Hyundai has lifted the wraps from its first hot SUV, and the latest model to join its growing range of N-badged performance cars: this is the Hyundai Kona N. Delivering a whopping 276bhp, the Korean flier will go head-to-head with the likes of the Audi SQ2, VW T-Roc R and Mini Countryman John Cooper Works. It goes on-sale in the summer; prices have yet to be confirmed, but expect it to nudge over the £30k mark.
Following hot on the heels of the i20 N supermini, the Kona N uses a lot of the same engineering as the impressive i30 N but the rocket SUV also benefits from a range of more performance technology.
Power comes from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine which develops up to 286bhp, plus 289lb ft of torque. Quirkily, the max power figures are accessed via a special setting in the standard-fit eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, called ‘N Grin Shift’ mode. Power is sent to the front wheels only … and noticeably there’s no manual gearbox option.
Worth highlighting that though there’s no four-wheel drive system either, Hyundai boffins say the intricate traction control system can handle a variety of terrains and surfaces, including snow and mud.
And it’s pretty rapid. Use the launch control, and 0-62mph is covered in 5.5 seconds. It’ll then carry on to a top speed of 149mph. Thankfully, every Kona N benefits from specially-developed Pirelli P Zero tyres, all wrapped round forged 19-inch alloys. Standard-fit also includes an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential on its front axle, plus adaptive dampers.
As is the case with the i20 N and i30 N, the Kona N gets an N Mode with a Custom setting for “maximum attack” driving. But dig a little bit deeper and you’ll discover Hyundai has packed its hot SUV with more performance technology.
Most of it is centred round the eight-speed dual-clutch auto. Ok, deep breath, and hold on to your seats because this is where things get a tad exciting.
First there’s a dedicated button on the steering wheel for — yup, you guessed it — the N Grin Shift. This maximises the engine and gearbox performance for a 20-second burst of eyeball-popping fun. Thankfully there’s also something called the N Power Shift. This ensures that, when you do floor the loud pedal, the traction systems immediately go into hyperactive mode to ensure you don’t lose any torque due to wheel slip.
Finally, for the days you decide to take your Kona N to the track — really … how many people will do that? — there’s N Track Sense Shift. This clever piece of tech identifies when you’re on-track and then, taking braking and cornering into account, selects the right gear for you.
Of course, inside the cabin you need to know exactly what all these techie systems are doing. So Hyundai has fitted the Kona N with a bespoke set of graphics which come alive when N mode is active. The information is relayed via the digital instruments and the screen on the infotainment system. The latter displays the key performance metrics as you bid to improve your personal best on the track.
There are subtle external design and styling tweaks which make the N stand out from the rest of the Kona range. These include, of course, the lightweight alloys which, because of the SUV’s wider tracks, make the car look more squat and powerful.
The Sonic Blue colour is new to the range, plus there are a number of new red accents which grab the viewer’s attention. And it’s impossible to miss the lower front lip spoiler, gaping air intakes at the front which help cool the tuned engine, and side skirts, plus a double-wing spoiler at the rear. The latter houses the N-trademark high-level triangular brake light.
There are tweaks too inside the cabin. The steering wheel, gear lever, metal pedals and sport seats are enhanced by blue accents. There’s also a new digital gauge cluster and 10-inch infotainment system, plus a head-up display.
And there’s loads of safety tech as standard, including lane-keep and lane follow assist, blindspot warning, adaptive cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, Hyundai’s safe exit warning, driver attention warning and high beam assist.