Road Test Review: Hyundai Kona N

Independent review by Edward Stephens

5-minute read

Grey Hyundai Kona N Exterior Front Driving

Road Test: Hyundai Kona N

Explore the key features of the Hyundai Kona N in our expert road test review

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The Kona N is Hyundai's entry into the performance SUV market, and it doubles down well as a daily family car, too.


  • Aggressive styling
  • Dynamic driving experience
  • Maintained its SUV practicality
  • Plenty of technology
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What do get when you combine a feisty hot hatch with the versatility of an SUV?

Answer: the Hyundai Kona N.

The Kona N has been designed to meet the demands of people who need SUV space but still want to drive a car which is lively enough to put a bit of fun into their motoring.

With that in mind, Hyundai has not only equipped the car with a beefy 2.0-litre, 280bhp engine, but added a cheeky little function – the N Grin Control System (NGS) - which does exactly what it says on the tin.

And with a name like that, it’s not hard to figure out what it’s designed for.

Design and Practicality

The Kona N is the rocket ship version of Hyundai’s compact SUV family and really looks the part compared to its more docile siblings.

It’s easily identified by its low ride height, distinctive sporty grille, eye-catching body cladding, red brake callipers and dramatic double wing roof spoiler and 19-inch alloy wheels. You definitely won’t miss it.

The sporting theme continues inside with good supportive side bolsters on the Alcantara rally-style seats, a sports steering wheel with paddles for changing gear manually and metal pedals.

On the practical side, there’s generous space for front seats travellers, reasonable space for those in the back and a 361-litre luggage area.

But it’s the fun rather than the practical side of the Kona N which makes it such a great drive. This really is a car which will have you grinning all the way home.

Engines and Driving Experience

The engine is mated to a dual clutch, 8-speed automatic gearbox, and you have a wide selection of driving modes – activated by distinctive N buttons on the steering wheel – including eco and sport.

But the fun starts when you push the red button on the steering wheel marked NGS.

Immediately the revs increase as the car changes down to the most appropriate performance gear, a 20-second timer appears in front of the speedometer and there’s a throaty roar from the twin exhausts.

As you hit the accelerator, the Kona N takes off like it’s been booted from behind.
Edward Stephens

In fact, the system puts so much power to the front axle that you have to get a firm grip on the steering wheel to control the torque steer.

You have to remember though, after those 20 seconds, everything returns to normal, and it will be another 40 seconds before you can use the boost feature again.

It might sound gimmicky, but it's great fun and ideal for anyone using the car on the track or when acceleration is of the essence, like when trying to merge onto a busy junction.

Even without the use of the red button, however, the Kona N is a lively mover, particularly in Sport mode, and boasts a 0 to 62mph acceleration time of just 5.5 seconds using the car’s launch control system, and a top speed of nearly 150mph.

And with electronic controlled suspension to improve handling and stability and the option to switch the steering between Normal, Sport, and Sport+ the Kona N makes for an exhilarating drive.

Switch to Sport mode and the dashboard illumination turns red and, usefully, the rev counter is projected into the head-up display alongside your current speed and the prevailing speed limit.

And I liked the fact that overtaking cars are also shown in the head-up display as well as - like most other cars - a warning light in the driver’s side mirror.

As you would expect for a car like this the suspension is on the firm side giving - at times – a somewhat choppy ride, but in the main, it's passenger friendly and certainly easy to live with.

Equipment and Technology

There are a host of creature comforts on board including heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel, not to mention a satellite navigation system and a reversing camera.


The Hyundai Kona N proved to be one mean machine, offering impressive performance figures and an immersive driving experience. Whilst its aggressive nature is at the forefront, it manages to do the daily duties expected from an SUV with relative ease, making it a great option for those wanting both power and practicality.