Test Drive: Hyundai Kona N: Let the music flow!

Much like Toyota, Hyundai continues to please die-hards driving enthusiasts with power-packed models… along with the inevitable electrified versions of its most popular models. This should be enough to keep us excited and preserve our hobby for the foreseable future.

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At first, Hyundai launched the highly capable i30 N, which was able to challenge the VW Golf GTI. Then came the smaller i20 N. Hyundai recently introduced the Kona N, a small compact SUV fitted with the 280 hp and 392 Nm 2.0 T-GDi engine. This is the kind of engine we like, full of power all along the curve and always ready to let you enjoy its full potential. It’s backed up by the inevitable 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox and its steering wheel-mounted controls. Unfortunately,  these are on steering wheel and not behind it. The Kona N chassis was revised to cope with its new level of performance. There are specific 3-way adjustable shock absorbers, an active torque vectoring system, as well as an electronic differential to reduce understeer. The Kona N rides on quality Pirelli P Zero tyres, something we like !

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I like it

Unlike most other carmakers, Hyundai still allows its lumps to be vocal.  As soon as you start up the car, you realize there’s something lively under the bonnet. It’s this very engine that brings all the character you expect to be associated with the N logo. Driving the Kona N on the motorway, we were positively surprised : this T-GDi is very quiet at 120 km/h, running at a lowly 2000 rpm. Once on our favourite backroads, we immediately selected the N mode on the steering wheel. We discovered a rather impressive machine, even if it remains too high up on its wheels for our taste… and made us reluctant to be fully confident in it. Driving a Ford Puma ST, you simply forget it’s a crossover but in the Kona N we are perched too high up, unfortunately. The driving position is not the best. This unpretending Hyundai loves to be pushed to its limits and easily impressed its passengers… they were obviously not used to such a huge amount of horsepower !

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Quite clever

As crossovers are ever more popular, any carmaker that adds one to its range could easily be onto a winner. This Hyundai’s is quite practical : boasting a 361-litre boot capacity that can get better thanks to the 60/40 folding rear seat. Bearing in mind the car’s overall dimensions space in the back is surprisingly large. However,there are too few storage spaces inside.

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I don’t like it

The nice steering wheel and perfectly designed seats have a hard time making up for the quality of interior plastics. The whole thing is a bit disappointing, even more so on a N-badged car but pricing it competitively makes cutting some corners unavoidable. There are too many driving modes to choose from and future owners will never use some of them.

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Why I buy it

Characterful cars are very few and far between. Driving one really puts a grin on your face. The Korean engine is a real gem and is powerful enough, whatever its speed. Enjoying it as much as possible is easy, things being even better especially since the chassis is perfectly tuned and up to the job.The powerful and unburstable brakes  as well as the rather firm steering enhance its sporty handling. It swallows up the bends with appetite, corners with flair and acuteness, coming out perfectly straight. Finally, if the windscreen is smaller and there is less interior space than in some of its competitors, there are still quite a few good old switches that help you quickly find the functions you are looking for.

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Why I don’t buy it

The Hyundai Kona N costs € 40.499, exactly the same price as the i30 N. We think it plainly justify choosing the latter : its larger footprint brings more confidence to the driver and it’s better seated on the road. Sitting too high in such a crossover, you tend to restrain yourself d and not won’t use its full potential. Such an exiting engine needs to be regularly fed in petrol… The Hyundai average combined fuel consumption is 8.5 l/ 100 km. (Translation: Dimitri Urbain)

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