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Hyundai Kona N: Driving fun guaranteed

One of those imposters again? Don't be fooled. The new N version of the Hyundai Kona was made dynamic according to the same principles as the i30 at the time. And you can feel that.

How quickly everything changes. Just imagine if Hyundai announced five years ago that it would launch a sporty SUV. How would the reactions have been? Puzzled looks, wrinkling of noses, roaring laughter. Probably in that order! And now: the N junkies are already flattening their noses on the screen of their virtual showroom and are waiting for the N series to finally start a new model series.

280 hp and 392 Nm of torque

The driving force behind the meteoric rise in image was, well, guess who, the i30 N, which promoted Hyundai from automotive insignificance to the elite ranks of the Nürburgrings. No joke: Anyone who says Civic Type R or Mégane R.S up on the Nordschleife today also says i30 N.

And their DNA is now almost undiluted in the Kona N. So no sniffing or anything like that. Especially since the hardware has continued to develop at the end of the last successful year. Output and torque climbed to 280 hp and 392 Nm in the most recent expansion stage of the two-liter turbo engine. In addition, the power spectrum now curves more broadly under the speed ranges, which should come in handy for the more lush general conditions.

Whereby, what does lush mean here? With a length of 4.21 meters and a width of 1.80, the Kona is definitely not one of those who bury their sporty claim right under the appearance. At 2600 mm, the wheelbase is even 50 shorter than the i30, and the increase in weight is also reasonable. The 1510 kilos are anything but record-breaking within the Ateca T-Roc mix, but are ultimately only 55 kg more than the compact cousin - thanks to the lack of all-wheel drive.

The advantages of front-wheel drive outweigh the disadvantages

What am I seeing? Blow your nose? roaring laughter? Be careful not to get stuck in your throat. If you ask me, the front-wheel drive concept is the best thing that could have happened to the sport Kona. I mean, what would it have been like if it was four wheel drive? It is rather unlikely that Hyundai would have developed one of these around-the-corner-renkers especially for the N version. So the system from the previous top model would probably have jumped into the rush, which - don't get me wrong - is now not the greatest entertainer under the sun.

Sure, the 2.7 percent of customers who absolutely need the SUV they absolutely want, you can't lure them with a front scratch behind the oven - four traction modes for loose surfaces or not. And even in the wet, it will certainly need a bit of tip-toe feeling so that all the extra performance doesn't just go to waste.If the conditions are right, then the traction of the transversely locked front wheels and the lively power flow are on the same wavelength. The 235 Pirellis (specifically developed!) only squeak briefly for help, tug around a bit in the steering, then they gain a foothold and the two-liter can turn into full throttle - cheered on by the robust exhaust sound and the short translations of the standard eight-speed double clutch , which increases the shifting intensity from 90 percent load and, in contrast to some direct shift transmissions from the competition, also shifts directly when you tug on the paddle.

Magnificent functionality in the cockpit

Doesn't it get any better? Oh yes, once curves come into play. Fancy a little round? Then, into the sporty, but not exaggerated, seats and a quick look around: Two 10.25-inch displays, one for infotainment, one for the virtual instruments, which are available in all colors and shapes. Even with shift indicator and - uiuiui - Supernova animation when switching the rev counter look. All around: physical buttons instead of touch pads and even levers for the handbrake and gear. Archaic? True, but of magnificent functionality, especially since the manual shift gate is properly occupied: minus front, plus rear - yes, Hyundai knows how to behave in sports driver circles.

Speaking of which: You direct the game using three buttons on the steering wheel. The red one activates the overtake mode, which teases everything out of the little guy for 20 seconds, but then needs at least 40 seconds to regenerate. Meanwhile, the driving programs are controlled using the two blue buttons. Eco and Normal (not Comfort!) strive for smoothness in drive and damping, although the road surface is already constantly bobbing in the driving experience. But: N ordered, N received, so all good.

The N shows up in Sport mode

In Sport it gets really crisp. The homogeneous steering is solidified sustainably, the transmission hides the last two gears, the chassis switches to the middle of its three degrees of hardness, the locking control to the sharpest of two. The result: more snap when turning, more bite when accelerating and body control that is unparalleled in the small SUV class. Hardly any rolling movements, no staggering in changing curves. No disadvantages? Let's say: few.

Sure, you sit a good bit higher than you would like, maybe the steering wheel is tilted a bit too far, but otherwise the Kona turns almost as exuberantly over country roads as an i30 N. It claws into bends, hangs with all four wheels in the lateral acceleration and not like the famous sip of water in the curve. Even understeer tendencies, which can already affect a top-heavy transverse engine concept, even that can be tailed out with a simple farmer's trick. Turn in, step on the gas and, whoops, the Kona snaps its rear end into the corner.

Driving fun, and an amazing amount of it. Because? Because the N is meant seriously. And is taken seriously. As Hyundai emphasizes, the compact sports sweetheart was developed with exactly the same focus on performance as its colleagues. Mostly even with identical hardware. Of course, all kinematics have been adjusted with regard to the higher center of gravity, but follow the i30 principles in terms of alignment. The same applies to the far-reaching stiffening measures on the body, even the forged wheels and the considerable negative camber of 1.7 degrees on the front axle have been adopted. And so in the end it also fits into the overall picture that the rock-hard N mode screams for the race track.

Conclusion

Hyundai has managed to take the driving experience of the i30 N to a higher level. To a higher body level, fine. Decisive: the uncompromising chassis tuning with plenty of body control and the front-wheel drive concept with controlled differential lock. In any case, the driving pleasure is far greater than with the all-wheel drive competition à la VW T-Roc R. And also: significantly cheaper.

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