Base price in Canada for the 2022 Hyundai Kona is $22,099, $21,300 in the US.
The Kona N Line is $28,199 in Canada.
All of Hyundai’s N Line vehicles are fun, with one exception…
I could not have known better. As I said in my Elantra N Line review, I’ve driven the latter, the Veloster N, and the Sonata N Line, and they all absolutely entertained me. My expectations for the new 2022 Hyundai Kona N Line were therefore high. Unfortunately for me, I was going to be disappointed.
In short, every other N Line Hyundai product delivered value, as per, performance, as promised by the sub-brand, and loads of smiles. I’ve enjoyed all my experiences with the Kona thus far and since my first drive almost five years ago. The combination of Kona + N Line could be nothing if not great.
7-Speed DCT Woes
The majority of the issues with this 2022 Hyundai Kona N Line are related to the DCT. The first is an oversight brought on by product planning. This sporty CUV does not have any steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters as the Elantra N Line did. Immediately, this is a problem for those who want to get into the driving experience promised by “N”. My guess is that they’re left out to keep the price point below a certain level.
The next problem is throttle and transmission response. Unless set in “sport” drive mode, there’s what could only be described as communication disputes between the throttle’s and the transmission’s brains. In “smart” or “normal”, I noticed and experienced engine and transmission speeds at odds with each other. In other words, under acceleration, the clutches (one of them) would not fully engage leaving engine speeds to rise without the desired accompanying speed increase. Response delays are common especially in “smart” as it could be considered an “eco” drive mode.
Similarly, when backing off the brake pedal on a few occasions, expecting some creep, I was faced shuddering once more coming from the transmission. It’s difficult to pinpoint why the DCT behaved so erratically as I’m convinced the Kona N Line was no more abused by other journalists than the Elantra. Either way, I can easily foresee expensive transmission work in this Kona’s future.
Enough Turbo Power and Good Ride
Like the Elantra N Line, the Kona features Hyundai’s well-utilized turbocharged 1.6-litre 4-cylinder engine. Under the CUV’s bonnet, it develops 195 horsepower (down 6 from the Elantra) and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. The power is plenty sufficient to put a smile on the driver’s face however the Kona’s extra 300 lbs from the standard AWD system over the sedan are noticeable. Initial pick-up isn’t as sharp although on snow-covered roads, there would be no competition against the FWD-only Elantra.
The only improvement over the Elantra, for the Kona, comes from its ride quality. As far as I can tell, the N Line and the regular Kona share the same chassis tune. Unlike the Elantra N Line’s suspension which is tuned for limited body roll, stiffer in other words, the Kona N Line is plenty comfortable. Like its road handling, the Kona’s steering is well judged and the brakes are well up to the task.
What’s interesting about the Hyundai Kona N Line is that it is unique. There are no other performance-oriented small utility vehicles like it. I say this knowing full well that the turbocharged Mazda CX-30 exists however it’s almost $10,000 more expensive.
The facelift is Good, Dive in Jeju is Really Good
The Hyundai Kona has been, once again, a unique offering from the onset. Its facias basically introduced another short-lived design language that has already been all but completely forgotten at this point.
The mid-2020 facelift replaced what was playful upfront with a more sinister and determined outlook. The result is quite pleasant. And in N Line form, very sporty and needs to be celebrated. The full body kit needs colour like Dive in Jeju (as tested), or Pulse Red or a two-tone combo of red or blue with the black roof. The included 18-inch wheels heighten the Kona N Line’s already flamboyant personality.
The Cabin is Down Some Features
This is done by design. The basic Kona N Line does without electronic climate controls, a large 10.25-inch screen, matching 10.25-inch digital cluster, cooled leather seats, a sunroof, and loads of other distractions, that is unless the optional $5,600 Ultimate package is selected.
Thanks to this wise decision, unlike the paddle shifter deal, product planning was able to keep the Kona N Line’s price at just over $28,000, or only about $400 more than the Elantra N Line. Remember, the Kona’s AWD.
The tester’s cabin was perfectly suited to the task of driving. The seats, like the Elantra, could use a little more lumbar support but otherwise, it’s a cozy place. The Kona itself is a little snug for a small family but I managed for a week.
I Wanted to Love it
The new 2022 Hyundai Kona N Line is loads of fun. Factor in the $28,199 starting price and it’s really difficult to find faults. Except, I discovered one that would keep me away and it’s the DCT. I suspect the extra strain from the AWD system is the problem. That, and there’s programming to be revised.
The bottom line is that driving enthusiasts are more likely to go for Elantra N Line or spend a few more bucks on the Volkswagen Golf GTI than purchase the Kona N Line. Come winter however and, if the transmission survives, it’s got a real advantage, that is until it crosses a new Subaru WRX…