Published on November 25th, 2021 | by Amirul Mukminin0
Hyundai Kona N Line Review: A Quick Taste Of The N Life
It is not a full-blown N car but the Kona N Line does a good job of giving a glimpse into the division
It is perhaps fair to say that Hyundai has come a long way from its humble beginnings. The automaker that was often slagged off for its unattractive and unreliable cars are now making some of the best looking vehicles in the market. And who would have thought that they would have their own performance division?
Yes, we are talking about the N division, which is headed by none other than Albert Biermann, the former head of BMW M. It is therefore no surprise that the division is very similar to BMW’s M (and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG) in the sense that it develops high-performance versions of its existing vehicles.
The similarity doesn’t stop there, though. Much like its German counterparts, the Korean automaker also takes a two-tier approach by offering a milder version of the full-blown N models called the N Line, essentially what the M Sport is to BMW and the AMG Line is to Mercedes-Benz. The N Line cars share the same powertrain with their regular siblings but are recognisable by their sporty design elements.
To date, there are six Hyundai models to have received the N Line treatment, namely the i10 N Line, Elantra N Line, i30 N Line, Sonata N Line, Kona N Line and Tucson N Line. So far, only the Kona N Line has been brought to our shores – sort of a taster of what the Namyang-born division has to offer, if you will. The crossover was launched alongside the 1.6 Turbo in July this year, three months after the arrival of the facelifted base and Active variants.
If you think the facelifted Kona, be it the 2.0 NA versions or the 1.6 Turbo, is a looker, then you are really going to love the N Line’s aggressive look. Sure, there’s a lot going on here but not to the extent that it’s chaotic. Up front, you’ll find a large grille with the Hyundai logo in the centre, three faux air vents above the grille, as well as an aerodynamic lip with low-lying corner fins.
The cladding is body coloured and the rear bumper houses a diffuser with twin tailpipes. Finishing the look are 18-inch alloy wheels with model-specific design, meaning they are not available on other variants of the Kona. Black roof and wing mirrors are standard on the Kona N Line and our tester came in the Surfy Blue colour scheme which really stood out.
Don’t get me wrong, the interior is well built, the materials chosen are top notch, but the all black colour scheme inadvertently cancels out the flashy exterior. Well, there are some red accents on the steering wheel, gear knob, seats and air-con vents adjuster but other than that, it’s all plain black. I know some might like it, undoubtedly, but would it kill to have more red bits in here? Just look at the Proton X50 and you’ll get what I mean.
Despite the shortcomings in the colour department, Hyundai has thrown in everything they’ve got equipment-wise. You get a head-up display, a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster with multiple display graphics, an 8-inch central screen with Apple CarPlay and Wireless Android Auto, automatic climate control and wireless charger, to name a few. Of course, the Hyundai Smartsense active safety and driver assistance package is also included.
As well-equipped as it is, the Kona N Line might not be the best choice for a family car. I have no complaints about the driver’s seat – it’s comfortable and supportive at the same time – but the rear seats lack thigh support, which I feel could lead to fatigue after a long journey. The legroom is rather limited, too. And I could picture fathers and husbands struggling to fit all the suitcases in the 374-litre boot.
But one thing this crossover does not lack is power. With 198 PS and 265 Nm on tap, the Smartstream G1.6 T-GDi four-cylinder engine provides enough grunt to propel the Kona N Line in a vigorous manner. But keep in mind that this is no Kona N. Yes, it is fast off the line and the mid-range performance is commendable but what’s missing here is the appropriate soundtrack. Many automakers pump in artificial engine or exhaust sound into the cabin to stimulate drivers, so it’s quite surprising that Hyundai didn’t do that with this car.
The seven-speed dual clutch gearbox feels like the right match for the engine, shifting into gears quite quickly and smoothly. However, to get the best out of it, I’d recommend rotating the drive mode dial into Sport. Here, the transmission feels more alive, the throttle becomes even more responsive and the revs are held much higher, resulting in a more exciting drive.
As to be expected, the suspension is a little firm for our imperfect roads and this is further amplified by the large wheels wrapped in low-profile tyres. But the Kona N Line makes it up with excellent handling around the corners and stability at high speeds. There’s enough grip on the front wheels, as long as you don’t push it too hard.
One the surface, the Kona N Line is a fun car, one with enough performance and a well-tuned chassis to back its bold styling. Again, it is not a full-blown N car but it does a good job of bridging the gap between the standard model and the high-performance derivative. At RM156,888, it is no doubt expensive but you get what you pay for, which in this instance is a fully-imported crossover with all the bells and whistles. I personally do not expect to see many of these running around but hats off to Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors anyway for bringing this very exciting product to our market.
Hyundai Kona N Line Specifications
Engine: 4-cylinder SmartStream G1.6 T-GDi
Power: 198 PS @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 265 Nm @ 1,600 – 4,500 rpm
Capacity: 1,598 cc
Transmission: 7-speed Dual-Clutch Transmission