• 2022 Hyundai Kona N Review: A Performance SUV Within Financial Reach

Grinning to the Nth Degree

I love my Kona Electric: it’s stealthy, quick and surprisingly fun-to-drive. But I’d be lying if I said my mind hasn’t wandered from time-to-time wondering what the Kona might be like with a souped-up tempo. Living at the opposite end of the Kona spectrum, behold the new Kona N – a performance SUV within financial reach.

  • 2022 Hyundai Kona N Review: A Performance SUV Within Financial Reach
  • Year:
    2022
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Transmission:
    8-speed automated manual with select shift
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    276 @ 5500
  • MPG(Cty):
    20
  • MPG(Hwy):
    27
  • Torque @ RPM:
    289 @ 2100
  • Energy:
    SIDI
  • Displacement:
    1998 cc
  • 0-60 time:
    5.7 sec.
  • Layout:
    Front-engine/FWD
  • Price:
    34200
  • Purpose:
  • body style:

N SPECS

$35,445. That’s the modest price of the Kona N - one of the most unique enthusiast-centric cars on the market today…or shall I say, SUV. However you categorize the Kona N, this is Hyundai at its nuttiest and I mean that in a flattering way. The high-performance N story began with the Veloster and has since spread to the Elantra and now the Kona with more models coming later this year. Available in white, black, blue, or red with a 2.0-liter turbo, 8-speed dual-clutch transmission, a limited-slip, electronically controlled shocks, and summer-use Pirelli rubber, the Kona N is a front-wheel drive hooligan. With 276 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque delivered linearly via what Hyundai dubs “Flat Power” technology, this is a torque-steering, exhaust-popping, rigid ride with fun technology built-in. Names like Grin Shift, Grin Control, and Corner Carving Differential intertwine with N Mode infotainment creating a video-game-like atmosphere. There’s launch control, all sorts of ways to measure and monitor your performance, and even built-in racetrack layouts with lap timers.

2022 Hyundai Kona N Review: A Performance SUV Within Financial Reach
- image 1093062

Inside, the suede sport seats immediately grab attention providing the perfect amount of friction and side bolstering…surprisingly comfortable. Then, the eyes dart to these blue N steering wheel switches and this curious red button just below them labeled ‘NGS’ and that’s the moment you realize this is going to be an absolute blast.

2022 Hyundai Kona N specifications
Engine 2.0-Liter Turbo-Four
Horsepower 276 HP
Torque 289 LB-FT
Transmission 8-speed dual-clutch
0 to 60 mph 5.7 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph

GRIN SHIFT

2022 Hyundai Kona N Review: A Performance SUV Within Financial Reach
- image 1093056

Short for N Grin Shift, pressing the NGS button is like inserting a sugar IV needle into a kid’s arm – over-boosting the turbo for 20 seconds while shifting most aggressively for times when rapid acceleration is desired. A countdown clock in the driver display keeps track of time. But as for launch control, the procedure is a little wonky and has only grabbed a 5.7-second 0-to-60 mph time for me whereas low 5s are more the norm. With the less than favorable surface conditions at our test strip that’s to be expected perhaps but the Kona N actually feels faster launching without electronic assistance.

BRITTLE RIDE QUALITY

2022 Hyundai Kona N Review: A Performance SUV Within Financial Reach
- image 1093052

Hyundai has blessed this Kona with larger brakes, 19” wheels, and something the regular front-wheel drive gas-fueled Kona doesn’t get - a multi-link rear suspension. And though there are adjustable shocks, even the Normal setting is high-strung. By the time you reach Sport+, it’s the most inflexible factory suspension tune on the market. The body is constantly reacting to the road transmitting every little pebble. Personalized N modes encompassing a number of critical components can be configured on the touchscreen and then assigned to the steering wheel switches. Engine, transmission, limited slip, suspension, steering, stability control, exhaust sound - it’s all there for customization. There’s even a feature that uses the forward-facing camera to read road signs and when approaching an S-bend prompts the driver to select N mode for maximum enjoyment. When driving in Eco or Normal it’s fairly docile yet still tight. Things ratchet up in Sport mode but remain relatively tame. It’s not until you summon N mode that things get serious. And though the beefed-up DCT shifts quickly the driving experience benefits from using the paddle shifters, holding gears longer, and controlling the pops and bangs coming from the twin pipes. Lots of understeer is on the menu, however, making me wish for the Golf R’s all-wheel drive torque-vectoring rear axle.

RALLY CAR VIBES

2022 Hyundai Kona N Review: A Performance SUV Within Financial Reach
- image 1093059

But this Kona is a hoot; super stiff while imbuing rally car vibes. I just wish there was a tall hand brake to complete the WRC fantasy. And when the turbo kicks-in hold onto to the wheel because this is Saab 9-3 Viggen-level torque-steer. It’s not nearly as polished as the Golf R I recently tested but therein lies its charm. The Kona N makes you the driver, not the other way around, and carving through the mountain passes with the exhaust crackling indeed puts a grin on your face. Just let your chiropractor know you’re going to need regular appointments.

MONO-SPEC

2022 Hyundai Kona N Review: A Performance SUV Within Financial Reach
- image 1093063

Gas mileage is rated at 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway and the Kona N will accept regular unleaded. Hyundai includes all features as standard equipment and there are no options. But the exterior isn’t as exciting as it could be. Without the Racing Red paint and the large bore exhaust outlets this Kona would really fly under the radar. And as compared with my Kona, this one doesn’t have a sunroof, head-up display, rain-sensing wipers or smart cruise control with stop and go so even though this is the most expensive gas-powered Kona in the lineup it’s not the most stocked. Nevertheless,

  • Hyundai’s high-end infotainment system is top-notch (minus the fact there’s no wireless phone projection)
  • there are heated seats
  • thoughtful N details
  • high-beam assist,
  • an overperforming 8-speaker Harman Kardon stereo with Clari-Fi Music Restoration Technology
  • a rear USB port
  • and tons of active safety features.
2022 Hyundai Kona N Review: A Performance SUV Within Financial Reach
- image 1093051

The Bluelink app is excellent and Digital Key - which allows the car to be unlocked, locked, started, and driven with a smartphone - is supported as long as it’s an Android device. Owning a Kona, I can tell you the rear seats are small but at least the cargo area is decent with the seats folded. Even though it can’t tow, the Kona N can gobble up some gear and supports a roof rack, unlike my EV.

In a car this rambunctious I’d appreciate more extroverted styling but kudos to Hyundai for producing something this crazy that isn’t so over-the-top that it’s completely impractical. This one’s for the driver who craves kooky.

Be sure to check out some other reviews I’ve written lately:

2022 Subaru WRX Review: The Last of a Dying Breed

2023 Nissan Z Review - Familiar DNA Wrapped in a New Yet Retro Package

2022 Mercedes-AMG GT 53: Not As Hair-Raising As Its Two-Door Sibling

Steven Hammes
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