New 286bhp Hyundai Kona N on sale now priced from £35,395

The Korean brand’s first performance SUV has arrived with up to 286bhp, launch control and a 0–62mph time of 5.5 seconds

The new Hyundai Kona N is available to order in the UK now, priced from £35,395. At that price, it undercuts the Volkswagen T-Roc R by more than £6,000 and the Audi SQ2 by almost £5,000, both of which are also vying for attention in the performance crossover class.

Hyundai’s tuned Kona N is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which produces 276bhp and 392Nm of torque. That’s enough for a 0–62mph time of 5.5 seconds (with launch control engaged) and a top speed of 149mph.

Unlike its rivals from the Volkswagen Group, the Kona is front-wheel drive only. However, the Hyundai does have a rather clever eight-speed automatic gearbox with three settings, each of which are designed to screw the maximum possible performance out of the engine.

The first setting, called “N Grin Shift,” is basically a push-to-pass function. It boosts the engine’s output to 286bhp for 20 seconds and shifts down to provide the best acceleration. Once used, though, the driver has to wait 40 seconds before it can be activated again.

“N Power Shift” automatically engages when the driver uses more than 90 percent throttle and sharpens up the gear changes to keep power flowing to the wheels. Finally, “N Track Sense Shift” supposedly optimises gear changes for track driving. Hyundai says the system makes decisions on gear changes based on “motorsport data and the driver’s behaviour.”

In an effort to compensate for the lack of four-wheel drive, Hyundai has fitted a sophisticated traction control system which it says can handle a variety of terrains, including snow and mud. Like the i20 N and i30 N hot hatchbacks, the Kona N also features an electronically controlled limited-slip differential (dubbed the “Corner Carving Differential”) to boost traction.

To support the upgraded drivetrain, Hyundai has overhauled the Kona’s chassis, fitting bigger brakes, lower suspension, adaptive dampers, a broader track width and wider 19-inch forged alloy wheels. The body has also been strengthened with more welding points and extra bracing to reduce flex in the corners.

Styling tweaks include a lower splitter, deeper side skirts and an updated front bumper with larger intakes, along with a host of red trim accents. At the rear, there’s a new diffuser that houses a twin-exit exhaust system, and a double layer spoiler teamed with the company’s trademark high-level triangular brake light.

The paint is new, too. While it might look familiar, the Sonic Blue hue is subtly different to Performance Blue, which is the colour most associated with Hyundai’s hot N products. It’s exclusive to the Kona N for the time being, although the firm has said it “previews a possible SUV line-up expansion,” meaning more hot Hyundai SUVs could be on the way. 

Hyundai has already said it will increase its portfolio of N and N Line models to 18 by the end of the year – and a performance focussed Tucson N could easily become part of that plan.

The makeover continues inside, with alloy pedals and some blue accents for the sports seats, gear lever and steering wheel. There’s also a new 10.25-inch infotainment system and a digital gauge cluster, along with a head-up display which Hyundai says “adds a game-like dimension to the driving experience” in the car’s N or Sport driving modes.

Other standard equipment includes keyless go, parking sensors, a reversing camera, privacy glass and electrically adjustable door mirrors. There’s a host of standard safety equipment, too, which includes lane keeping assist, smart cruise control and blind-spot collision avoidance assist.

Inside, there’s climate control, a wireless smartphone charger, a premium Krell eight-speaker stereo system and some USB ports for front and rear-seat passengers. Buyers also get ambient lighting and a pair of electrically adjustable, heated and ventilated front seats.

Hyundai’s future N strategy

Hyundai has already revealed that an expansion of the N SUV line-up is a possibility, but the Korean firm has also given a further hint to future N models by outlining its strategy for “sustainable driving fun.”

The brand’s RM20e prototype was shown at the 2020 Beijing Motor Show. The RM platform is a rolling test bed for electrified powertrains and possibly even hydrogen fuel cells, and  Hyundai says it “envisioned how e-performance can become more eco-friendly with the hydrogen-powered N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo fuel cell concept.”

The firm’s E-GMP electric car architecture that underpins the Ioniq 5 offers plenty of flexibility and strong performance potential. The same platform underpins sister brand Kia’s EV6, which was recently revealed in sporty GT form, so it’s possible that an N-branded EV could appear in the future using this tech.

Executive Vice President and Head of Customer Experience Division at Hyundai Motor Company, Thomas Schemera, said: “The future will be electric, maybe even hydrogen-powered, or even a combination of both, but N brand will always be focused on delivering driving fun - no matter what technology is under the hood.”

Click here for our first drive of Hyundai's new i20 N

Recommended

KGM Torres launches in the UK with £34,995 price tag
KGM Torres - front
News

KGM Torres launches in the UK with £34,995 price tag

Skoda Kodiaq-rivalling family SUV is the first new car to arrive since SsangYong rebranded to KGM
19 Feb 2024
New Dacia Spring to be revealed in full on 21 February
Dacia Spring teaser
News

New Dacia Spring to be revealed in full on 21 February

Dacia’s budget EV will come with a new look and upgraded technology for its UK launch
19 Feb 2024
Updated Skoda Kamiq on sale now: the Ford Puma better watch out
Updated Skoda Kamiq Monte Carlo
News

Updated Skoda Kamiq on sale now: the Ford Puma better watch out

Prices for Skoda’s smallest SUV start from £24,030, with the first examples to arrive with customers in spring 2024
26 Jan 2024
Top 10 best small 4x4s to buy 2024
Best small 4x4s - header image
Best cars & vans

Top 10 best small 4x4s to buy 2024

Need off-road capability but in a smaller package? Take a look our top 10 small 4x4s
17 Jan 2024

Most Popular

Government in major U-turn on pick-up truck tax changes
Ford Ranger - side
News

Government in major U-turn on pick-up truck tax changes

HMRC scraps its plan to axe the benefit-in-kind ‘loophole’ for pick-ups, a week after announcing it
19 Feb 2024
Car Deal of the Day: Land Rover Defender looks the business at £324 per month
Defender Hard Top - downhill off road
News

Car Deal of the Day: Land Rover Defender looks the business at £324 per month

The current Defender is a fantastic SUV van for businesses and is our Car Deal of the Day for 20 February
20 Feb 2024
“The £16k Dacia Spring is an electric car game-changer”
Opinion - Dacia Spring
Opinion

“The £16k Dacia Spring is an electric car game-changer”

With many people claiming electric cars are just too expensive, editor-in-chief Steve Fowler thinks the Dacia Spring’s arrival in the UK is exactly wh…
21 Feb 2024