2022 Hyundai Kona N Brings the Hot Hatch Formula to Small SUV

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick

Kona N gets drops the drivetrain from the Veloster N into Hyundai’s quirky sub-compact SUV.

Hyundai has dropped more details on the upcoming 2022 Kona N. Sitting atop a freshened 2022 Kona lineup, the model marks the first time Hyundai’s sporty sub-brand has given an SUV the full N makeover.

The basic recipe should be familiar to North American N-thusiasts—we miss out on the smaller, Europe-only i20 N. Hyundai has slotted its turbocharged, direct-injection 2.0-liter four-cylinder under the Kona’s hood. It’s good for 276 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque under normal driving, all funneled through an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. The driver can poke the N Grin Shift button for an extra 10-second burst of 10 hp, which requires a 40-second cool-down time between bursts.

Given the Kona’s pint-size SUV nature, it’s surprising to know the N will not come with AWD. Hyundai is sticking to front-drive for its first hot SUV, and it won’t be offering its slick-shifting six-speed manual, either. Not that either of these facts will slow the Kona N down: Hyundai quotes a 5.5-second sprint to 62 mph (100 km/h) with launch control.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line Review: First Drive

Launch control and N Grin Shift aren’t the only toys drivers can play with either. A variable exhaust system is standard, as are five selectable driver modes. N Power Shift and N Track Sense are also included, both of which take into account road conditions to maximize performance.

Hyundai has made numerous changes under the skin to ready the Kona for the added performance. Structural reinforcements keep the chassis stiff, while the N Corner Carving Differential takes up residence on the front axle, electronically distributing torque between the driven wheels. Speaking of which, the Kona N uses unique 19-inch rolling stock, hiding larger brake discs and N-branded calipers.

Visual changes include body-color fenders, a front lip spoiler, and the double-wing rear spoiler with integrated triangular brake light. Hyundai says the aero kit wasn’t tested in the wind tunnel, but on the Nürburgring, where the Kona N has put in hundreds of development laps. The company resisted the urge to dramatically lower the Kona N as well, as a nod to its everyday practicality.

An exclusive Sonic Blue paint option debuts for the Kona N. It’s a hyper-desaturated hue, essentially looking like white. Have no fear, Performance Blue remains an option, as well as Gravity Gold Matte, which is the Ioniq 5’s hero color. In total there are eight Kona N exterior color choices.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid Review: Sneak Attack

Inside, the Kona N features a twin set of 10.25-inch screens, handling both general infotainment and instrument panel duties. A unique “N mode design” offers what Hyundai calls a “game-like experience,” displaying things like lap times and track maps. A sport-oriented head-up display handles pertinent info while in N or Sport driving modes.

AutoGuide asked Till Wartenberg, VP of N Brand management and motorsport, why the company chose the Kona as its first performance SUV and not one of its better-selling models, like the Tucson. Wartenberg said it was “the right place” for the Kona N, since there is no direct competitor in the class. In addition, N buyers want value alongside ample performance, and the B segment makes that easier to deliver. Affordability is also the reason for the Kona eschewing all-wheel drive.

All told, the 2022 Hyundai Kona N sounds like a Veloster N with an added shot of practicality. We’re down with that. Expect more details on North American pricing and availability over the coming weeks.

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Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

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