2022 Hyundai Kona N Review Update

Beverly Braga, Independent Expert | Apr 06, 2022

Introduction - Find the best Hyundai deals!

The Hyundai Kona subcompact crossover is a relatively recent addition to the automaker’s lineup, introduced for the 2018 model year. Since then, however, Hyundai’s North American portfolio has expanded to include more crossovers and even a small pickup. But the Kona remains a steady sales performer and saw an 18-percent year-over-year volume increase in 2021 to finish fifth overall in the segment. The small SUV has kept its top-5 position through the first quarter of 2022.

The 2022 Hyundai Kona receives a significant refresh for both its gasoline- and battery-powered models. Also, Hyundai adds two new variants. The Kona N Line and Kona N are both performance-enhanced vehicles, with the latter being a genuine track-tuned racer. Hyundai sees its N vehicles as the top-of-the-line in both daily-driver comfort and high-performance capability. N Line models are sporty and dynamic but not track-tested. That’s where Hyundai N comes in.

With the Kona N, its motorsports-inspired features include:

  • Turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine
  • 276 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque
  • Standard 8-speed N-tuned wet dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT)
  • 19-inch wheels with summer tires
  • High-performance brakes
  • Launch control
  • Variable exhaust system
  • N Grin Shift (NGS) overboost system
  • Limited-slip differential
  • Customizable drive modes
  • Electronic sport-tuned suspension
  • Exclusive exterior and interior N styling

The Kona N sits atop the Kona lineup in both price and performance. Pricing starts at $35,445 (including the $1,245 destination charge). There is a list of port-installed accessories available. Still, Hyundai offers no additional option packages on the Kona N. Of the four exterior color options, Lunar White and the Kona N-exclusive Sonic Blue are $400 extra.

Previously, J.D. Power reviewed the standard 2022 Hyundai Kona and the 2022 Hyundai Kona Electric. This review focuses on the performance-oriented 2022 Kona N and its potential impact on the Kona’s overall appeal to consumers.

What Owners Say About the Hyundai Kona - Find the best Hyundai deals!

2022 Hyundai Kona N Red Front Quarter View

Photo: Beverly Braga

The Hyundai Kona competes in the Small SUV market segment. According to data collected from verified new-vehicle buyers for the J.D. Power 2021 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 56 percent of new Hyundai Kona buyers are female (vs. 58 percent for the segment), and the median age of a new Kona buyer is 57 years (vs. 56).

As part of the APEAL Study, owners rated the Kona in 10 primary categories. Listed below in descending order, you’ll find their preferences from their most favorite thing about the vehicle to their least favorite:

  • Exterior styling
  • Driving feel 
  • Feeling of safety
  • Setting up and starting
  • Fuel economy
  • Infotainment system
  • Powertrain
  • Getting in and out
  • Interior design
  • Driving comfort

In the 2021 APEAL Study, the Kona ranks 14th out of 18 Small SUV models.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Hyundai Kona - Find the best Hyundai deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert analyzes a Kona N with no additional options.

The price of the test vehicle came to $35,445, including the $1,245 destination charge.

Sport-Infused Styling

2022 Hyundai Kona N Interior Dashboard

Photo: Beverly Braga

Some may consider the lack of black body cladding a highlight of the Kona N exterior design. For the 2022 Kona, a “protective armor” design is part of the updated front and rear fascias. But, for better or worse, this added protection is not found on the Kona N. In reality, its omission adds to the model’s sporty SUV mystique rather than falsely advertising any off-road ambitions, which it can’t fulfill anyway since the Kona N is front-wheel-drive only.

The N treatment is done throughout the exterior but in a tasteful fashion. Badging appears on the exclusive blacked-out grille, front brake calipers, lower-body side moldings, and liftgate. And because red means fast, the color appears on the brake caliper covers, side moldings, and front and rear fascias. The Kona N interior is stark by comparison. Red remains eye-catching, and Hyundai uses it or the NGS button. That’s it.

Available only in black, the cabin features mixed materials highlighted with light blue contrast stitching in the seats, steering wheel, and shifter boot. Light blue is also a featured design element on the shift knob and represents the N mode buttons on the N-specific steering wheel. Like in the Kona N Line, the pedals are alloy with a matching aluminum door scuff plate (a Kona N exclusive).

The interior is purposeful rather than edgy. Even though there’s a large center display, there are still buttons and knobs for frequent touchpoints like audio and climate settings. Seating surfaces are a leather and suede combination that is comfortable and supportive. This is on top of the already well-bolstered and well-cushioned N Sport front bucket seats. The fold-flat rear seats offer a 60/40 split to provide the functionality expected of a crossover SUV.

Boosted Performance

The Kona N boasts the most powerful engine in the Kona lineup. Its turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder produces 276 hp and 289 pound-feet of torque. The non-turbo 2.0-liter inline-4 in the Kona SE and SEL has an output of 147 hp and 132 pound-feet, while the 1.6-liter turbo-4 found in the Kona Limited and N Line offers 195 hp and 195 pound-feet.

Like other N models, Hyundai equips the Kona N with an 8-speed wet N DCT. Non-turbo Kona models feature a continuously variable transmission (CVT), while Hyundai matches those fitted with a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder with a 7-speed DCT. Unfortunately, no Kona model—not even the N—is available with a manual transmission.

But don’t fret because Hyundai programmed the N-tuned DCT to near perfection with its N Track Sense Shift. (Yes, there’s a lot of N-branded stuff going on here.) Hyundai’s wet DCT offers quick, responsive gearing and smooth shifts thanks to the standard rev-matching. The N Track Sense Shift automatically makes further adjustments to shift points and braking during dynamic driving situations.

And as if to make up for the fun factor loss of a stick shift, the Kona N comes standard with N Grin Shift. It’s not an extra gear. Rather, it’s an overboost feature activated with just a push of the steering wheel-mounted red button that provides a slight, quick power boost. When the driver presses the NGS button, the vehicle shifts into the lowest available gear to increase boost pressure, summoning 10 additional hp for a total of 286. The jolt lasts for up to 20 seconds and requires a 40-second cooldown before reactivating. But, yes, feel free to use it on every track lap or freeway on-ramp.

Another Kona N exclusive is an N drive mode. Or, more accurately, modes. There’s the default Hyundai-spec version, but you can customize both with two N mode buttons. When activated, both the digital instrument panel and infotainment screen change to display vehicle status and performance data—information generally reserved for sports cars. That’s everything from temperatures and torque to lap timers and launch control. From here, you can program N1 and N2 modes to your liking: steering, suspension, stability, sound—knock your racing socks off.

Dynamic Daily Driver

2022 Hyundai Kona N Wheel and Tire

Photo: Beverly Braga

In terms of drivetrain, the Kona N is the only model not available with all-wheel drive—an interesting choice given the purpose of the vehicle. Yet, the Kona N was gnarly and loud but composed when pushed on the track and through an autocross course during a media event at Atlanta Motorsports Park. And only when going really hard into a corner did I sense just a hint of body roll and understeer.

The Kona N rides on a platform that is four years old, but even so, it received additional body reinforcement through increased spot welds, Hyundai says. And Hyundai further enhanced its electronically controlled suspension with unique springs and dampers. The Kona N’s performance-tuned brakes paired well with the Pirelli P-Zero summer tires to produce excellent grip in the corners. All these in-house modifications created a well-balanced, fun-to-drive sports SUV. From apex to apex, it was surprisingly fun and eager, and on multiple occasions, I forgot I was driving a small crossover.

But these same performance features also make the Kona N a comfortable commuter car. And I say car because, from behind the wheel, it doesn’t feel like a crossover SUV. It’s not a stretch to consider the Kona N an overgrown hot hatch. In addition to N and Custom, the Kona N has the standard fare Eco, Normal, and Sport drive modes.

The different modes offer a more civilized drive, so to speak. For one, dual exhaust tips won’t emit that symphonic backfire sound that makes car enthusiasts smile. You’ll still have all the horsepower and torque but will also utilize all eight gears, which will help with fuel economy. To be sure, N mode mainly uses gears 1 through 6 at higher RPM and, well, mpg be damned.

Enhanced Safety and Technology

A 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen and 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster are new additions for the 2022 Kona. Standard on the Kona Limited and available on the N Line, the larger screens are standard in the Kona N. Navigation is included.

For entertainment, a premium Harman Kardon audio system is standard and comes with a 90-day trial of SiriusXM Platinum satellite radio. The Kona N is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay but not wirelessly like the Kona SE, SEL, and N Line. However, there is wireless device charging and two USB charging points in the front and one in the rear. Plus, there’s a 12-volt outlet.

Additional connectivity includes a digital key, which is currently only available for Android-based smartphones, and three years of complimentary access to Hyundai Blue Link connected services and remote engine start. Hyundai enhanced its Blue Link features for 2022 to include additional vehicle notification settings and cloud-based backup storage.

Hyundai equips the Kona N with a long list of active safety features as part of Hyundai SmartSense. Advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) include:

Also standard are blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Hyundai deals!

2022 Hyundai Kona N Red Rear Quarter View

Photo: Beverly Braga

Compared to the other Hyundai N products, the Kona N isn’t as refined as the Elantra N or as raucous as the Veloster N. But it’s still an N car, which means it’s still a hoot to drive.

The Kona N offers the practicality of any other Kona model and has all the bells and whistles of a Kona Limited. It also produces more than 90 hp and pound-feet of torque than the N Line variant. And who’s going to dislike a performance feature with “Grin” in its name?

The Kona N also has no direct rivals. If you’re looking at specs alone, maybe the John Cooper Works All4 variants of the Mini Clubman and Countryman come to mind. Both are 301-hp hatchwagon crossovers. But they’re also rather heavy than the Kona N, carrying 224 and 356 more pounds, respectively.

Another pair of twins is the Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 and GLB 35. Both have a 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine that produces 302 hp and 295 pound-feet of torque. The AMG GLA 35 reaches 60 mph in a claimed 5.2 seconds, while the AMG GLB 35 is a tenth of a second quicker. The Kona N’s zero-to-60-mph time? 5.2 seconds.

So, while the luxury set offers similar specs, the Kona N comes out a winner in savings. The Minis are priced in the mid- to high-40s; the Mercs start at $49,000 for the GLA and $51,000 for the GLB. The most you can spend on a Kona N before adding every a-la-carte accessory is $35,845. For now, consider the Hyundai Kona N a fun island of one. But make sure it’s a big island, preferably with a racetrack.

Beverly Braga is a freelance writer and consultant with nearly 20 years of experience as a storyteller and communications professional. In addition to JDPower.com, her work has appeared in numerous print and digital outlets covering the automotive, entertainment, lifestyle, and food & beverage industries.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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