Hyundai South Africa doubles its N performance range with the recent introduction of the Hyundai Kona N into the local market. We attended the national ride and drive event to find out more about the newcomer.
It seems that just a few weeks pass before Hyundai SA offers a new model in our market. This year alone we have been to four events hosted by the same company. Though, we have to admit, as capable as the products that carry the capital ‘H’ badge usually are, the most recent event is the one we were the keenest to attend.
New to SA
The Hyundai Kona has been in SA for some time. Though it is not is prevalent on our roads as the Venue or Creta. Hyundai HQ felt that the platform provided by the Kona was ripe for the N treatment. As a result the Hyundai Kona N is the very first SUV from the company to carry the sloping ‘N’ of the in-house performance arm. Though we are willing to bet that it won’t be the last.
There are several unique touches that the range-leading Kona wears to help earmark it from lower-powered siblings. Most obvious of the changes are the 19-inch alloys. These are finished in a dark hue and cover oversized brake discs clamped by calipers that are painted red. The Hyundai Kona N also has a front lip spoiler, double-wing roof spoiler and side skirts with ‘N’ logos to declare its performance credentials. Both bumpers and the side skirts have red highlights.
A wide lower air intake dominates the front bumper and provides additional engine cooling during spirited driving. A duet of fat tailpipes pokes out through either corner of the rear bumper. There are also a trio of air ‘vents’ on the upper edge of the facia which may or may not be inspired by the original Audi quattro…
The performance theme continues into the cabin, too. Leather covered seats are sculpted to hold front occupants during hard cornering. The front chairs are electrically adjustable and boast a warming function. A fat-rimmed steering wheel is leather covered and hosts buttons to quickly select driving modes as well as shift paddles for cog-swapping duties. There is also a new 10,25-inch infotainment interface and digital cluster, as well as an exclusive head-up display (HUD).
Of course, the most important bit of a performance variant lies under the bonnet. In this regard the Hyundai Kona N features a turbocharged 2,0-litre engine. The inline four cylinder produces 206 kW with 392 N.m of peak torque. Drive is directed to the front wheels through an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. Interestingly, the clutches are covered by the company’s seven-year/200 000 km mechanical warranty. Hyundai says the Kona N has a top speed of 240 km/h and can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 5,5 seconds with launch control activated.
On the track…
Hyundai SA chose to showcase the Kona N’s talents at Killarney International Raceway just outside of Cape Town. At the track we got to try out the new vehicle in extremis with the safety of run-off areas and no oncoming traffic. The Hyundai Kona N shone in this scenario. The wide, 235 mm Pirelli rubber is worked hard into the surface by stiffer springs and adaptive dampers to provide plenty of bite. But if you are inclined you can get the tail of the Kona N to step out with a bit of trail-braking, so it does have a playful side, too.
There is also more than enough firepower to slingshot between the corners. While the adaptive transmission needs no driver interference as it always seems to choose the right gear at the right time. Quite impressively, the 360 mm front and 314 mm rear brakes held up to repeated hard braking with no sign of fade, just the telltale acrid smell of hard use.
…and on the road
The Hyundai Kona N may have been impressive on circuit, which speaks to an inherent solidity of engineering. However, we can’t imagine you will ever see one at your local track day. It is more likely that this vehicle will be bought by those who need a family car, but also wish to enjoy the occasional spirited drive.
As a fast road car the Kona N is a good prospect. It offers a higher seating position when compared to a hot hatch and has loads of oomph for overtaking. Interestingly the apex Kona features a multi-link rear suspension, while others in the range have a torsion beam set up. This independent arrangement does help provide a more pliant primary ride quality in the N version.
However, the stiffer suspension set-up is noticeable over scarred tar, as is the road roar from the low profile footwear. It must be said though, that the buyer of any performance vehicle must be willing to live with those sort of compromises for the added dynamic prowess the provide.
Hyundai SA has stolen a march on its rivals. There is no real rival for the Hyundai Kona N in the local scenario, certainly not at this price point. The Kona N is the only performance crossover one can buy locally until VW SA introduces the T-Roc R. If local buyers can set aside brand loyalty and get behind the wheel, they will be pleasantly surprised.