Essai : Hyundai Kona N, hot SUV !

The Hyundai range has evolved in a rather staggering way in recent years… And in all areas! Not only have the models in Hyundai’s “traditional” catalog multiplied (as evidenced, for example, by the launch of the recent compact SUV Bayon). But the Korean giant has also launched a vast electric offensive with its Ioniq family (including theIoniq 5 is currently the spearhead). And all this without forgetting, for our greatest pleasure, to build up a real range of sports models with its N label. , in Korea) than at their training track (the famous German “Nürburgring” which needs no introduction…).

From nothing… to the embarrassment of choice!

Result: while Hyundai did not really shine with its offer of sports models not long ago, the Korean manufacturer has managed to quickly earn its acclaim in the field since the launch of its i30 N in 2017. A model which, thanks to the paw of Albert Biermann, ex-BMW M (and now “young retiree” of Hyundai), quickly shown to live up to traditional hot hatch credentials. Since then, the Hyundai N have multiplied. First with the declination Fastback de l’i30 N, then with the recent little wanton i20N. Without forgetting the models not intended for Europe, like the Veloster N and the Elantra N. And even if the future of the coat of arms will surely pass through electric sports cars (an Ioniq 5 N should not delay in officially revealing itself…), Hyundai continues to expand its portfolio of thermal sports models with its first high-performance SUV: the Kona N.

A “high on legs” i30 N

Officially discovered last April, this model is now coming “physically” to our market. Although it is more compact (4.22 m) than the i30 N (4.34 m) and i30 Fastback (4.46 m), this Kona N uses their “big” four-cylinder 2.0 l turbo ( and therefore not the 1.6 l turbo of 204 hp of the i20 N). And this exclusively in its Performance version increased to 280 hp during the recent restyling of the i30 N.

Even if the Kona platform allows the assembly of an all-wheel drive; the team gathered around Albert Biermann did not wish to complete this rear-wheel-drive powertrain. The Kona N therefore remains, too, exclusively a traction, aided by an electronically controlled self-locking differential.

The only notable mechanical difference with the i30 N: the Kona N does not use the six-speed manual transmission. In the case of the Kona N, only the new 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox is planned.

On the niche market of general bodybuilder SUVs, this Kona N therefore comes to be placed between the Ford Puma ST (with its 1.6 l turbo of 200 hp and its front-wheel drive) and the Volkswagen T-Roc R, recently restyled (powered by a 2.0 l turbo of 300 hp and all-wheel drive).

Specific details

In its N version, the Kona offers the traditional appendages of Hyundai’s sports models. We will highlight in particular its 19-inch rims, in forged aluminum, revealing red calipers pinching the same large front/rear ventilated discs as on the i30 N (360 mm at the front, 314 mm at the rear), but also its rear diffuser incorporating a rather suggestive double tailpipe as well as a triangular third brake light.

Thank you Albert!

On board, there is of course also a sports treatment. We will especially highlight the beautiful bucket seats, offering effective support, as well as the specific steering wheel. It is embellished with new keys to easily exploit the full potential of this Kona N as soon as the opportunity arises. Like the NGS red button, for example, which looks like a kind of “push-to-pass” that can be used for 20 seconds.

Small details that driving enthusiasts will also appreciate: while all the other Konas now have an electric handbrake, the Kona N marks the return of a “good old” handbrake lever in the Korean cabin. In addition, unlike the Kona “civilian” automatics, the Kona N has a lever to operate “in the right direction” when you want to regain control in manual. In other words: you push to downshift and you pull to upshift. Enough to follow the natural movements of the body during braking and acceleration. Requirements apparently imposed by Albert Biermann himself. So, we say thank you who?

Plate already “not found”

One more word on the passenger compartment of this Kona N before leaving to put it to the test of the small roads in the Pepinster region: 120 copies were initially planned for our market.

Our importer had therefore provided a numbered brochure, as well as a small gift box autographed in person by Thierry Neuville for the occasion. But all these copies put on sale in 2021 have already found takers… If you want a numbered Kona N, you will have to hope to find one on the side of the executive models. The good news, however, is that thanks to the success of its hybrid / electric models offsetting the CO2 emissions of its sports models, Hyundai has finally decided to relaunch 120 additional units of its Kona N for 2022. But without a plate…

Usable…

On the road, the Kona N stands out with a “relatively wise” typing in Normal mode. The sound of the engine is intended to be quite discreet, the damping even more or less considerate (even if, given its raised trim, the Kona N still requires dealing with a damping that is a little fixed at low speeds) and its gearbox double clutch rather flexible in its management. In short, here is a sporty SUV that can be “well-mannered” for everyday use. It will then be necessary to deal with a rather average rear habitability (the wheelbase of 2.60 m is 5 cm shorter than that of the i30 N) and a not really gigantic trunk: 361 l against 381 l / 436 l for the i30 N/i30 Fastback. But in the case of the Kona N, note that we do not find the anti-reconciliation bar which somewhat hinders the modularity of the trunk of the more radical i30 N.

A la carte

In addition to the traditional Eco, Normal and Sport modes of the other Konas, there is also a more radical “N” mode here. But this mode is rather reserved for track expeditions or, at least, for “billiards”. We will also appreciate the possibility of configuring two personalized modes à la carte: Custom 1 and Custom 2. The interface on the large 10.25” touch screen then allows adjustment on three levels (Normal, Sport and Sport +) many organs.

A real treat: you can fine tune the Kona N as you wish depending on the conditions. In our case, for example, we preferred to switch all the settings to Sport +, except the damping (Normal) and the gearbox (Sport) in Custom 1. What better way to make the most of the Kona’s efficiency on small bumpy roads? .

Effective

Overall, we will highlight the high level of performance of the Kona N. In Sport +, the engine and the exhaust give chills and ensure the show with exhilarating backfires. The maximum torque of 392 Nm always responds from 2,100 to 4,700 rpm, to then give way to maximum power (280 hp) between 5,500 and 6,000 rpm. The 0 to 100 km/h is expedited in 5.5 s and the maximum speed reaches 240 km/h. It is certainly a tad worse than the i30 N (5.4 s and 250 km / h), but very largely sufficient to have fun…

In sporty driving, the Kona N is appreciated above all for its efficiency. In Sport +, its self-locking differential helps it to dive (slightly) towards the rope, but without imposing violent torque feedback in the steering wheel. And its rear train effectively follows the trajectory. It is less fun to “place” it at the entrance to a curve than a certain Ford Puma ST, which is more playful. But the pace adopted by the Kona N to jump from one corner to another is clearly impressive. We will also point out the excellence of its brakes, capable of enduring a very sporty treatment (at least on the road) without throwing the glove away. But also its good traction, despite the winter weather conditions of our test.

How much does it cost ?

Hyundai claims €40,499 for its Kona N. Or, to the nearest euro, the price of the i30 N equipped with the same DCT box. It will therefore be a question of choice… For this price, we have ultra-complete equipment. Only the paint (650 €) and possibly the sunroof (750 €) are offered at an additional cost. Which places this explosive Kona between the Puma ST (€32,190) and the VW T-Cross R (€45,610). However, it will still be necessary to count on a solid “taxes” budget (taking into account, depending on its place of residence, its power of 206 kW or its CO2 WLTP certification of 194 g/km, etc.). And a gasoline budget accordingly. WLTP combined consumption is announced at 8.4 l/100 km. But the on-board computer of our test model announced, after our loop conducted at a good pace on deserted roads, “a little more” than double…

Our Verdict

A little less radical than the i30 N, but more explosive and versatile than the “small” i20 N, the Kona N finally finds its place in the Korean manufacturer’s sports catalog. By offering, in addition, an inimitable charismatic style to fans of the genre. A sporty SUV that remains both pleasant to live with on a daily basis and exhilarating to whip on occasion.

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