Kona N and i30 N Launch Review

  Colin Windell

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 7 Apr, 2022



Hyundai Kona N and i30 N Review

The Kona N goes beyond the limits of an ordinary SUV. The i30 N impresses with a few cosmetic revisions.

It is said, whispered, shouted, or murmured as two distinct words – Kona <space> N – and not morphed into Konan the Hyundarian or any similar terminology. The Hyundai Kona N deserves more respect than that.

The Kona N is the latest variant in the Hyundai range to be given the complete motorsport-derived go-faster kit. It launches locally in tandem with the mid-life update to the i30 N – a clever move from Hyundai, leaving indecisive buyers with just a choice of a car or SUV.

Kona N vs i30 N - Performance and aesthetics

The Kona N and i30 N share the same engine capacity, and both use the same drivetrain. 

The most notable difference is the interior. The i30 has the older style dash instrumentation. In contrast, the Kona gets a new-look digital display like the recently launched Tucson and Grande Creta – with the Kona N equipped with the Grin button for maximum performance.  

“Kona N is a true hot SUV with the performance level of a hot hatch. It breaks the rule SUVs cannot be fun to drive. As an N model, it goes beyond the limits of an ordinary SUV,” says Albert Biermann, President, and Head of the R&D Division at Hyundai Motor Group.

The corner rascal (Kona N) is known for its dependability around corners and does duty as an everyday work and leisure vehicle with racetrack capability, powered with Electronic Limited Slip Differential system and optimised electronic stability control modes. 

Traction Mode ensures traction control in different road conditions. The N Grin Control System offers five drive modes across all N models (Eco, Normal, Sport, N and Custom), contributing to its everyday sports car character. Features such as Launch Control or Creep Off ensure full racetrack capability. 

The new Kona N is 10 mm longer than the regular Kona, with a 4 215-mm length, 1 800-mm width and 1 565-mm height - the wheelbase remains unchanged at 2 600 mm, compared with the base car.

The front flaunts an exclusive grille design with its dedicated mesh, an integrated N logo and t-light signature while, at the rear is a large, double-wing roof spoiler. 

Two customisable N buttons on the steering wheel allow for mapping out of pre-sets according to individual needs for even more ease of operation and the paddle shifters make it possible for the driver to switch gears without taking their hands off the wheel.

The N Grin Shift (NGS) feature maximises engine and DCT performance for 20 seconds. The car will shift down to the most appropriate gear to achieve maximum acceleration, a feature activated by pushing dedicated button on the steering wheel. 

Then there is a ‘cooling off’ period in which the driver must wait at least 40 seconds before using it again. 

The new-look i30 N has LED headlamps with V-shaped Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) and V-shaped LED combi lamps at the rear, giving it a sportier and more aggressive look than the outgoing version. 

The track test 

The cars launched with a track session at Killarney Raceway in Cape Town. 

Despite the very wet and slick track surface, I was able to get a sense of just what this car can do when driven forcefully and quickly.

The N Track Sense Shift is quite a clever setup that optimises the adaptive shift for track driving. It engages automatically when dynamic driving is identified and works to ensure the right gear is selected at the right time depending on brake and throttle input, leaving the driver to concentrate on the steering.

Interestingly, the Kona handled the wet conditions better than the i30 – an observation supported by race driver Deon Joubert who confirmed that the slightly raised ride height of the Kona allowed a bit more body roll into corners, mitigating the lateral force on the front wheels. 

“When we race here in the wet, we always raise the ride height,” he told me.

The two cars sit on specifically developed Pirelli P-Zero high-performance tyres that deliver maximum grip mounted on lightweight 19-inch forged alloy wheels. 

Something for safety

Active safety features for both cars include:

- Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist (BCA) 

- Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA) 

- Smart Cruise Control (SCC)

- Lane Keeping Assist (LKA)

- Lane Follow Assist (LFA) 

- Driver Attention Warning (DAW) and 

- Forward Collision-Avoidance (FCA) Assist with vehicle-pedestrian and cyclist detection. 

Passive safety features include 3-point inertia-reel safety belts for all occupants, ISOFIX child seat attachment points on the outer rear seats, front and side crash bags for the driver and front passenger and curtain bags that protect occupants in the backseat. 

In conclusion 

The specification and performance kit are the same on both cars – the difference between the two is a marginal 0,2 seconds on the 0-100 km/h sprint, so the choice is between the sportier small-race car feel of the i30 or the slightly bigger more spacious and no less racy Kona. 

Fast Facts:

Kona N

Price
R749,900.00
Engine
2,0-litre T-GDI
Power/Torque
206kW and 392Nm
Load Capacity
361 litres
Warranty
7-year / 200 000 km
Service Plan
5-year / 75 000 km
Roadside Assistance
7 years/150 000 km
Tyre Size
235/40R19


i30 N 

Price
R749,900.00
Engine
2,0-litre T-GDI
Power/Torque
206kW and 392Nm
Load Capacity
N/A
Warranty
7-year / 200 000 km
Service Plan
5-year / 75 000 km
Roadside Assistance
7 years/150 000 km
Tyre Size
235/40R19



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