2022 Hyundai Kona N
Class: Subcompact Crossover
Miles driven: 243
Fuel Used: 11.0 gallons
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||B-|
|Power and Performance||A|
|Fit and Finish||B|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide’s impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. “Big” rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, “Tall” rating based on 6’6″-tall male tester.|
|Engine Specs||276-horsepower 2.0-liter|
|Engine Type||Turbocharged four|
|Drive Wheels||Front-wheel drive|
Real-world fuel economy: 20.3 mpg
Driving mix: 60% city, 40% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 20/27/23 (mpg city/highway/combined)
Fuel type: Premium gas
Base price: $34,200 (not including $1225 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: None
Price as tested: $35,445
The great: Great steering feel, athletic demeanor, lots of fun to drive
The good: Functional package, relative easy on the gas, reasonable price given the performance
The not so good: Extremely firm ride, never feels relaxed, fatiguing on long highway drives
It seems that Hyundai’s solution for packing lots of performance into a subcompact SUV that it can still sell for $35,445 (with delivery) to start is to hold the line on luxury. The Kona N comes with a meaty leather-wrapped N steering wheel and seats with microfiber inserts that help to give passengers a little better chance at staying in place during lateral hijinks. There’s bright pedal trim, too. However, the majority of the cabin isn’t any less low-buck plain than tamer Konas that are in themselves good deals.
The Kona N is ready to fly with its turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. There’s actually nothing menacing about the powerteam in “Comfort” mode; it’s fairly docile around town. Selecting “Sport” noticeably changes the aural landscape and perks up launches. The red “N Grin Shift” button on the steering wheel is purported to unlock an extra 10 horsepower—to 286—for 20 seconds. It didn’t exactly make this driver grin ear to ear when he pushed it but the tachometer made it clear the test car was operating in a higher (and louder) rpm range than before. Indicated fuel mileage at the end of a 61-mile stint was 22.5 mpg. That’s 0.5 mpg shy of the EPA’s combined-mileage estimate for the Kona N, and not bad considering 69 percent of this reviewer’s miles were in city-type driving,
Ride is firm, even in Comfort mode, and close to hard in Sport. There’s added firmness to the nicely weighted steering when opting for Sport, too. The front-wheel-drive N seems to enjoy being pushed through quick corners, which it can do without much lean. Braking from the enlarged 4-wheel discs is excellent.
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As in any Kona, passengers enjoy surprising roominess—there’s legitimate space for four “average-size” adults. Storage for their personal items comes from a good-sized glove box, small-capacity console box, a net pouch on the back of the front passenger seat, modest map pockets in all four doors, and cup holders in the console and the pull-down rear armrest. Standard-issue Hyundai infotainment and climate-control systems are easy to use. Fold the 60/40-split second-row seats and 19.2 cubic feet of cargo area grows to 45.8 cubic feet.
Back when I was in my mid twenties, I lived about 15 minutes from my job. My commute included a quick highway sprint that demanded driver attention, and plenty of engagement, as I was always running late. Usually very late. I mention this because my loyal and responsive Volkswagen Scirocco was always being pushed hard. Looking back, it seems possible I subconsciously wanted to run late, giving me pretext for driving like a guy who was—well—running late for work.
I’m old now, and not sure I would enjoy daily fiery sprints to the office. More likely, I would just allow myself a little more time and catch up on one of the half dozen podcasts I try to keep up with.
The Kona N reminded me of my mighty ’85 Scirocco. Not because the Scirocco was fast—it wasn’t—but because the Kona is engaging in all the right ways, though it demands a lot in return, and I am no longer willing to make such compromises.
You can read a lot more about what the Kona N is all about here, but let me recap my time in the car. Yes there’s plenty of power, and yes there’s plenty of lateral grip, but the two things that really make an aggressive commute more fun are steering feel and effective, firm-feeling brakes, and the Kona N has both in spades.
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My primary issue with this small crossover is with ride quality—and “quality” may be a misnomer here. Even in Comfort, the mildest of the Kona’s available drive modes, the vehicles pounds over road imperfections and registers every surface irregularity. Twenty-something me would have described the crude ride as “road feel,” now I just find it fatiguing.
Additionally, the exhaust note is on the extreme side, and plenty of road noise filters into the cabin. But again, these are reasonable compromises made in the name of fun–at least to the right driver. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Kona N, and was also glad to swap into another car when my turn ended. My commute is too long, and I got a little too middle aged.
But man, if you’re still in the mood for an aggressive sprint to the office—or Best Buy, or Starbucks—the Kona N will reward you with plenty of edgy snark. Just don’t get too old while you own the ‘N, because there’s no drive mode for cranky.
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2022 Hyundai Kona N Gallery
Click below for enlarged images.
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