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Hot Hatch

The finished Hyundai Kona N is finally here

Bold looks meet bolshy 276bhp, FWD mechanicals... like it?

Published: 27 Apr 2021

Did you know today – April 27 – is Hyundai N Day? Comes around quicker every year, etcetera. Hopefully your tree’s up and the carols are on.

We’d forgive you if you forgot to send cards, though, because it’s the first N Day. Hyundai’s marked the inaugural celebration of fast, slightly torque-steery performance cars by giving us a new one. Meet the Hyundai Kona N. And yep, it’ll still torque-steer, because Albert Biermann’s men and women have stuck with front-wheel drive.

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We’ve already learned the key details – the same 276bhp 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo as the i30N drives the front wheels through the same limited-slip differential – but this is our first look at it without protective camo wrap. Quite a bold thing, despite Hyundai’s claims its new Sonic Blue colour (effectively a watered-down version of the i20N and i30N’s baby blue) is subtle.

What’s different here is that N’s new eight-speed dual-clutch paddleshift gearbox comes as standard; you can’t have a manual Kona N. That helps it achieve a 150mph top speed via a 5.5sec 0-62mph sprint. Just over half a second behind a Volkswagen T-Roc R, which lumbers around the extra weight of a four-wheel-drive system.

Hyundai assures us the N retains the necessary amount of SUViness, though, with the same ground clearance as a regular Kona and a selection of off-road driving modes.

These operate separately from the usual suite of N driving modes which adjust the sharpness of the throttle, gearchanges, exhaust note and suspension, while the gearbox has its own bunch of settings. Not least launch control and the cloyingly named ‘Grin Shift’ that essentially acts like a push-to-pass overtake button, akin to Porsche’s Sport Response button in its PDK-equipped sports cars. You can even choose whether or not there’s a creep function when you lift your foot from the brake pedal at a standstill.

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The Kona N will also offer a ‘Performance Driving Data System’ that’ll monitor circuit driving so you can learn where you need to sharpen up on trackdays, while there’s a whole gamut of active safety tech if it’s all sounding a bit too silly.

No word on prices yet, but Hyundai expects to sell as many of these as it does i30Ns – around 11,000 a year – and it’ll be a global car. So unlike the hot hatch its mechanicals are scooped out of, it’ll make it into North America, which is expected to be one its key markets. N Day means presents for everyone. How sweet.

We drive a prototype Hyundai Kona N

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