New 286bhp Hyundai Kona N performance SUV unveiled

2021 Hyundai Kona N SUV will be a rival to the VW T-Roc R and have an automatic gearbox as standard

  • New Hyundai Kona N has 286bhp 2.0-litre engine
  • Eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard
  • On sale this summer

This is the new 2021 Hyundai Kona N. It’s the brand’s first ever performance SUV and the latest addition to the ‘N’ range alongside the i30 N and i20 N hot hatchbacks.

The Kona N is set apart from the regular model by several unique ‘N’ specific styling features, including a more aggressive body kit. It's powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine producing 286bhp, with power going to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox that features three unique gear shift modes.

When it launches, the Kona N will have several rivals including the Volkswagen T-Roc R, BMW X2 M35i and the Audi SQ2. The new car goes on sale this summer with an expected price of just over £30,000.

2021 Hyundai Kona N: design

The Kona N features more aggressive styling than the standard model, indicating its performance credentials. It features a new Sonic Blue paint finish, which is a slightly lighter shade than the Performance Blue used on the i20 N and i30 N.

The nose of the car has a model-specific hexagonal grille finished in black. This hexagonal pattern continues with the large front air intake and side air intakes. A more muscular front bumper design also features, alongside a front splitter with red detailing. Split-level LED headlights and daytime running lights also feature, and are taken from the regular Kona N Line model.

The car’s side profile gets several specific ‘N’ design touches, such as the embossed ‘N’ logos on the side skirts, which also feature black contrasting trim and red detailing. Lightweight forged 19-inch alloy wheels are fitted, helping to give the car a wide stance. Upgraded brakes also feature, along with red painted calipers.

At the rear, the Kona N gets a vented rear spoiler and a triangular third brake light, with a red striped rear diffuser housing a pair of large exhaust pipes.

Engine, chassis and performance

Hyundai has confirmed that the Kona N will only be available with an eight-speed dual clutch (DCT) automatic gearbox and front-wheel drive. A manual will not be offered.

The new car is powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine that produces a maximum power output of 286bhp. This headline power figure is only available with the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox set to ‘N Grin Shift’ mode. This switches the car into its most aggressive setting with launch control enabling it to accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds. Top speed is 149mph.

A pair of additional gearbox modes are also available, called ‘N Power Shift’ and ‘N Track Sense Shift’. In both of these settings, engine power is reduced to 276bhp. Hyundai has not revealed specific details of these modes, only saying they give the driver “faster shifting” and “maximum driving exhilaration”.

The front axle features a limited slip differential that distributes power between the front wheels for improved grip and traction off the line. Hyundai calls it the “N Corner Carving Differential” and says it makes the car more agile and fun to drive. Other changes over the regular Kona include a stiffer bodyshell, a slightly wider track and a sports exhaust.

Interior and technology

The interior of the Kona N is nearly identical to the regular car but has several sporty touches. Up front, there’s a pair of half-leather sports seats embossed with ‘N’ logos. Blue stitching features throughout and the steering wheel gets a pair of blue ‘N’ mode buttons, along with gearshift paddles. Aluminium pedals are fitted along with an ‘N’ embossed gear lever with blue detailing.

A 10-inch digital instrument cluster features alongside a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen, and there’s also a head-up display that adds a gaming styling experience to the read out when in N or Sport driving modes.

Standard safety technology includes lane following assist, which automatically keeps the car in the centre of the lane while driving, adaptive cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, blindspot warning and safe exit warning, which is used to help the driver at junctions

What does it mean for car buyers?

The arrival of the Kona N shows that the performance car is still very important to Hyundai, despite an industry-wide move towards electrified models. While the new car may be less powerful and slightly less desirable than rivals made by the VW Group, it has the potential to be as, if not more, fun to drive, while costing significantly less to buy than those cars too.

For more on Hyundai's 'N' performance models, read our i20 N and i30 N reviews here. 

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