Exhilarating” is the phrase I’d use to sum up the Hyundai Kona N. There aren’t that many vehicles that cross my path that I don’t need to get out of, not to mention hand again on the finish of some days. So the agony and misery I felt at saying goodbye to the Kona N was unsettling certainly. It’s only a South Korean sizzling compact SUV, I inform myself. It’s £35,395, for heaven’s sake. Nobody in the true world has a lot concept what a Hyundai is, or a Kona – nonetheless much less what the “N” stands for. Mainly, it’s Korean for “GTI”, as in Volkswagen Golf GTI, or, extra not too long ago, the much less acquainted “R” within the Volkswagen Golf R.
Now I can think about that, for a lot of, the “N” stands for “not interested”, however I really feel obliged to say that, in line with Hyundai, it derives from the Namyang district in South Korea – “the birthplace of the N brand” and the situation of Hyundai’s world R&D centre – together with the Nurburgring racetrack in Germany, which is residence to Hyundai’s technical centre; and the “N” form can be a illustration of a basic chicane, or a good serpentine flip within the street. So far as I can see, from a brisk run round some nation lanes, “N” is for “nuts”.
None of that issues, after all – a rose by some other identify and all that. What issues is that it is a automobile that, on the contact of a bit of crimson button on the steering wheel, can rework from a sporty little SUV into one thing nearer to a WRC contender.
As soon as once more, there’s a mysterious nomenclature – “NSG”. This, revealing a way of humour not often encountered within the automotive trade (which tends to take itself fairly severely), stands for “N grin shift”, which is totally acceptable. The NSG thingie doesn’t simply rework the automobile, however turns you, the common driver, right into a Flying Finn rally contestant. The automated gearbox holds the revs as you speed up, whereas the adaptive suspension makes the automobile extra bouncy however with a more durable, tauter really feel.
It pumps an additional 10 brake horsepower to the 4 wheels, by way of an computerized limited-slip differential (so much less wheel spin), with the grip gifted by WRC-grade Pirelli P Zero tyres. Even driving down the excessive road in NSG mode, the automobile pops and grumbles like some kind of badly customised boy racer, with the soiled secret that it’s really received state-of-the-automotive-art engineering permeating its total being.
So it goes on, and on, and on in the direction of the horizon, however with the automobile doing a lot of the onerous work. It should even let you know when a difficult bend is developing, and tries to interact in its sportiest mode if it senses you’re in heavy site visitors or that there are obstacles close by. It’s as for those who had been within the arms of petrolhead angels. Extremely satisfying, then, and reasonably sensible. Its closest rival is the Ford Puma ST, which can be quick and has a greater design to it (together with a intelligent deep “mega box” within the boot).
That’s about it actually. It’s received a pleasant tasteful inside, a bit of understated in contrast with the extrovert physique equipment on the skin, and the mix of touch-screen, button and dial controls works higher than most. The one flaw, which it shares with different efficiency fashions (eg from VW) with dual-shift clutches, is a typically disappointing hesitation from relaxation because the automobile’s software program catches up along with your directions. Aside from that niggle, the Hyundai Kona N is exhilaration in automotive kind: it’s what it stands for.