Hyundai Kona N revealed – and it’s quicker than the i30 N hatch

Fed up with lame performance SUVs? The Kona N looks set to raise a grin or two

Hyundai Kona N on track

Talking Points

  • Third member of N family
  • Quicker than an i30 N hatch around a track
  • Available in Australia from July 2021

Hyundai’s Kona N hasn’t exactly been the sort of secret you’d need top level security clearance to catch wind of. Even if you weren’t part of the development team, you could probably sketch out the broad brush themes: engine from an i30 N hatch, similar front-drive mechanicals and the new 8-speed DCT transmission.

Give yourself a pat on the back if you scored three from three there.

Well, now we’ve seen the car in the metal. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. We’ve seen it in a Zoom call hosted by Hyundai’s top brass and, if you click through the gallery attached here, you can too.

The N treatment has shorn a lot of the Kona’s lightweight gawkiness away. It hunkers down onto its 19-inch wheels and features a front lip spoiler, wide lower air intake, double-wing roof spoiler and side skirts. Getting rid of the black plastic wheel arch fenders also gives the N a more upmarket look.

It’s not aiming too far upmarket, though.

When asked why the Kona N does without drive to all four wheels, Till Wartenberg, Head of N Brand Management & Motorsports Sub-Division stated that “front-drive makes the Kona N affordable and accessible. It opts it into a ‘white spot’ in the US market where there is no obvious competitor.”

It doesn’t sound as if N has sold out in making the SUV, even if ride height hasn’t actually been reduced. “You can take it to a race track, push it hard and drive it back home,” said Albert Biermann, Hyundai’s R&D boss.

“The final aero was tuned on the Nordschleife rather than a wind tunnel. At Schwedenkreuz [corner], you need to trust the aero balance, arriving at speed.”

Hyundai’s engineers tested the Kona N at Wakefield Park and it’s reported to have lapped quicker than an i30 N hatch, so any worries that you’re losing some element of dynamic ability can be laid to rest now.

It’s also reported to be extremely adjustable, possibly because the slightly higher CofG allows for more dynamic weight transfers.

How is it quicker? The simple answer is weight. Although Hyundai hasn’t quoted a kerb weight for the Kona N at this juncture, MOTOR understands that the production vehicle will be lighter than an i30 N hatch with the same transmission.

So what’s under the skin? Naturally, it gets the i30 N’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four, mated to the 8-speed wet-clutch N DCT transmission. The gearbox features transmission control software that includes modes such as N Grin Shift (NGS), N Power Shift (NPS) and N Track Sense Shift (NTS).

N Grin Shift? This lifts power from 206 to 213kW, helping the Kona N to 100km/h in 5.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 240km/h. To achieve that time, you’ll probably be leaning on the standard launch control function. But, like some terrible kitchen chopping tool infomercial, there’s more.

N Grin Control. Yes, really. This is just Hyundai’s rather awful name for a mode dial that switches through Eco, Normal, Sport, N and Custom, and you can alter the parameters of the engine, the stability control, the exhaust, and the steering.

Biermann’s team must be wearing out the N key on their laptops, because there’s also N Corner Carving Differential, an electronic limited slip diff that helps the two front contact patches deploy all of the 392Nm.

The 19-inch forged wheels help reduce unsprung weight versus a typical cast item, and the Kona N also features a retuned steering system, bigger brakes and custom tyres. Look for the HN branding on the sidewall.

There’s also the Variable Exhaust System that can be made to make more pops and bangs than the opening bars of Operation Desert Storm. The body’s also been beefed up with additional spot welds, a strut ring and extra gusset braces to resist torsional forces under hard cornering.

Expect the Kona N to land in Australia in July, with prices at a typical Kona premium over i30, so expect a figure just north of $50,000 depending on final trim choice.

 

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