Hyundai debuts Kona N SUV, teases future N performance EVs

The 276-horsepower Kona N is the brand's first hot SUV, but the N performance series is expanding to include more classes, including EVs and fuel-cell vehicles.

Antuan Goodwin Reviews Editor / Cars
Antuan Goodwin gained his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and electrification to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable.
Expertise Reviewing cars and car technology since 2008 focusing on electrification, driver assistance and infotainment Credentials
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Antuan Goodwin
3 min read

The compact Kona SUV is the latest Hyundai model to get the N performance treatment.


Hyundai revealed on Tuesday the new Kona N, the latest addition to the automaker's N series. The automaker also outlined its plans to expand its fleet of N and N Line models to 18 global models by 2022, saying it'll extend the N range to include battery electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, too.

Kona N the Barbarian is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that sends 276 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels via Hyundai's eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. Helping put that power to the ground is a limited-slip differential, but sadly, Hyundai's release makes no mention of the six-speed manual transmission that is optional on the Veloster N. All-wheel drive, which is available on the non-N Kona, is also absent.

The DCT features a few bespoke N shift modes aimed at improving performance and feel on the road and track, as well as a mode called N Grin Shift, which increases output to 286 hp for a 20-second overboost blitz. With its standard Launch Control activated, the Kona N will sprint from 0 to 62 mph in 5.5 seconds and onward to a top speed of 149 mph.

Hyundai Kona N is the brand's first hot SUV

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"[The] Kona N is a true hot SUV with the performance level of a hot hatch. It breaks the rule that SUVs are less fun to drive. As an N model, it goes beyond the limits of an ordinary SUV," said Albert Biermann, Hyundai Motor Group's head of research and development. "[The] Kona N can carve corners on the racetrack and bring excitement to everyday driving."

Visually, the Kona N distinguishes itself with functional aerodynamics, including a front lip spoiler, a double-wing roof spoiler, enlarged grilles and a bigger diffuser. Wide 19-inch forged wheels wrapped in summer performance tires broaden the SUV's track slightly, and the Kona N has stiffer chassis and suspension mounting points.

The hot SUV is also available in exclusive Sonic Blue exterior paint, a sharp aesthetic contrast to the red detailing on the N model's aggressive lower trim and performance brakes. The new blue is slightly paler than the Performance Blue found on the Veloster N, which you can still find highlighting the Kona's cabin here and there, from the shift lever to the stitching on the seats to the N steering wheel buttons.


Standard 19-inch wheels feature lightweight, forged construction and increase the Kona N's track slightly.


The inspiration for the Kona N's cabin and tech comes from racing video games, from the digital instrument cluster and visor-style head-up display to the 10-inch infotainment screen with its N Track Maps. Drivers can tweak various settings for the engine, stability control programming, tone of the variable exhaust system and steering. Large N buttons on the steering wheel can be customized to toggle instantly between those custom modes while a bright red N Grin Control System button toggles between preset drive modes, like Eco, Normal, Sport and N.

Kona Ns sold in Europe will boast a feature called N Road Sense, which automatically detects when approaching a double-curved road sign and recommends the activation of the sporty N mode for maximum twisty driving enjoyment. This feature almost certainly won't reach the States, so owners will have to keep their eyes peeled to find their own great driving roads.


The interior and the Kona N's user interface are inspired by racing games.


The Kona N is the latest member of the N Performance series, joining the Veloster N here in the States and the i30 N, i30 Fastback N and i20 N globally. Expect to see more N badges in the future; the Korean automaker plans to expand to a total of 18 vehicles by 2022 with examples spanning "each major vehicle segment, suiting the needs of all types of car enthusiasts," according to the automaker's release.

Beyond that, Hyundai is also already looking at ways to N-ify its budding stable of battery electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. Hyundai thinks that EV platforms -- like the E-GMP that underpins the Ioniq 5 -- have an intrinsic "driving fun" that makes them suited for N and N Line models. The automaker has for years been testing the e-performance waters with electric touring cars and fuel cell concepts.

Global and North American availability for the new Kona N have not yet been announced, nor has pricing, but watch this space. We'll be updating with more details as they emerge.