Hyundai’s Kona Gets Racier With 2022 Kona N

hyundai-kona-n-2022-oem-02-angle--dynamic--exterior--front--silver.jpg 2022 Hyundai Kona N | Manufacturer image

Competes with: There’s really nothing like it in the U.S. market

Looks like: A racier, high-performance version of the latest Kona

Drivetrain: 286-horsepower (maximum), turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine; eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission; front-wheel drive 

Hits dealerships: Fall 2021

Hyundai has unveiled its first N-badged SUV — the 2022 Kona N — and it looks to be a tasty treat. To date, Hyundai has focused its N performance division efforts on sedans, bringing global vehicles to market like the phenomenal i30 N but keeping those autobahn-burners out of the U.S. market. We’ve had the incredibly good Veloster N, but other N-badged American-market Hyundais have all been “N Line” vehicles — racier looking, but not more powerful. 

Related: The 2020 Hyundai i30 Fastback N Is the Hyundai You Want But Can’t Have

It’s Got the Looks

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Changes to the updated 2022 Kona make for a more aggressive look all around and among the biggest are body-colored fenders instead of the Kona’s normally gray plastic ones along with 19-inch N-specific wheels. There’s also a new color for the Kona N, a riff on the Performance Blue hue that we enjoy so much on other N vehicles. This one is Sonic Blue, and will be exclusive to the Kona N (for now, says Hyundai). 

Up front, there’s a new lip spoiler under the bumper, a functional double-wing roof spoiler out back and lower side skirts that Hyundai says enhance aerodynamic efficiency. The lower air intakes are bigger to provide better engine cooling during track hot laps. 

It’s Got the Goods

Despite the fact that crossovers and SUVs in general have traditionally made terrible performance cars due to their extra mass and tall driving positions, Hyundai’s President and Head of R&D Division Albert Biermann insists that the Kona N will be different. “Kona N is a true hot SUV with the performance level of a hot hatch. It breaks the rule that SUVs are less fun to drive. As an N model, it goes beyond the limits of an ordinary SUV,” he said in a statement. “Kona N can carve corners on the racetrack and bring excitement to everyday driving.” 

Equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making a 280-hp (boostable to 286 briefly via a button on the steering wheel) mated to a high-performance eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with rev-matching function, the Kona N has the goods that make the Veloster N a riot to drive. Front-wheel drive will be the only configuration, presumably to keep weight down — the hot hatch crossover weighs in at just about 3,300 pounds, and Hyundai says it can run from 0-to-60 mph in 5.5 seconds with launch control activated. 

The body structure itself has received some attention to boost stiffness, and the handling got some tuning attention in the form of new strut ring structures and an electronic limited-slip differential for control of torque distribution.

There’s also a lot of N-specific gear onboard to help it go faster. Like the N Corner Carving Differential mentioned above, there are a lot of electronic adjustments available as part of the N Grin Control System, which comes with five drive modes: Eco, Normal, Sport, N and Custom. These adjust the engine control computers, stability control, exhaust sound and steering response. The Kona N also has an electronically adjustable suspension like other global N models. There are also several N modes for the electronically controlled transmission that you can choose from: N Grin Shift is meant for spirited fun driving, N Power Shift for maximum acceleration and N Track Sense Shift for track driving. 

It’s Got the Tech

Hyundai is targeting the gaming community with the new Kona N, if the onboard tech is anything to go by. It features a gaming-style head-up display with graphics meant to emulate racing simulator games — right down to a track position graphic loaded for various racetracks around the world. Activate N or Sport modes, and the HUD switches to a configuration that communicates lap time, N track maps and other features. There are customizable N buttons throughout the interior that can be used to preset a number of the Kona N’s various adjustable features as well, allowing a driver to have a one-touch preset to change the Kona N’s performance characteristics. 

Inside, the Kona N gets custom N Design sport seats wrapped in leather and fabric, a leather-wrapped N Design steering wheel with paddle shifters, an N logo leather-wrapped shift knob and blue stitching throughout the interior. A Harmon Kardon premium eight-speaker audio system is included, and both the gauge cluster and center console screen are 10.25-inch digital displays, with the center console being a touchscreen. Wireless device charging and Hyundai’s digital key smartphone function will also be included. Electronic safety aids are also included as part of the package: forward collision avoidance, lane-keeping, lane-following, driver attention, high-beam, blind spot collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic, adaptive cruise control and safe exit warning assist systems.

On Sale

Hyundai says that deliveries will likely start at the end of the year. Pricing has not yet been announced, but given that the Kona currently tops out at just under $30,000, it would not be surprising to see the Kona N sticker in the mid-$30,000 range. 

Related Video: 2021 Hyundai Elantra Review

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Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman has had over 25 years of experience in the auto industry as a journalist, analyst, purchasing agent and program manager. Bragman grew up around his father’s classic Triumph sports cars (which were all sold and gone when he turned 16, much to his frustration) and comes from a Detroit family where cars put food on tables as much as smiles on faces. Today, he’s a member of the Automotive Press Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. His pronouns are he/him, but his adjectives are fat/sassy. Email Aaron Bragman

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