New 2021 Hyundai Kona N hot SUV arrives with 286bhp

The new Hyundai Kona N arrives to rival the Volkswagen T-Roc R and Audi SQ2

Hyundai has revealed the newest member of its line-up of N badged performance cars. This is the Hyundai Kona N – the first hot SUV the Korean firm’s N division has developed. It’s a rival to the likes of the MINI Countryman John Cooper Works, the Audi SQ2 and the Volkswagen T-Roc R, all small SUVs that pack a big performance punch.

The Kona N is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine developing 286bhp and 392Nm of torque. Though that power figure is unlocked with the Kona N in a setting for the new eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, called ‘N Grin Shift’ mode.

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With no manual gearbox on offer, the adaptable eight-speed dual-clutch transmission has a further two modes called ‘N Power Shift’ and ‘N Track Sense Shift’. Hyundai has not revealed specifics on the parameters of these different modes but says that the N calibration “results in faster shifting” with the tech enabling “maximum driving exhilaration.”

The 2.0-litre engine produces 276bhp in these two settings. But with the car in its most aggressive set-up, with launch control and 286bhp sent to the front wheels, the 0-62mph sprint is dispatched in 5.5 seconds. Top speed stands at 149mph.

Despite the Kona N’s SUV body style, there’s no four-wheel drive system (although the brand claims the traction control system can handle a variety of terrains and surfaces, including snow and mud). But like the i30 N and i20 N hot hatchbacks, the Kona N features an electronically controlled limited-slip differential on its front axle to boost traction. Known as the “N Corner Carving Differential,” Hyundai also claims it enhances the fun on offer and improves agility in corners.

According to President and Head of R&D Division at Hyundai Motor Company, Albert Biermann, “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,” while pointing to the standard-fit variable sports exhaust, along with the N Grin Control System that features on the i20 N.

Hyundai has also reinforced the Kona N’s body to improve structural rigidity. given the higher cornering loads the car can achieve. The chassis features more welding points, extra bracing and a stronger skeleton.

The Kona N’s makeover not-so-subtly hints at this performance potential, with a thorough N styling pack that includes lightweight forged 19-inch alloys partly concealing an upgraded brake package. The car’s wider tracks mean these rims fill the Kona’s arches more convincingly, too.

While the colour might look familiar, the Sonic Blue hue is actually new and is subtly different to Performance Blue, the colour most associated with Hyundai’s hot N products. It’s exclusive to the Kona N – for the moment, as Hyundai says this “previews a possible SUV line-up expansion,” so more hot Hyundai SUVs could be on the way. This could potentially include a Tucson N as the brand will increase its portfolio of N and N Line models to 18 by the end of next year.

There are plenty of red accents that contrast with the new paint, while the Kona N’s side skirts and lower front lip spoiler give it a tarmac-hugging stance. They’re teamed with a double-wing spoiler at the rear, housing the N-trademark high-level triangular brake light, while gaping air intakes at the front help cool the tuned engine.

The makeover continues inside, with blue accents for the sporty seats, the gear lever, steering wheel and metal pedals. There’s also a new 10-inch infotainment and digital gauge cluster set-up, as well as a head-up display that “adds a game-like dimension to the driving experience” in the N or Sport driving modes.

There’s a special “N mode design” area to the infotainment too, which displays info such as lap time and the car’s position around a lap when at a circuit.

While the Kona N clearly has a focus on performance, as an SUV it has to deliver usability too – and Hyundai has equipped this top-spec model with plenty of safety tech as a result.

This includes forward collision avoidance, lane-keep and lane follow assist, driver attention warning, high beam assist, blindspot warning, rear cross traffic alert, Hyundai’s safe exit warning, and adaptive cruise control.

With all this tech on board, plus the performance, expect the Hyundai Kona N to cost more than £30,000 when it goes on sale in the UK later this summer.

Hyundai’s future N strategy

Hyundai has already revealed an expansion of the N SUV line-up is a possibility, but the Korean firm has also given a further hint to future N models by outlining its strategy for “sustainable driving fun.”

The brand’s RM20e was shown at the 2020 Beijing Motor Show, with the RM platform a rolling test bed for electrified powertrains and possibly even hydrogen fuel cells; Hyundai says it “envisioned how e-performance can become more eco-friendly with the hydrogen-powered N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo fuel cell concept.”

The firm’s E-GMP electric car architecture that underpins the Ioniq 5 offers plenty of flexibility and strong performance potential. The same platform underpins sister brand Kia’s EV6, which was recently revealed in sporty GT form, so it’s possible that an N-branded EV could appear in the future using this tech.

Executive Vice President and Head of Customer Experience Division at Hyundai Motor Company, Thomas Schemera, said: “The future will be electric, maybe even hydrogen-powered, or even a combination of both, but N brand will always be focused on delivering driving fun – no matter what technology is under the hood.”

Click here for our first drive of Hyundai's new i20 N…

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