Hyundai's Kona N Is A Hotted-Up Crossover With The Heart Of A Hatch

Illustration for article titled Hyundai's Kona N Is A Hotted-Up Crossover With The Heart Of A Hatch
Photo: Hyundai

You know the Veloster N? Of course you do, everyone does. Well, what if it were taller and had four normal size doors? Actually, you don’t even have to imagine, because Hyundai’s built it for us. It’s called the Kona N, and today it became official.

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Now, Hyundai’s been teasing the Kona N for a while, so there aren’t many big surprises here. It derives its power from the same 276-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder as the Veloster N, only connected to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, with no manual available. (The Veloster received the same transmission as an option recently.) That powertrain turns the front wheels through an electronic limited-slip differential. All-wheel drive would have been a neat way to differentiate the Kona N from the Veloster N in terms of performance, but alas.

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Photo: Hyundai

Also like the Veloster, this Kona gets many software modes, each with a puzzling name. First there’s the N Grin Control System, which optimizes the steering, stability control, ride, exhaust sound and engine characteristics for various driving scenarios, from economical to track driving. That’s pretty standard for modern performance cars.

But then there are three more transmission-specific modes on top of that. N Power Shift automatically optimizes acceleration when the throttle is applied more than 90 percent of wide open. N Grin Shift gives you an extra 10 horsepower for 20 seconds with the press of a button. And finally, N Track Sense Shift “selects the right gear and shift timing in sport driving conditions to provide optimal performance, just like a professional racecar driver,” according to Hyundai’s press release.

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Photo: Hyundai

That’s not all! The Kona N gets an exclusive “racing head-up display” the brand says adds a “game-like dimension” to sporty driving. There are also customizable N-labeled buttons that can activate the lap timer or be set to a driver’s preference, though Hyundai’s vague on what those buttons can be programmed to do. At any rate, the company says this aspect of the Kona N was inspired by “popular racing video games.”

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So, yeah — Hyundai’s gone a little overboard with the boy-racer modes. Though in the Kona N’s defense, it doesn’t appear that this car leaves anything on the table in terms of performance compared to the Veloster N. It’ll hit 60 mph from a standstill in 5.5 seconds with launch control activated, for one thing.

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Photo: Hyundai
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At 3,328 pounds, this Kona weighs 80 pounds more than the comparable Veloster, which isn’t that much when you consider the added space and practicality the Kona offers. And while the Kona N is only front-wheel drive like the Veloster N, it does offer a few different traction control modes for driving on snow, sand or mud. A bona fide off-roader it most certainly ain’t, though I suspect you might be better suited to get out of a jam with the little bit of extra ground clearance the crossover will give you. Albert Biermann, Hyundai’s R&D chief, said the company considered lowering the Kona N by an inch but ultimately decided against it to retain that SUV-like versatility.

The Kona N is sort of in a class of its own, or at least will be in North America. “Hot” crossovers are becoming more common overseas, with vehicles like the Ford Puma ST and Volkswagen T-Roc R. Over here, though? There’s the Ford Edge ST, which is more powerful than the Kona but also 1,100 pounds heavier. Mazda’s CX-30 Turbo looks compelling, though it’s certainly not catering to the same audience as Hyundai is with this car.

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There’s no word yet on pricing or availability, though Hyundai did confirm months ago that the Kona N will hit showrooms before the year is out.

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Photo: Hyundai
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Staff Writer at Jalopnik. 2017 Fiesta ST. Wishes NASCAR was more like Daytona USA.

DISCUSSION

I’m interested, but I’m also 47 and I think there’s a good chance that I’d at some point be embarrassed with all those buttons on the steering wheel when I had another adult in the car.