Hyundai has finally, after much teasing and drip-feeding of info, properly taken the wraps off its high-performance Kona N. While it *might* not be coming, officially, to Ireland, it is part of a general push by Hyundai into more high-performance areas, and one of 18 models that will receive full N or sporty-looking N-Line status in the next year.
A leader in the high-performance category
"We are thrilled to share the mindset, spirit and vision of the N brand to be a leader in the high-performance category powered by traditional internal combustion engines as well as our proven industry-leading battery electric and fuel cell electric vehicle technologies," said Thomas Schemera, Executive Vice President and Head of Customer Experience Division at Hyundai Motor Company. "Our continuously growing and more balanced N portfolio will open new high-performance options, delivering the 'grin factor' no matter what the propulsion technology or body type may be."
Schemera is one of a few former BMW executives to have made the jump to Hyundai, and has been one of the main drivers of the N brand and its high-performance halo effect on the rest of the Hyundai brand. Another is former head of BMW M-Sport, Albert Biermann, who said: "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. Kona N can carve corners on the racetrack and bring excitement to everyday driving."
As with the highly-regarded i30 N, the Kona N will get a 2.0-litre T-GDI turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, developing 280hp, which can for short bursts, using the 'N Grin Shift' system, be over-boosted to 290hp. There's also 390Nm of torque. The Kona N's top speed is 240km/h and it'll sprint to 100km/h in 5.5 seconds.
Helping guide all of that performance to the tarmac is Hyundai's 'Corner Carving' front diff, an electronic limited slip differential, which helps to sniff out more grip at the front from the 19-inch wheels and tyres.
Multiple driving modes
All Kona Ns will come with launch control, a variable sports exhaust, and variable driving modes, which Hyundai calls 'Grin Control' and which includes Eco, Normal, Sport, N and Custom modes.
The Kona N isn't just a regular Kona with a hotter engine stuffed into it, either - there's extra seam welding and beefed up suspension mounts to help keep everything straight and level.
Inside, there's a new ten-inch infotainment screen and a digital instrument cluster. There's also a head-up display that Hyundai says: "adds a game-like dimension to every driving experience under N or Sport drive modes". As with BMW's current M-cars, there are special 'N' buttons in the Kona N that allow you to pre-set specific driving modes, and toggle quickly between them, while there's more video game influence in the infotainment which includes a lap-timer and a special 'N Road Sense' system that Hyundai says: "automatically recommends the activation of N mode when double-curved road signs are detected, enabling drivers to enjoy every second of their drive to the fullest."
For all that on-road prowess, Hyundai also claims that the Kona N's traction control system gives it good grip in tricky conditions including ice, snow and mud.
New exterior colour
On the outside, Hyundai has updated its N-specific powder blue colour scheme, and has given the Kona N a new shade called 'Sonic Blue.' This extends to the front wings and wheelarches, in contrast to the grey finish of a regular Kona. As well as those 19-inch alloys, the Kona N also gets a wider track than the standard model. There's a front lip spoiler, a double-wing boot spoiler, side skirts, and a big, low-mounted, front air intake. The cabin also gets unique sports seats, a special gear shifter, and blue colour accents.
The Kona N will be safe, too, and all models will get such safety systems as Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), Lane Following Assist (LFA), Driver Attention Warning (DAW), High Beam Assist (HBA), Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist (BCA), Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Alert (RCCA), Safe Exit Warning (SEW) and Smart Cruise Control (SCC). There's also a voice recognition system that can understand natural speech patterns.
As part of the whole N-brand push (which includes Hyundai's World Rally Championship efforts with the i20, and the expected high-performance version of the new Ioniq 5 electric car) Hyundai is also bringing out a new slogan - 'Never just drive.'
"As a successful challenger in the performance category for almost four years and proactive player of Hyundai brand, N addresses and adapts to the upcoming changes in the performance category," said Till Wartenberg, Vice President of N brand Management & Motorsport Sub-Division at Hyundai Motor Company. "Driving was never meant to be boring and with N. It never will be. This is reflected with our new N brand slogan 'Never just drive.' And will also be the guiding principal of the future electrification of Hyundai N."
If Hyundai Ireland decides to bring the Kona N here, we'll let you know...