It appears the ‘go-faster’ guys and gals at Hyundai cannot keep their hands off the
company’s product. Following the performance upgrade to the i30 and i20, most recent
model to get a booster jab in the arm is the most unlikely – the Kona sports utility vehicle.

A product of the Hyundai N Division at Namyang, South Korea, and put through
exhaustive testing at the Nurburgring in Germany, the Konan N is the harbinger of a new
class of hot SUVs.

With 73 corners covering 20.8 kilometres of tarmac, with stretches of steep uphill and
downhill going, the circuit’s Nordschleife section earns its reputation as the Green Hell,
pushing the high performers of the automotive world to the ultimate in on-road conditions.
So, does the Kona N fit?

Lifted from the underpinnings of the Hyundai i30 hatchback, with more than a pinch of N-
ness, it’s hard to fit it into the pantheon. For a start, there’s no all-wheel drive, so it is a
high-riding hot hatch rather than an SUV.

Front-wheel drive only has helped keep the weight down, enabling a claim by the maker of
a zero-to-100km/h figure of 5.5 seconds, just a tenth slower than the i30 N hatch.

Two models have come Down Under – Kona N and Kona N Premium – priced from
$48,000 and $51,000, plus on-road costs, respectively. Metallic paint adds $595 and matte
paint $1000.

Both are powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, mated with an eight-
speed dual-clutch transmission, serving up 206 kW and 392 Nm through the front wheels.

The standard Atlas White Kona N test car turned heads more than once. The front
followed the Hyundai N tradition with the black grille, following the rally team, being based
on a chequered flag. The Hyundai ‘H’ and performance ‘N’ were in there for good

Below is another grille, less of a stand-out, while an LED headlamp set-up features on
either side capped by strips of LED daytime running lights.

The rear roofline incorporates a discreet spoiler, while the dominating features are twin
trumpet-tipped exhausts totally in keeping with the brassy note emanating from them when
the engine is fired up.

In profile, the features probably responsible for the onlooker interest mentioned above, are
unique 19-inch alloy wheels shod with Pirelli P Zero HN tyres, playing host to bright red
brake callipers.

All these captivating aspects of the standard Atlas White Kona N test car exterior were
linked by a fine red line skirting the lower body.

The Kona N inside is far from basic. Sports seats, with a nice line in fabric and contrasting
stitching, are bucket-style up front, while the second row can take three grown-ups at a
pinch. Leg room there is average to skinny depending on the position of the front

Fancy suede / leather coverings are left to the Premium model. The steering wheel is the
exception, with leather wrapping giving the driver a touch of luxury.

The Kona N Premium also weighs in with auto-dimming rear-view mirror, head-up display,
front parking sensors, powered, heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel,
glass sunroof and ambient lighting.

The driver has the benefit of a new 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, while another
10.25-inch display screen in the central dashboard supplies information on vehicle
systems and wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus factory fitted satellite navigation.
Quality audio is served up with DAB+ digital radio being blessed with an eight-speaker
harman / kardon sound system. Wireless phone charging caps off the line-up.

Power is provided by a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine putting power to ground,
via an eight-speed double clutch automatic transmission, to ground through the front

Standard equipment includes autonomous emergency braking with detection of the
presence of pedestrian or cyclist, adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, lane keep
and lane follow assist, rear cross-traffic alert and auto high beam.

Driving the Kona N was full of ups and downs – literally. The stiff suspension picking up
every blemish in the road, even in Normal drive mode. The racetrack would be more

Peak power is on tap between 5500 and 6000 rpm, with torque chiming in from 2100 to
4700 revs. Gear changes are some of the smoothest, with just a slight nudge between

Hyundai puts the combined urban / highway fuel (premium unleaded) consumption at 9
litres per 100 kilometres. The test car came up with more than 11 litres per 100 kilometres
in town and 5.9 on the motorway.

Everything worked a treat while going forward but in reverse, the vehicle tended to stutter
when setting off on an incline. Not the best when backing out of the driveway. Exhaust
performance ranges from producing from a peaceful background noise when cruising to a
gravelly chorus when called on to get a move on.

‘Grin Shift’ is hard to take seriously. Brought into action by the press of a red button on the
steering wheel, the throttle response and gear shifts are speeded up for 20 seconds –
there’s a countdown – with an accompanying crackle and pop of the engine. So, what, the
same sound is on tap all the time in the programmable N Sport+ mode.

The claim to SUV status of the Kona N was put to rest by the lack of luggage room in the
back. Boot space is piddling at 361 litres with rear seatbacks raised. A reasonably flat
floor, taking 1143 litres, is released when they are folded.

Finally, a trap for the unwary when the tailgate is opened, doubling as shelter from hot sun
or rain. However, in the wet a hollow where the number plate is attached fills with water,
which cascades down on the owner when they close the door – a serious design fault!

Somebody said the Kona N looked like a white basketball boot. However, the Hyundai
SUV’s sporting pretensions are on the other foot – more like that of a comfy carpet slipper-
although there are occasions when the hot hatch(ness) sneaks through.

Looks: 8/10
Performance: 8/10
Safety: 7/10
Thirst: 7/10
Practicality: 5/10
Comfort: 6/10
Tech: 8/10
Value: 7/10


Hyundai Kona N: $48,000
Hyundai Kona N Premium: $51,000
Sunroof $2000
Cyber Grey Metallic, Dark Knight, Phantom Black Mica paint $595
Gravity Gold paint $1000
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your
local Hyundai dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Hyundai Kona N 2.0L T-GDI Turbo 4-cylinder petrol, 8sp DCT, FWD)

Capacity: 1.998 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders inline
Maximum Power: 206 kW @ 5500-6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 392 Nm @ 2100-4700 rpm
Fuel Type: Unleaded petrol 95RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 9.0 L/100km

DRIVELINE: Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive

Length: 4215 mm
Wheelbase: 2600 mm
Width: 1800 mm
Height: 1550 mm
Turning Circle: 11.66 metres
Kerb Mass: 1510 kg

Fuel Tank Capacity: 50 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Disc

Five years / unlimited kilometres

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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