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 Kona N is the harbinger of a new class of hot SUVs.
With 73 corners covering 20.8km 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 0 to 100km/h in 5.5 seconds, just a tenth slower than the i30 N hatch.
What’s it cost?
Two models have come Down Under – Kona N and Kona N Premium.
They’re priced from $48,000 and $51,000, plus on-road costs, respectively. Metallic paint adds $595 and matte paint $1000.
The standard Atlas White Kona N test car turned heads more than once.
The front follows the Hyundai N tradition with a black grille, following the rally team, being based on a chequered flag.
The Hyundai ‘H’ and performance ‘N’ are in there for good measure.
Below is another grille, less of a stand-out, while an LED headlight 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 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.
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.
What’s it go like?
Both grades are powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, mated with an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, serving up 206kW and 392Nm through the front wheels.
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 welcoming.
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 cogs.
Hyundai puts combined fuel consumption with premium unleaded at 9.0L/100km.
The test car came up with more than 11.0L around town and 5.9L/100km on the motorway.
Everything worked a treat while going forward but in reverse, the vehicle tends to stutter when setting off on an incline. Not the best when backing out of the driveway.
Exhaust performance ranges from 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, 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 programable 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.