Hyundai Kona N Line — Now with 195 horses

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(October 10, 2021) The sub-compact Hyundai Kona crossover was named North American Utility of the Year in 2019 beating out such vaunted finalists as the Acura RDX and Jaguar I-Pace. Now in its fifth year of production, the 2022 Kona is a delightful blend of style inside and out, considerable capability with a stout turbocharged engine, and a value in the N Line performance trim with a starting price coming in below 30 grand.


The Kona gets a major refreshening for 2022 with a new front-end treatment including a new wide-mouth grille, new wheel designs, updated exterior lighting elements, and faux front and rear skid plates. The interior also gets some upgrades including a redesigned dashboard that now features an 8-inch infotainment screen as standard replacing the 7-inch screen. New optional items available are a digital gauge display, wireless smartphone charging, a 10.3-inch infotainment screen, and heated rear seats.

But for us the biggest upgrade was endowing the Kona with the sporty N Line treatment that includes 195-horsepower version of the turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine.

We were impressed with the Kona N Line's straight-ahead performance — especially in the Sport mode, which unlike Sport settings in numerous other small cars seems more athletic with a feeling of urgency at lower speeds. The 195 horsepower comes at 5,500 rpm and the available 195 pound-feet of torque can be derived from between 1,500 and 4,500 rpm. The  turbocharged engine couples to a retuned seven-speed EcoShift dual-clutch transmission (DCT) for quick, seamless shifting and brisk acceleration. There was one nagging exception to the normally smooth shifting — it stumbled occasionally at low speeds when leisurely starting out from a stop sign.

The N Line is particularly fetching with body color cladding and rocker panels complemented by a dedicated N Line 18-inch alloy wheel design. The rear completes the dynamic and emotional image, incorporating a large central aerodynamic diffuser, with dual exhaust tips. At the rear corners, the bumper fascia is formed with sharply-creased lines and strakes enhancing air flow. The N Line interior offers a dedicated N Line color package with black seats and distinctive red stitching, black headliner, metal pedals, and N logos for the seat, steering wheel and gear shift lever.

We found the Kona N Line a hoot to drive with its small stance and tossable demeanor. A major automotive publication has recorded 0-to-60 in about 6.0 seconds, suitable for energetic merging into fast-moving Interstate highway on ramps or passing a slower moving vehicle on a two-lane road. There's no drama here as the Kona N Line works its 195 hp magic. At the same time, the Kona N Line won't break the bank at the gas pumps — even with AWD —  EPA rated at 27 mpg city, 32 highway and 29 combined.

Up-market features available on the Kona include a head-up display, standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, Bluetooth connectivity, individual tire-pressure monitoring, tilt-telescoping steering wheel, power mirrors, automatic full-LED headlamps and cruise control. And there are actual knobs to control the climate-control system and audio adjustments.

The well-shaped seats provide plenty of support. But we found legroom a little tighter than we like for rear-seat passengers, and cargo room is less than some others in the segment measured at 19.2 cubic feet behind the seats and 45.8 cubic feet with seatbacks folded. But with a level cargo floor, there is plenty of space for hauling travel gear or a big stop at Costco.

While the 195-horsepower engine — upgraded from 175 hp in previous years — is outstanding, we wish over the five years of the Kona's existence that Hyundai would have seen fit to also upgrade the horsepower rating in the base engine, which we think is only just adequate at best with a 2.0-liter 147 horsepower 4-cylinder making a 132 pound-feet of torque mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. That's good for a 0-to-60 time of about 9.5 seconds.

Kona has its costumers covered in the safety department with standard automated emergency braking, lane-keep assist, tire-pressure monitoring system, rear occupant alert and driver-attention monitor. You will have to move up to the mid-level SEL trim to get blindspot monitoring.

The 2020 Kona comes in four trim levels starting at $22,375 — SE, SEL, N-Line and Limited. Normally we would recommend the SEL trim that comes with a nice range of features starting at $24,175, but we can't because it also comes with the base engine. The best buy is probably the Limited that includes the excellent turbocharged engine and most of the features available on the Kona for a starting price of $31,175. We would opt for the performance-oriented N-Line, however, with its special styling features starting at $28,245 including all-wheel drive.

Our test car came with such optional equipment as adaptive cruise control, Harmon-Kardon premium audio, sunroof, and the 10.3-inch touchscreen with navigation. Hyundai had not figured pricing at the time of our test drive, but we estimated the bottom line with options and destination at about $31,000.

If performance is in your blood you may want to wait until Hyundai releases the Kona N, which is a full-throated performance vehicle with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 276 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque. Hyundai figures 0-to-60 time will be around 5 seconds.

2022 Hyundai Kona N Line


Base price: $22,375; as driven: est. $31,000
Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 195 @ 5,500 pm
Torque: 195 pound-feet @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 102.4 inches
Length: 166 inches
Curb weight: 3,106 pounds
Turning circle: 34.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 19.2 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 45.8 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 27 city, 32 highway, 29 combined
0-60: 6.0 seconds (estimated)
Also consider: Honda HR-V, Kia Seltos, Toyota CH-R

The Good
• Healthy optional turbocharged engine
• Excellent handling
• Loaded with features for the money

The Bad
• Tight rear-seat legroom

The Ugly
• Weak base engine