I have a lot of time for Hyundai’s N performance cars. The i30 N flirts with being the best mid-size hot hatchback and the upcoming i20 N, which we’ve driven before in prototype form, is set to give the supermini class an equally hard time. Hyundai takes it so seriously that the i20 N will even receive additional body structure stiffening and welding over the regular i20.
But sporting sub-brands can’t live on hatchbacks alone, so inevitably attention now shifts to a crossover: the Kona, a funky-looking vehicle that, shorn of the cladding of this development car, could look quite endearing on 19in wheels and with the right stance, like a pseudo-fierce little action figure or a child yelling ‘raaa!’ while impersonating a tiger. Go with it.
Anyway, if R is good enough for the Volkswagen T-Roc and ST for the Ford Puma, then N is apparently good enough for the Kona, and it gets some suitably impressive hardware. As in the i30 N, there’s a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, driving the front wheels through an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox. There’s no word on a manual version yet. Same for power and torque outputs or performance figures, or price, but you can imagine it in i30 N terms – around 250bhp and a similar amount of foot-pounds.
The Kona N you see here is a development hack, but I’m told the ride and handling, while not finally signed off, are close to representative.
The interior isn’t even that close, but that’s fine; we’ve seen the inside of enough Konas to imagine it will look and feel quite good, and it will get added performance touches, like aluminium pedals, coloured highlights and a thick-rimmed steering wheel. There’s probably a big handbook somewhere that all manufacturers turn to when specifying performance derivatives: ‘don’t forget a nice bit of stitching and even consider a seatbelt highlight’.
Nothing about the driving position particularly shouts ‘sport’, but the instruments turn red if you push a button of that name. There’s an N driving mode, a configurable mode and a Comfort mode, too.