- Doors and Seats
5 doors, 5 seats
2.0T, 4 cyl.
- Engine Power
Petrol (95) 9L/100KM
8 Spd Auto (DCT)
5 Yr, Unltd KMs
- Ancap Safety
The 2022 Hyundai Kona N is about as much fun as you’ll ever have in a small SUV. Here’s why.
- Raucous exhaust note
- Eminently configurable drive modes
- Functional interior with supportive seats
- Interior finishes feel downmarket
- Crashy ride comfort
- Smaller boot than i30 N
Australia’s new car market leaves little room for things that aren’t SUVs or utes. In fact, there appears to be a diminishing array of body styles the world over. It forces manufacturers to think differently when developing performance cars, which brings us products like the 2022 Hyundai Kona N.
From the outset, I’ll say I used to find the performance SUV a difficult concept to contend with. Aside from engineers having to work with a host of unsporty characteristics such as a higher ride height, they’re not particularly sexy and typically cost more than a traditional sports car.
But after driving a Hyundai Kona N, I think I’m starting to come around to the idea. Let me explain.
The Kona N is basically the lauded Hyundai i30 N hiding underneath a more practical, higher-riding package. Based on the Kona small SUV, the N version borrows much of the i30 N’s underpinnings to create a small hot SUV. Small hot SUVs are somewhat of a burgeoning category of car at the moment so rivals are thin on the ground, but some alternatives such as the Volkswagen T-Roc R and upcoming Cupra Formentor are available.
You could also conceivably go for the Skoda Octavia RS as a wagon-bodied practicality powerhouse.
However, the Kona N is more affordable than all the above. Priced from $48,000 before on-road costs, the Kona N is part of a two-variant line-up that includes the more expensive Kona N Premium ($51,000 before ORCs).
There’s no performance deficit by opting for the entry-level Kona N – both model grades are powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that sends power through the front wheels and an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Here’s the round-up of what it’s like spending time in the base-spec 2022 Hyundai Kona N.
Step inside the Hyundai Kona N for the first time and the cabin greeting you is a functional but basic space.
Much like its i30 N range sibling, the Kona N is adorned with a whole host of plastic trim pieces that belie its $50,000 price point. With that said, perhaps that’s the trade-off you accept for one of the most affordable performance cars on sale.
The touchpoints that matter – the leather steering wheel, alloy pedals, leather gearshifter, and heavily bolstered sports seats – are all intentional, based on this car’s sports applications, and feel perfectly suited.
They’re only cloth-upholstered in the base-model Kona N, but the pews in the front row feel snug and contain a great amount of bolstering to keep you seated tightly. As an aside, the cloth is arguably better than leather for holding your butt in place when swinging round bends too.
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A surprisingly long features list includes wireless phone charging, single-zone climate control, eight-speaker Harman Kardon premium sound system, keyless entry, power-folding side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control, and rear privacy glass.
I loved the simple placement of the wireless phone charger, which doubles as a handy tub for loose items, and the convenience of power-folding side mirrors plus keyless entry was impressive for entry-level.
Space in the second row is reasonable without being great. It feels slightly cramped mainly around the leg area due to a hard plastic-backed front seat. They at least have map pockets to store your gear, while the rear windows are tinted for privacy too. There are no rear air vents.
Oddly, there is less space in the Kona N’s boot than the Hyundai i30 N – 361L in the Kona N SUV plays 381L in the hatch. However, the Kona doesn’t feature the same stabilising bar through the boot, which means the SUV features a much more useable space than the i30 N.
The Kona N comes with a space-saver spare tyre underneath the boot floor.
|2022 Hyundai Kona N|
|Boot volume||361L seats up|
1143L seats folded
Infotainment and Connectivity
Infotainment is another area where the Kona N punches above its price point. Two 10.25-inch displays face the driver – one set upon the dash to cover infotainment and one as the digital instrument cluster.
Both screens are eminently customisable to get your favourite graphics going, incorporating things like turbo boost gauges, g-force meter, lap timer, oil temperature, and torque gauges. Alternatively, you can display Apple CarPlay or Android Auto if preferred. Hyundai’s own software includes digital radio and satellite navigation that presents nicely on-screen.
The Harman Kardon sound system is great, containing a rumbling bass track and clear vocals from the eight speakers. The last i30 N I drove didn’t have a branded system and this is a considerable step up in quality.
Hyundai makes it easy to change your driving modes thanks to a dial on the centre console, as well as two ‘N’ buttons on the steering wheel. You can configure the button to call up your preferred drive settings, or press the manic NGS (N Grin Shift) button to prime the car’s gearing and engine for ultimate responsiveness over 20 seconds.
The entire Hyundai Kona range was crash-tested by ANCAP when it was launched in 2017, though the Kona N hasn’t been tested specifically. Furthermore, it’s unsure Hyundai would receive the same full-marks score if the Kona were tested to stringent 2020–2022 protocols.
In any sense, the Kona N’s active safety suite features items such as autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control with lane-follow assist, lane-keep assist, safe exit warning, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
The suite of Hyundai SmartSense active safety technologies is built upon by six airbags, a rear-view camera, rear parking sensors, and tyre pressure monitoring. Most of the safety systems’ sensitivities or warnings can be changed in the car’s settings.
Mentioned earlier is the fact that the Hyundai Kona N is not only the most affordable hot SUV on sale, but it’s also one of the most affordable performance cars, period.
At $48,000, the only performance cars more affordable are the Mazda MX-5, Subaru BRZ, Ford Fiesta ST, Volkswagen Polo GTI, Toyota 86, Hyundai i30 N and i20 N, and Abarth 595. That’s a pretty small list considering the Hyundai Kona N is an SUV.
It’s certainly more affordable than its traditional rivals: the $59,300 VW T-Roc R, and Cupra Formentor range that starts at $50,690.
The Kona N comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which expressly covers track use (as long as it’s not timed, racing or modified), so fear not if you’re a track-goer worried about voiding your warranty.
|At a glance||2022 Hyundai Kona N|
|Warranty||Five years / unlimited km|
|Service intervals||12 months or 10,000km|
|Servicing costs||$1005 (3 years), $1675 (5 years)|
Hyundai also provides roadside assistance for a maximum of 10 years, with 12 months added each time you service at a Hyundai dealership. This is one of the best coverages on the market.
The Kona N requires a service once a year or every 10,000km, whichever is first. The first three years will set customers back $1005, or $1675 over five years.
Hyundai claims the Kona N uses 9.0 litres per 100km on a combined cycle, but it’s unlikely you’ll get close to that, especially if you like hearing the shouty exhaust – we got 12.1L/100km. It must be fuelled with 95-octane petrol, which means a higher price at the pump, though this is a common negative of sports cars.
|Fuel Useage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||9.0L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||12.1L/100km|
|Fuel type||95-octane premium unleaded|
|Fuel tank size||50L|
The driving aspect is where the whole Kona N puzzle starts to piece together. Yeah, you’ll contend with a few rough plastics in the cabin, but this is where Hyundai has spent the money. Put simply, the experience is one of pure unadulterated fun, no matter the speed you drive at.
With 206kW/392Nm outputs routed through the front wheels, the Kona N is a rapid, high-riding rocket. There’s more than enough poke to keep entertainment levels high, and a flex of the right foot results in a solid shove back into the sports seat.
The entire experience is characterised by a gruff exhaust note, which tends toward obnoxious crackles and pops on the overrun as soon as you come off the throttle. It’s hilariously entertaining and quite childish, but it puts a great big smile on your face nonetheless.
Of course, the car can settle back down to become a quieter and more civilised everyday commuter, but the underlying Mr Hyde character is never far away – especially with the easily accessed N steering wheel buttons.
I’m a huge fan of the manual gearbox in the i30 N – which the Kona N misses out on – but the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission in the Kona N is deftly quick and rifles through each gear with a satisfying ‘edge’ forward.
Steering the Kona N around bends is a hefty but tactile steering weight. This steering weight is changeable depending on your preference, much like the adaptive dampers.
A fantastic level of grip is available from the Kona N-specific Pirelli P Zero tyres, and the chassis is very capable of putting down all 206kW to the road. It’s the rear end that tends to go light around certain bends, which makes for an all the more exciting experience.
The brakes are effective at bringing the 1510kg package to a halt, though the pedal does require a fair amount of prod to get it to stop quickly.
Hyundai has given the Kona N a properly firm suspension tune, which keeps it nice and composed around bends, though is a chore on anything but a dynamic setting.
When you do settle down to highway or suburban surroundings, the ride control shocks over speedhumps and thuds over road joins and potholes. You do expect this kind of harsh ride experience from a performance car, but I was expecting a more measured, comfort-oriented balance from an SUV – especially when in the softest damper settings.
Another minor take-away from around-town driving is the Kona N’s frustrating 11.66m turning circle. The car also exhibits the odd ‘crabbing’ sensation when on steering lock, at times. Not the nicest when manoeuvring about town.
However, at the end of the day, you’ll forgive these small quirks if you’re committed to the Kona N’s sporting ability.
|Key details||2022 Hyundai Kona N|
|Engine||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power||206kW @ 5500–6000rpm|
|Torque||392Nm @ 2100–4700rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Power to weight ratio||136kW/t|
As someone who didn’t get the hot SUV phenomenon, I’m a lot closer to understanding it now. To fit in this level of not only fun but also capability into an SUV is impressive, and it proves – to me, at least – that performance cars needn’t be restricted to low-slung coupes or hot hatches.
I hold the i30 N as one of my favourite hot hatches on the market, and I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest the Kona N is every bit as entertaining as its hatch alternative.
Though the interior isn’t the most impressive in terms of fit and finish, and you miss out on things such as rear air vents, Hyundai has spent its efforts on the one part that will resonate with its fan base – the car’s driving character.
As we’ve established, its $48,000 tip-in point is affordable too. From our perspective, the Kona N’s useability quirks are well worth the compromise, even for that entertaining exhaust note alone.
2022 Hyundai Kona N Wagon
Interior Comfort & Packaging
Infotainment & Connectivity
Tom started out in the automotive industry by exploiting his photographic skills but quickly learned that journalists got the better end of the deal. He began with CarAdvice in 2014, left in 2017 to join Bauer Media titles including Wheels and WhichCar and subsequently returned to CarAdvice in early 2021 during its transition to Drive. As part of the Drive content team, Tom covers automotive news, car reviews, advice, and holds a special interest in long-form feature stories. He understands that every car buyer is unique and has varying requirements when it comes to buying a new car, but equally, there’s also a loyal subset of Drive audience that loves entertaining enthusiast content. Tom holds a deep respect for all things automotive no matter the model, priding himself on noticing the subtle things that make each car tick. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t learn something new in an everchanging industry, which is then imparted to the Drive reader base.