A More Mainstream Alternative: The 2022 Hyundai Kona N
The product planners at Hyundai are secret mad scientists. Possibly under the influence of Dodge, they're doing their version of "let's put a Hemi in it" with their N vehicles.
As we outlined in the review of the Hyundai Sonata N-Line in March of 2021, "N" is Hyundai's version of BMW's "M". The "N' stands for Namyang Proving Ground and Hyundai is building a string of "N" and "N-Line" cars. The one that's gotten the most attention is the Veloster N, a three-door oddball that was cancelled a couple of years ago, except for its N version---because that's the one with 275 horsepower.
But even in fire-breathing "N" trim, the Veloster is a taste not everyone will acquire---so what if, I imagine the Hyundai product folk saying, we take the more conventional Kona four-door and give it the N treatment, too?
And however you say "et voila'" in Korean, they did. The Kona, which till now could be had with either a 175-horsepower gasoline four or as a 201-horsepower electric with 258 miles of range---both of which can knock off zero to 60 runs in the mid-sixes, can now be had a third way---with a 2.0-liter turbo four that churns out 276 horsepower and gets you to 60 in 4.9 seconds. EPA fuel economy estimates suffer for all that power---20 miles per gallon city, 27 highway. As with other Hyundai Ns, the Kona N is not all engine. You also get an eight-speed wet dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters, an N Corner Carving Differential (that's the name), rack-mounted motor-driven power steering, an electronically-controlled suspension, 14.2-inch front and 12.4-inch rear brake rotors, a variable dual-tip exhaust system, and 19-inch alloy wheels on summer tires.
Oh, and it has this button on the steering wheel:
"NGS" stands for "N Grin Shift". Press it and it grabs exactly the right gear while delivering 20 seconds of overboost that takes your 275 horsepower and makes it 286. "Grin" means exactly what you think. You WILL grin when you do this. Very likely again and again and again.
If all that sounds fun---yeah. It is. We're talking about a cute little SUV that thinks it's a rally car and has most of the chops to back up that notion.
The price for all this goodness and badness-in-a-good-way? $34,200 is where it starts. And that includes a full suite of active safety features, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, N exclusive heated sport seats (power-adjustable for the driver), alloy pedals, wireless charging, automatic temperature control and a Harman Kardon premium audio system.
And $34,200 is also where it ends. Unless you spec the $400 Lunar White paint, or one of a half-dozen dealer-installed accessories, there are no options. So with $1,245 freight, the as-tested price of the 2022 Hyundai Kona N is $35,445.
And that's a very reasonable price for this blend of performance and practicality. To say nothing of grins.