• The 2022 Hyundai Kona N IS Basically A Bigger Veloster N

Veloster N power, nearly 300 horsepower, and a 5.5-second sprint to 60 mph are among the highlights

The “hot SUV” market might be slowly but continually growing with more and more manufactuers starting to offer performance SUVs, but most of them fall outside the affordable category. The Mercedes-AMG GLA 45, for example, starts at $54,500 while something larger like the BMW X6 M commands six-figures. And, that’s where the Hyundai Kona N comes into play – you can have decent performance, sporty styling, and a price tag that probably won’t go much higher than the $35,000 mark. So what does the Kona N bring to the table?

Veloster N Power In a Larger Package

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The 2021 Hyundai Kona N-Line really did look the part of a true performance SUV, but it was the definition of all show and no go. Despite it’s impressive looks, the best you could get was 195 horsepower from a 1.6-liter engine. It is even offered with a 134-horsepower diesel engine, and a 118-horsepower clunker of a gas engine that will get you great fuel economy and make you itch for more power. The Kona N, however, has the same 2.0-liter four-banger found in the Veloster N. It’s good for 276 horsepower or as much as 286 ponies if you go for the N Grin Shift feature.

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According to Hyundai, the Kona N can sprint to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds with launch control and maxes out at 149 mph. That makes it just 0.4 seconds slower to 60 mph than the 2021 Veloster N that Motor Trend tested earlier in 2021. The Veloster N is said to top out at 139 mph, however, so the Kona N might be faster in the long run.

Power channeled through a new, eight-speed, wet-type, dual-clutch transmission, however, power is sent solely to the front wheels. Why not all-wheel drive? It would make sense to have a model like this be AWD, right? Well, according to Hyundai’s head of R&D, Albert Biermann, you don’t need all-wheel drive and for winter conditions, a simple set of winter tires will be good enough.

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“Front-wheel drive can be good all year round. Put winter tires on and it's a beast, you can just keep the fun going. Plus, why carry around AWD all year?”

See, it’s about weight too. Not going with AWD helps to keep the Kona N’s weight in check, which ultimately translates to better acceleration. There’s also a variable exhaust system for optimal sound and performance.

2022 Hyundai Kona N specifications
Engine 2.0-litre T-GDI w/ flat power
Transmission 8-speed wet-type DCT (N DCT)
Curb weight (kg) 1,515 (North America)
Power 276 HP
Torque 289 LB-FT
Top speed 149 mph
0 to 60 mph 5.5 seconds

Major Handling Upgrades In Tow

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Hyundai didn’t pull a backyard tuner job on the Kona. The Kona N is a lot more than a bigger engine and a body kit. Engineers made some serious changes to make the Kona handle better than ever before. The electronic limited-slip differential, aka the N Corner Carving Differential, is arguably the highlight here, but it also benefits from high-performance brakes, special tires, and 19-inch forged wheels. The N Grin Control System – the same system that increases power output to 286 horsepower – includes five driving modes that range from Eco for better fuel economy to Sport and N for the best performance. There’s also a custom option where you can define and save some of your own parameters.

While we’re still on the handling topic, you’d think that the Kona N would be slammed to the ground, right? Well, it isn’t. Hyundai didn’t design the Kona N to decimate corners but to be enjoyable in all driving situations. "They lowered it an inch, and I said ’hold up,’ we already have a low hatch," said Biermann. The Kona N "isn’t all about corner speed. It just needs to be enjoyable."

Tech-Packed Interior With Limitations

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As you can see, the Kona N’s interior is quite impressive, yet it’s still just as simple as the models that sit below it. The main highlight here is the new 10-inch infotainment display and digital instrument cluster, but you’ll probably enjoy the very supportive bucket seats in the front. Other new features include the head-up display, customizable N buttons, lap timer, and the cool Performance Blue Accents. On top of this, Hyundai has included its full suite of driver assistance systems because performance shouldn’t outweigh safety…. Or something like that.

No Pricing Yet, But Expect Affordability

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Hyundai hasn’t announce pricing of the Hyundai Kona N, but with the Veloster N with the optional DCT starting out at $33,750 and the range-topping Kona Ultimate costing $28,150, a price below $35,000 is easily doable and will give the Kona N a strong position in the market. What do you think? Would you rock out a Kona N as your daily driver? Let me know in the comments section below!

Robert Moore
Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert - robert@topspeed.com
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read full bio
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