The interior of the Kona N is a similar blend of practicality and perceived performance. You get that slightly elevated seating position, a spacious rear, a decent boot, good all-round visibility, a well-laid-out, relatively plush dashboard that mixes physical controls with a touchscreen, a head-up display (the first in an N model) and a clear digital instrument display.
To remind you that you’re sitting in a performance model, there’s also special stitching and N logos dotted about. But most notable is the leather-covered steering wheel, which features large paddle shifters, two N buttons that employ the various drive modes and a big, red button marked NGS that drops the car to the lowest usable gear for 20 seconds to allow for full, and very noisy, acceleration. It’ll keep the kids entertained on occasion, at least.
Hyundai expects Kona N buyers to be hot hatch fans who have a family: people who need something approaching a sensible car but still want performance. And such buyers will find that the Kona N succeeds in feeling more like an i30 N than a crossover. The N division has done a fair job in limiting the dynamic compromises inherent in a high-riding crossover, with the responsive handling giving it a decent feel on corners and flowing roads that definitely has more in common with a hot hatch than an SUV. The short wheelbase helps it change direction fast, and it feels pleasingly stable given its comparatively high stance.
The trade-off is through the stiffened ride, which is on the firm side even in the softest Comfort mode. It’s not unbearably so, but there are more comfortable ways of doing the school run.
Moving up the drive modes firms up the steering and suspension, while adjusting the engine delivery, ESC and exhaust sound. The Sport setting is best saved for relatively smooth roads, and things become even more jittery and brittle in N mode. As with the i30 N, you’ll be hard-pressed to find somewhere smooth enough to use that. The best results are likely to be found using the custom mode to keep the suspension soft while boosting the steering response.