Cars offer a variety of pleasures; Some people will be happy to see a sleek and stylish body and a gorgeous interior, while others will enjoy listening to music with the sound of rain in a car. If you have a large and spacious car, you can find fun on a trip with your family, and if you have a small and agile car, you can find fun on a quiet drive on a Sunday morning alone. If you sit in a high SUV, thanks to the wide view appropriate ground clearance, you will be able to get closer to nature through unpaved roads that cannot be reached by sports cars, and if the wheelbase is short, you will be able to enjoy the pleasure of sharply winding corners and steering. All of these are the various pleasures you can get from riding a car.
Among them, there is the pleasure that comes from ‘running fast’. Whether it's sprinting on the track as hard as you can, or attacking the corner of a national road at a delicate speed, it's all about the happiness you get from handling the car and its speed. The pinnacle of this fun is motorsports. Motorsports, which competes to see who can run farther in a set time or who can run faster over a set distance to cross the finish line, is like a drama that is influenced not only by the performance of a car, but also by the skills of the driver and team, and the natural environment such as the weather. . Just because you like to run fast doesn't necessarily mean you'll be a racer; Still, if you own a car of a high-performance brand, you can feel the joy of driving a car in real life - and we've got Hyundai's N.
The Kona N is the fifth model of the N brand. The first model of the N, the i30 N, was first introduced to the world in July 2017, followed by the Veloster N, the i30 Fastback N, and the i20 N to the Kona N, which was unveiled at Hyundai N Day in April 2021. In the meantime, the growth of the N brand has been phenomenal. First of all, since the 'Export only' i30 N-based racing car debuted in 2018, it has participated in several motorsports including WTCR. Also, in early June, the Avante N TCR and i30 N TCR race cars won the TCR class in the Nurburgring 24 hour endurance race, promoting the reputation of the N brand. Also in Korea, the reputation of the N brand is expanding - considering the race based on Veloster N.
Obviously, not everyone can dive into motorsport. There are many reasons for this, but there are people who have always had a passion for driving, regardless of age or environment. They were the people who cheered and enjoyed the Veloster N more than anyone else when it was released in Korea. But the most disappointing part for them would have been the back seat and trunk of the Veloster N; the owners might have had to endure some inconvenience especially when giving children or the elderly a ride.
Therefore, expectations for the various roles of the Kona N are higher than those of the Veloster N. Needless to say, how comfortable and natural it was to get out of the driver's seat and get stuff out of the backpack in the back seat while testing the Kona N. The low floor makes it easy to get on and off, as well as a trunk with SUV-like utility as it is high enough for the size of the car.
For reference, the height of the Kona N is 1,550mm, which is the same as the regular Kona model. There is also no significant difference in the size of the wheels that could affect the minimum ground clearance; this means that the minimum ground clearance was not significantly modified to improve handling performance. In fact, lowering the overall height of the vehicle is one of the easiest ways for better handling. However, the minimum ground clearance is very important for SUVs; sometimes 20mm difference in ground clearance makes the vehicle impossible to go on.
In addition, the Kona N comes with four traction modes: Snow / Mud / Sand /Deep Snow, using the N rough road driving mode. It is basically a front-wheel-drive version of the Terrain Mode that has been used in Hyundai's four-wheel-drive SUV. The deep snow mode of Kona N gives drivers confidence that even a front-wheel-drive SUV will do the job well in difficult situations.
Since its debut, the Kona has been designed to look low and wide, unlike an SUV. Despite the shortcoming that it looks smaller than other angled cars, it has been polished and polished, and this comes from a design that maximizes the proportion of steel plates to make it look stable and low. In addition, last year's facelift made the exterior look smoother. The part that makes the Kona feel that it is a compact SUV with excellent utility is the seat position. Unlike other SUVs, getting on and off is relatively comfortable because it is at the same height as the occupant's hips.
But once you sit down, it feels different. It is an SUV that has a higher seat position than a sedan or hatchback. That's when you realize, 'Oh, my car is an SUV'. Some people think that a high seat position is not suitable for track driving. However, the seats for the N model made of suede and genuine leather are very satisfactory - especially the ventilation seat function - in early summer weather in the middle of June when the test drive was held. When driving on a track where you need to save all horsepower, you may turn off the air conditioner to save it. However, it is a very convenient specification to be able to cool the body using the ventilation function even if it is not the cold wind.
The 10.25-inch cluster and AVN are flashy enough. The dedicated heads-up display first used on the N model is extremely useful; and above all, the shift indicator that lights up stage by stage depending on engine speed was very useful in Inje Speedium, especially when going through the 11th to 13th corners. It is a place where the engine speed rises faster than expected because it is downhill, so the shift timing is already a concern. A lot of times I'm so focused on fast cornering on the 12th and 13th that I can't accelerate well, but now it feels more natural to keep an eye on the point of each corner and raise the gear with the same hand that has been on the steering wheel. Maybe I could do better if I get more used to it.
The Kona N has a 2.0-liter gasoline turbo engine with a maximum output of 280 horsepower and a maximum torque of 40.0 kgf·m. While the Veloster N Performance Package model produces a peak output of 275 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, the Kona N produces 280 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and maintains it until 6,000 rpm. More horsepower in this area means more torque at higher revs. If you could generate even just 1.0 kgf·m more of force at a higher rotational speed than 4,700 rpm, where the maximum torque starts to drop, you can reduce the time little by little each time you change gears during full acceleration in a straight section. Here, N Power Shift (NPS) does not let the rpm drop when shifting and transmits power as it is. Though it could be a bit too much, the car could still go faster.
N Green Shift (NGS), a kind of overboost function, is a function that can use 10 horsepower in addition to 280 horsepower for 20 seconds. After using all 20 seconds, you need about 40 seconds to check the car's function and prepare for the next use. During a test drive at Inje Speedium, I thought that this function could be used other than on the straight road in front of the paddock. Once you have entered the completely straight course, you cannot use all of the 20-second NGS, and it was hard to feel the difference as the competitors right next to you were using it together. I thought about this later, but, if I could ride Kona N at Inje Speedium for sports driving, I could spend 5 seconds while going through the long hill right after the 18th corner, and spend the remaining 15 seconds at the last corner after the 19th corner; it would be less burden for the tires and raise the chance for overtaking my competitors.
Being able to change to four modes by pressing the steering wheel switch with N Green Control (NGC) can further reduce lap time. For example, you can use the button on the left to select Custom Mode 1 with a slightly softer steering wheel and suspension setting or you can use the button on the right to select Mode N with everything set hard. Wouldn't the record be further reduced if you choose custom mode 1 when going around corners 5 and 6 with bad road surfaces, step on the curb at corner 8 and return to N mode just before jumping?
While running the track like this, all I had in my head was ‘how I could use all these various features to reduce lap time’. And I have forgotten about the high seat position already because the Kona N was fast and stable enough. How can I change the car's posture using left foot braking, how can I use e-LSD (Electronic Limited Slip Differential) to reduce the load on the tire while actively using it, and what would be the best damping force of the electronically controlled suspension in this weather? I was slowly figuring out what I could do to drive even a little faster. Instead of just pushing the accelerator and driving fast in a straight course, I focused on finding the best way to fit the course and my skills, and above all, the whole process was very enjoyable. It's not like a full-fledged motorsport competition, but it felt as if I was preparing for my best lap time. I finished the test drive, looking forward to the next opportunity to check this.
Most importantly, it wouldn't have been enjoyable if the Kona N wasn't able to output too high or set it up freely. There are many cars with higher output and faster lap times than the Kona N. But there are so few cars that I can count on my ten fingers. In addition, when changing the driving mode to the normal mode for the Kona N, there is room for a stiff suspension and steering wheel. After a fun and thrilling ride on the circuit, few cars can comfortably go home with smart cruise control with a stroller and helmet in a spacious trunk.
The Kona N indeed is an all-rounder; it's not just about having a lot of features or a spacious cabin as an SUV. Although it is a high-performance model, it does not cling to visible figures or claims that extremes are sporty. It's not the best, but it can run pretty fast, delivering fun, not horror, while I am behind the wheel. It feels also quite comfortable at lower speeds. As an urban compact SUV, it is strong enough for off-road and fast enough for on-road. On one hand, it's fun, and on the other hand, it's relaxed. The exquisite balance, neither too little nor too much, gives more pleasure. The real appeal of the Kona N lies in its excellent balance of features.
by. Lee Dong-Hee
He started his career as an automotive journalist in . He became known for his columns such as “Tiburon Diary” and “How to restore 1969 Land Rover” Since then, he has been a sales instructor, product planner, and sales strategist for Chrysler Korea and Jaguar Land Rover Korea, etc. He later became the head of a dealership and is now working as an experienced columnist/consultant.
◆ This column was written in accordance with the author's subjective opinion and may differ from the HMG Journal's point of view.
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