The Hyundai Kona N is powerful and likely affordable enough to take on the BMW X1 and Audi Q3

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The 2021 Hyundai Kona N is an upcoming high-performance version of the company’s subcompact SUV. Launched in 2017, the Kona has become so popular in just three years that Hyundai is pushing it into high-performance territory. The Kona is the brand’s first SUV to feature an "N" badge, joining cars like the i20, i30, Veloster, and Elantra. Is the 2021 Kona N just as powerful as Hyundai’s N-badged cars and will it come to the U.S.? Let’s find out in the review below.

Exterior

  • Revised LED Lights
  • Reshaped Front Bumper
  • Honeycomb grille
  • Unique wheels
  • Lowered ride height
  • Roof spoiler
  • Diffuser-like element
  • Dual exhaust pipe
  • Exclusive Color Looks
  • Sportier exterior
2021 Hyundai Kona N Exterior
- image 963947

The Kona N is ready to go into production, but the crossover has yet to break cover officially. So for the time being we’ll have to settle for a few shots of a camouflaged SUV. But having already seen N versions of the i20, i30, and Veloster, the Kona N’s exterior isn’t much of a mystery. Based on the recently facelifted Kona, the Kona N benefits from all the visual upgrades that Hyundai introduced in late 2020 plus a range of N-specific features. The crossover will look a bit more aggressive in N trim thanks to reworked bumpers front and rear, beefier wheel arches, and a roof spoiler.

Up front, look for a honeycomb-style grille stretching between the low-tier lights. The same pattern should extend to the bumper grille, which appears to be wider than on the regular model. To make things a bit more interesting visually, the Kona N will also sport a black splitter at the bottom of the bumper and a red accent stripe as seen on the other N cars.

2021 Hyundai Kona N Exterior
- image 963941

The profile of the Kona N won’t be significantly different that the standard crossover. Mild upgrades will only include body-colored mirror caps and door handles and unique, sportier looking wheels. These should be finished in a dark color for a striking contrast with the larger, red-painted brake calipers. If Hyundai offers a Performance Package, the Kona N will also feature larger, 19-inch rollers that are notably lighter than the standard rims. They should also come wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero tires. The Kona N will also sit a tad lower than the standard Kona.

Albeit camouflaged, the rear end gives us a good view of two familiar N design features, such as the roof-mounted spoiler and the dual exhaust layout. There’s also a diffuser-like element at the bottom of the bumper, likely fitted with a horizontal red accent stripe.

2021 Hyundai Kona N Exterior
- image 963939

Just like the rest of the N lineup, the Kona N will be offered in Performance Blue, a color that’s exclusive to N-badged vehicles. Other than that, the color palette should be identical to the regular Kona lineup.

Interior

  • Similar to regular model
  • Shift Time Indicator
  • Blue Stitching Heated
  • Optional Lightweight Seats
  • Optional 10.25-Inch Display
  • N badges
  • Updated technology
2021 Hyundai Kona N
- image 964024

The first thing you need to know about the Kona N is that it will be fitted with all the new features that come with the 2020 facelift. Look for the latest Hyundai Bluelink technology with the 10.25-inch instrument cluster and an optional 10.25 infotainment display with a split-screen function. There’s also new ambient lighting tech that illuminates the center cup holder and front foot wells, as well as new rings around the A/C vents and speakers with aluminum finish.

The Kona will also benefit from the company’s new range of active safety systems, such as:

  • Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist
  • Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist
  • Smart Cruise Control with stop and go
  • Leading Vehicle Departure Alert
  • Lane Following Assist
  • Intelligent Speed Limit Warning
  • Safe Exit Warning
  • Rear Seat Alert
  • e-call
2021 Hyundai Kona N
- image 964023

There’s no word yet on what will set the Kona N apart from the regular model, but unique features should be similar to other N cars. Look for a pair of sporty, heavily bolstered front seats with "N" badges and a similar logo on the gear lever. The seats will be wrapped in leather, while other surfaces will feature cloth or artificial suede. But everything will be mostly black except for the Performance Blue stitching on the seats and the door panels. The Kona N should also become available with the optional N Light seats. Introduced on the i30 N, they are almost five pounds lighter than the regular seats and provide enhanced lateral support. They also feature Alcantara inserts.

2021 Hyundai Kona N
- image 964025

As far as tech goes, the Kona N should be fitted with an active variable LED red zone and shift time indicator and the Performance Driving Data System. The latter displays info on horsepower, torque and turbo boost, and it also includes lap and acceleration timers. Metal pedals and seatbelts in Performance Blue should round off the N-specific package.

Drivetrain and Performance

  • 2.0-Liter Turbo-Four
  • 247 Horsepower
  • 260 Pound-Feet Of Torque
  • Performance Pack With 276 Horses And 289 Pound-Feet
  • Automatic Transmission
  • 0 To 62 Mph in less than 5 Seconds
  • Top Speed At 155 Mph
  • Sporty suspension
2021 Hyundai Kona N Exterior
- image 963942

This is where things get interesting. While we knew that Hyundai will eventually build a Kona N model, it wasn’t clear whether Hyundai would use the 2.0-liter engine in the i30 N and Veloster N or the smaller 1.6-liter unit in the i20 N. It turns out the Koreans went with the larger engine, meaning that the Kona N will pack quite a punch. Hyundai has yet to release specs, but we do know that the turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine cranks out a solid 247 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque in the i30 N and Veloster N.

Engine 2.0-Liter Turbo-Four
Horsepower 247 HP
Torque 260 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 5.9 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph
2021 Hyundai Kona N Exterior
- image 963949

That’s a notable increase over the regular range-topping model, fitted with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that delivers 193 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. The Kona N also delivers more torque than the range-topping diesel model, good for 236 pound-feet.

Hyundai also offers a Performance Package upgrade for these cars, which increases output to an even more impressive 276 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of twist. There’s no word if the Kona N will benefit from this performance bundle, but it’s very like for Hyundai to offer it in order to keep the lineup consistent.

Hyundai also confirmed that the Kona N will feature an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission as standard. This unit was added to the Veloster N lineup for 2021, but the hatchback also retains a six-speed manual as standard.

2021 Hyundai Kona N Exterior
- image 963940

How quick will the Kona N be? Well, the Veloster N fitted with the automatic gearbox hits 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and the crossover shouldn’t be slower. Its top speed will be electronically limited to 155 mph.

Hyundai confirmed that the Kona N will be equipped with Launch Control and revised exhaust system tuned for an "emotional sound experience."

How much will the 2021 Hyundai Kona N cost?

2021 Hyundai Kona N Exterior
- image 963944

Pricing information is not yet available, but it’s safe to say that the Kona N will become the most expensive model of the range. The Veloster N comes in at $32,250, almost $4,000 more than the range-topping non-N model, so you should expect a similar increase for the Kona N. With the top-tier Kona Ultimate priced from $28,050, the Kona N will fetch at least $31,500 before options.

There’s no official confirmation that the Kona N will come to the U.S., but since crossovers are doing better than hatchbacks on this side of the pond, there’s a good chance that the beefed-up mini SUV will make it to North America.

Does the 2021 Hyundai Kona N have any competitors?

2021 Hyundai Kona N Exterior
- image 963947

The Kona usually competed with subcompact crossovers like the Nissan Juke, Ford EcoSport, Mazda CX-3, Kia Stonic, and Seat Arona. While all of them are competitive across their regular lineups, the Kona is the only SUV in this market that now offers a high-performance version. None of the crossovers listed above come with more than 150 horsepower, so the Kona N pushes into premium territory performance-wise.

Specifically, the Kona N is powerful enough to take a stab at the likes of BMW X1. The range-topping model packs a 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, so the Kona N comes on top on the performance front. It can also give the Audi Q3, also rated at 228 horses and 258 pound-feet of twist, a run for its money. Especially since these German SUVs are priced a bit higher at around $35,000. The Kona N is also more potent than the entry-level Mercedes-Benz GLA, while the Performance model comes close to the AMG GLA 35, which boasts 302 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque (at $47,550 before options).

Conclusion

2021 Hyundai Kona N Exterior
- image 963939

The 2021 Kona N will probably be a big hit. The Kona is already one of the brand’s most popular vehicles and the N package will attract new customers that weren’t satisfied with the existing powertrains.

The Kona N will also become the most powerful option in the non-premium market and by far the most potent crossover priced below $35,000.

Likely priced from around $32,000, the Kona N will pose a threat to entry-level versions of the BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA, and Audi Q3. Sure, an extra 20 horsepower might not be enough for the Kona N to win over an X1 driver, but the Korean crossover will also feature a notably sportier setup and likely better equipment for around the same price.

  • Leave it
    • U.S. availability unknown
    • A bit too expensive maybe?
Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read full bio
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All-new Hyundai KONA N to be next model in N line-up
First SUV to join the N family
Set to deliver the benefits of an SUV as well as uncompromised driving fun
Eight-speed N DCT and the 2.0 turbo engine guarantee high-performance
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12 January 2021 - Hyundai Motor has confirmed that the next member of its high-performance N range will be the all-new Hyundai KONA N. The model will be the first high-performance SUV for Hyundai. As its base model was highly popular globally, much anticipation is aroused for the high-performance version of the KONA. We’re excited to expand the recipe for success we’ve developed with the i30 N and, most recently, with the i20 N to one of our most popular SUVs on the market today: KONA. The addition of KONA to the N family will bring our high-performance brand to the next level. Andreas-Christoph Hofmann
Vice President of Marketing & Product at Hyundai Motor Europe
The all-new KONA N will be available with an eight-speed wet dual-clutch transmission, known as N DCT. Combined with its 2.0 Turbo engine, it is sure to deliver a powerful and nimble driving experience. As with other N models, the all-new KONA N will be equipped with a variety of high-performance driving features such as Launch Control and an emotional sound experience. The all-new KONA N is the first ‘hot SUV’ from the N brand. As a ‘hot SUV’, it will have plenty of versatility as well as the driving pleasure like any other N vehicle. N-thusiasts will enjoy taking this car anywhere; from road to the track. Till Wartenberg
Vice President and Head of N Brand Management and Motorsport Sub-division at Hyundai Motor Company
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Teaser Clip – long
Hyundai’s high-performance brand N, which ventured into the high-performance field with its i30 N, is planning to expand its line-up in 2021. Especially with more diversified segments in its line-up, like the i20 N and the upcoming KONA N, the N brand will provide fun-to-drive vehicles that befit any kinds of consumers looking for driving pleasure. More details will be announced in the coming weeks.

Press release

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