Hyundai Kona N — Performance personified

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(May 29, 2022) We've experienced all four Hyundai Kona drivetrains for 2022. And we've saved the most fun setup for last. We agree, the electric version is very fetching — a small crossover we would consider if dipping our toe into the electric pool — but the new performance-minded N version is the most fun. A hoot with 276 horsepower — 286 in an overboost mode — under the hood of a 3,340-pound car.

Not only does the N go from point A to point B in a rewardingly swift time, it handles and corners like a true sports car. Never mind its slightly raised crossover hatchback ride height, we found the Kona happily stuck to the asphalt through some tire-squealing tuns on our favorite rural paved road "test track." And all the while creating a great popping and crackling exhaust note.

The Kona N is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 276 horsepower. But press a red button on the steering wheel and you will call up an additional 10 ponies for a 20-second burst. The engine is mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic creating a rather sophisticated powertrain for a car in this segment. It can propel the little Kona from a standstill to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, according the Car and Driver testing, and can finish off a quarter mile run in 13.5 seconds.

The Kona N is not just about its rather prodigious straight-line performance, but also about its joyful nature when when being pushed hard and fast through the corners, and when occasionally getting a surge of power from overboot button. It was a pleasure to drive, but with one caveat — it can become a bit noisy in the cabin. More sound insulation would be welcome.

All the sporty elements you would expect are present on the exterior — blacked-out grille, creased and hole-punched hood, large air intakes, sleek and simple light signatures, N badges, low-profile tires, a dual exhaust, and a red pinstripe along the bottom edges of the spoiler, side skirts, and diffuser.

All this good stuff comes at a surprisingly low purchase price considering this new age of runaway inflation. There is only one loaded-to-the-gills-with-good-things version for $35,425 including destination charge.

The Kona received 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. Other items available are a digital gauge display, wireless smartphone charging, and heated rear seats.

Up-market features on the Kona N include a head-up display, 10.3-inch infotainment screen, 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.

There are four versions of the Kona — the standard model with a 147-horsepower 4-cylinder, the N-Line that elevates the driving experience with a turbocharged four making 195 horsepower mated to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, the N as reported in this review with 276 horsepower, and the all-electric. The only one of the four we would not recommend is the base model, which we thinks lacks the necessary horsepower.

The sweet spot might be the N Line, which combines excellent performance at an affordable price. But we have great fondness for the N and its overall thrill ride performance, and we think if you are ready to purchase an EV the all-electric Kona is an excellent choice.

The Kona starts at $22,545 for the base model. The N-Line begins at $27,095 and the N comes in one complete package for $35,445. The Kona EV starts at $35,245 with a government tax credit available.

And don't forget all Kona models come with industry-best warranties of 5-years/60,000 miles comprehensive and 10-years/100,000 miles drivetrain.

2022 Hyundai Kona N


Base price: $35,445; as driven, $35,445
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 276 @ 5,500 rpm (286 with overboost)
Torque: 289 pound-feet @ 2,100 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed dual clutch
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 102.4 inches
Length: 165.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,340 pounds
Turning circle: 38.3 feet
Luggage capacity: 19.2 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 45.8 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons (premium recommended)
EPA rating: 20 city, 27 highway, 23 combined
0-60: 4.9 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Hyundai Veloster N, Volkswagen Golf TDI, Honda Civic Type R

The Good
• Great engine/transmission combination
• Excellent handling traits
• Loaded with features

The Bad
• Stiff ride

The Ugly
• Loud inside at highway speed