extremely very little physique roll, and consecutive corners are easy to string together. It is not pretty the featherweight that the Veloster N was on the road, but the Kona N comports by itself leagues far better than any typical Kona does when pushed. Hyundai’s eLSD does its career by effectively pulling you via corners without understeer under throttle. There is continue to some twitchiness in the kind of torque steer seeking to toss you off track, but it’s gentle in contrast to launches from zero.

Grip from the 235-part-width Pirelli P Zero summer time tires is much more than enough, and the upgraded N brakes yank this tall hatchback to a halt swiftly with a rigid pedal that can tackle a beating without fade. Contacting it a tall, very hot hatchback is definitely the most effective way to sum up how the Kona N drives. As an individual who prefers the lessen seating posture that a automobile gives, the Kona N can be a little off-putting, but driving it tough helps make it tough to dislike. Tapping up and down the gears of this super-speedy transmission, listening to the exhaust blat out its offended voice just before ricocheting off tunnels on the overrun, even just wanting at the comically intense exterior bodywork … all of all those features make this a hugely-appealing fanatic car or truck.

What might turn you versus the Kona N is the inside. Just like the Veloster N’s again-to-basics cabin, the Kona N is generally barren and boring inside of. It’s the drab sprint, blank doors and deficiency of any intriguing trim that depart this inside sensation affordable. Black plastic is the topic here, and the lack of flair certainly assists attribute to the reduced cost tag. 

The handful of N-distinct items Hyundai tosses in are at least welcome improvements. Its high-bolstered seats with suede inserts do a swell job of keeping a overall body in position. The leather steering wheel with blue accents, sizable paddles, blue push method buttons and the purple “NGS” button insert some character. Plus, the digital cluster has one of a kind display screen modes (huge tach in the middle etcetera.) to amp up the sensation that you are in a sizzling car or truck. Perhaps the ideal of all the N-specific alterations for the Kona is the existence of a manual handbrake. The conventional Kona features an digital crisis brake, but which is no good for kicking the rear conclude out on a slick surface area. It would seem the Hyundai engineers guiding this vehicle are just like the relaxation of us who get pleasure from a brief slide when the snow commences slipping, and they produced guaranteed the auto would be up for the activity.

How the Kona N compares to its contemporaries is where issues get a very little odd, mainly mainly because the Kona N has no direct comparisons. The cars individuals are likely to cross-shop it versus are all hot hatches, given that an array of affordable incredibly hot crossovers merely won’t exist. A GTI can be experienced for a comparable price. If you want AWD, the value of entry escalates quickly as the Toyota GR Corolla, Mini JCWs and VW Golfing R come into participate in. The problem here, that you may perhaps currently be observing, is that most fanatics would probable just decide for a performance car, not a crossover, when introduced with a cost issue. Hyundai does a bang-up task of building the Kona N so exciting that it can fairly be as opposed to these cars, but it is nevertheless likely to be inherently compromised in all-out effectiveness by advantage of its taller stature. Not to point out, the Kona N does not enable lovers to spec a manual transmission.

Luxurious performance SUVs — which are seemingly all over the place these days — ordinarily do not share the exact compromises, as they are just about constantly the optimum undertaking and the most deluxe versions of themselves. If you have got the funds, why should not you acquire the Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 over the normal-stroke GLE 450? It’s faster, has showy (but however classy) AMG badges all more than it, and the only genuine compromise is a marginally better every month payment that your lender account might not even treatment about. Meanwhile, the Kona N is hellbent at attractive to anyone who enjoys the hardcore Veloster N, has a rigid budget and doesn’t treatment about things like ride high quality, inside accoutrements or subtlety. It’s made for men and women like me who totally adore driving it, but at the conclusion of the working day, I’ll stroll two cars and trucks down and generate off in an Elantra N every one time.

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