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Hyundai Kona N (2021 - 2023)

The independent definitive Hyundai Kona N (2021-2023) video review
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    N SYNC? (some text hidden)

    By Jonathan Crouch

    Introductionword count: 103

    It's rare to find a really powerful small SUV with all its power directed through its front wheels, but that's what we have here in the rather dynamic shape of Hyundai's Kona N, sold between 2021 and 2023. Ford's Puma ST was the only other class contender in this period that took a similar approach, but this fast Kona also had in its sights 4WD segment performance models like the Audi SQ2 and the Volkswagen T-Roc R. With 280PS on tap and a track tamed team behind this Hyundai, the prospects with this car were intriguing. How is it as a used buy?

    Modelsword count: 4

    5dr SUV [2.0 T-GDi]

    Historyword count: 183

    You need a really clever set of engineers to be able to take a high-sided small SUV, give it a really powerful engine and deliver really engaging drive dynamics. Especially if all the power is to be directed through the front wheels. You'd expect Ford to be able to deliver such a thing - and the Blue Oval brand did with the Puma ST. But that only offered 200PS in volume 1.5-litre form. Until the arrival of this Kona N, if you wanted more than that in a car of this sort, you had to stretch to around £40,000 and get models like the Audi SQ2 and the Volkswagen T-Roc R, which both need 4WD to get around 300PS to the tarmac. Ex-BMW M car engineer Albert Biermann and his team - the people who brought you the surprising Hyundai i30 N hot hatch - reckoned they could deliver a small front driven performance SUV to plug the gap between those two categories of compact performance crossover. The Kona N was it. It sold until a new MK2 Kona design arrived in mid-2023.

    What You Getword count: 507

    Even the engine gets 'N Turbo' branding and the bodywork gets lots of body-coloured design elements with N-exclusive red accents. From the side, you'll notice the lowered ride-height, the smart N-branded lower side sills and the black-framed glasshouse with its black roof rails. And of course the exaggerated arches house big wheels - dark satin-painted 18-inchers with red N-branded calipers peeping through the spokes. You'd also want overtaking presence with a car like this - and the Kona N provides it, with large air openings needed to cool the powerful N-tuned engine. The leading edge of the bonnet gets these slim Audi-style nostril outlets, flanked by LED daytime running light slivers. At the rear, a large, double-wing roof spoiler dominates the view, incorporating a triangular third brake light. Lower down, the rear bumper's almost taken over by a large red-accented ribbed diffuser which enhances the airflow departure and minimises turbulence, incorporating two huge tail pipes, one in each lower quarter. Inside, this cabin's full of serious statements of intent. Like the firmly contoured blue-stitched steering wheel with its silver paddleshifters, blue N mode paddles and prominent red 'N Grin Shift' button. And the N Sport Seats with faux-leather and suede upholstery that grip you properly around the nether regions. All the performance detailing you'd want is present and correct too; a perfectly positioned blue-striped gear lever; race-style silver pedals; and blue stitching to decorate the handbrake and the gearshift gaitor. Fans of fast, small shopping rockets will love it all. But not perhaps quite as much as what they'll find on the two 10.25-inch screens that dominate the dash. Prod the right hand blue N wheel paddle and the Digital Supervision Cluster transforms from a twin-dial display into a single rev counter gauge, to the rather chintzy accompaniment of a fiery ring. And the complementing Centre Console Display monitor in the middle of the fascia has an 'N mode' section with a home screen for serious drive info: or you can swipe across to Custom screens that allow you to tailor responses for engine, steering, suspension, transmission, the e-LSD limited slip differential, the ESC stability system and exhaust sound. Plus you can also activate Launch Control for Grand Prix getaways and select from a further menu of 'Performance Options'. Brilliant. The rear seat doesn't do anything clever like slide or recline but by small SUV standards isn't too bad for the carriage of two folk, providing they're not especially lanky of leg. If they are, then compromises will be need to made by the front seat occupants in order to be able to accommodate them. We'll finish with a few words on boot space. The tailgate is light to lift and reveals the same 374-litre luggage area that you'd get in any ordinary Kona, which is 82-litres less than you'd get in a rival Ford Puma ST. Push forward the 60/40 split-folding rear seat and you'll reveal a relatively flat loading floor with as much as 1,143-litres of total fresh air if you load to the roof.

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