We've known that Hyundai was preparing a Kona N for almost a year, but the Korean firm has now confirmed that its newcomer will debut soon, replete with design cues from the facelifted model. What's more, it will be mechanically similar to the 206-kW i30 N hot hatch (with the dual-clutch auto transmission).
Hyundai has announced that the "the newest member of its N (family) will be the hotly anticipated Kona N – the first SUV in the (N Division's) high-performance line-up". We can't say we're surprised... In April 2020, our spy photographers snapped a pre-production version of the flagship of Hyundai's European-flavoured compact family car being put through its paces around the Nurburgring. Nonetheless, the N Division's decision to go ahead and build a performance-oriented small crossover is quite audacious for the (traditionally risk-averse) Korean marque.
Audi's Quattro division and Mercedes-AMG have dipped their proverbial toes in the water with the Q3 RS and GLA45 4Matic and Volkswagen offers the T-Roc R, which is a direct rival to the upcoming Kona N, although it won't be offered in South Africa... It's a tiny niche of the market, even tinier than the subsegment for rapid compact hatchbacks such as the VW Polo GTI and Toyota GR Yaris.
Last year's spy photo of the Kona N. Image watermarked at the request of the photographer S. Baldauf/SB-Medien.
Having said that, it's a no-brainer to bring the Kona N to fruition, because the Korean brand's compact family car, which was eventually launched in South Africa in late 2018, is based on the i30's underpinnings and is likely to share myriad components with the revised i30 N – equipped with an 8-speed automatic transmission, which is set to be introduced locally during the 1st half of 2021.
So far, Hyundai has revealed precious few details about the "all-new Kona N", apart from confirming that it will be powered by a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbopetrol mated with an 8-speed wet dual-clutch transmission (N DCT) and that it will offer, inter alia, "a variety of high-performance driving features, such as launch control and an exciting sound experience."
Here's a clue to the Kona N's final look. There's a lot more in the way of air inlets in the facelifted N Line version's frontal aspect.
That leads us to believe the Kona N could produce up to 206 kW and 392 Nm (the latter from 1 950 to 4 600 rpm), but Hyundai might be reluctant to make its newcomer match the performance figures of the facelifted i30 N for fear of cannibalising sales of the latter, especially in Europe, where compact family cars rule the roost. We anticipate the 2.0-litre mill might be slightly detuned in the Kona N.
Still, other accoutrements from the i30 N that could feature on the Kona N include an electronically controlled suspension and limited-slip differential (eLSD), a rear stiffness bar and uprated N braking system (of which the discs have been increased to 360 mm), a bespoke drive-mode system (which Hyundai calls "N Grin Control"), including the N Grin, N Power and N Track Sense shift modes.
The N Line features a sporty diffuser and side-mounted tailpipes, but the Kona N will have a pair of large-bore exhaust ends.
As to which design cues might lurk under the camouflage of the car in the teaser images, we'd suggest the facelifted Kona, which is 40 mm longer than its predecessor (the car that's currently offered in Mzansi) and features a longer bonnet, a refreshed grille design and widened LED daytime running lights, provides a good indication, although the bumpers, especially, of the Kona N will be exclusive to the model. The N-Line (for example, although it's unlikely to come to SA) eschews black cladding in favour of a sporty body kit and features a trio of mesh-covered mini air intakes above the front grille.
Inside, the Kona N's front sports seats are likely to be trimmed in black artificial suede and leather with Performance Blue contrast stitching and the instrument cluster may include an active variable LED red zone and shift indicator. Apart from sporty, metallic-finished pedals, the seatbelts will probably feature Performance Blue accents – as they do in the i30 N.
This facelifted Kona features a digital instrument cluster and upgraded infotainment system. The N model should have sportier detailing.
With the recent facelift, the Kona has gained an electronic handbrake, ambient LED lighting (for the centre cup holder as well as the driver and front passenger's footwells), updated speaker- and vent surrounds, as well an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Android Auto and Apple Car Play. The 10.20-inch digital instrument cluster and -touchscreen units might feature too.
“As the N brand’s first ‘hot SUV’, the Kona N will offer plenty of versatility and driving thrills that N-thusiasts (sic) have come to expect from the brand. You can take this vehicle anywhere – from road to the track,” said Till Wartenberg, Vice President and Head of N Brand Management and Motorsport Subdivision at Hyundai Motor Company.
What's interesting about Wartenberg's statement is that it suggests the Kona N will be "the first" of a number of performance-oriented SUVs to come from the brand, which lends credence to the rumour that an N model based on the all-new Tucson is in the works. As for the possibility of the Kona N being made available in South Africa, well, it's not great...
The Kona is the least popular model in Hyundai Automotive SA's compact family car line-up (which includes the Venue and new Creta); although the facelifted Kona is likely to arrive at some point in 2021, the N model is an ultra-niche offering and even if the Korean brand's local distributor could make a case for launching it here, it would be positioned at a disadvantageous price point.