Hyundai’s 2022 Kona N-Line –
WHEN HYUNDAI HANDS YOU A LINE
In the race by manufacturers to fill every perceived gap in the crossover category, Chevrolet offers both the subcompact Trax and XXL Suburban, while Ford counters – or did until very recently – with the Ecosport and XXL Expedition. Automakers such as Hyundai don’t offer quite the same range (you’d be hard-pressed to navigate Seoul traffic in a Suburban), but the Korean carmaker is doing its very best, with the 3-row Palisade at the top of the food chain and its subcompact Kona providing accessible entry into the food chain. While I’ve been indifferent to the Kona with its standard, normally aspirated 2.0 liter four, add 1.6 liters of turbocharged power to the compact Kona with its 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and you have a small sport utility with the accent on sport. Good stuff.
That 1.6-liter turbo, which I regard as essential to the Kona recipe, delivers 195 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque to either the front wheels or all wheels. In specifying the Turbo 1.6, you have your choice of the N-Line Kona or Kona Limited trims. In the N-Line, which occupied our apartment parking spot for most of a week, you enjoy the flexibility of the 1.6 turbo/DCT combo with the stylistic flourishes your inner boy racer (apparently) finds desirable.
Unlike the recently introduced Kona N, the N-Line provides no mechanical differentiation nor performance improvement over the Kona Limited with its 1.6 liter turbocharged four. Instead, following a recipe concocted by carmakers such as Audi and Volkswagen (S Line and R-Line, respectively), the Kona N receives a few cosmetic flourishes – including body-colored wheel arch cladding, an aerodynamic lip on the front fascia and unique 18-inch alloys – along with modest interior mods. You may feel faster in the Kona N-Line, but you won’t be faster.
To the Kona’s credit, however, you’ll feel fast enough. Unlike carmakers believing that adequate power is, well…adequate, Hyundai continues to give buyers a choice of adequate acceleration or responsive performance. And I’ll continue to prefer the latter, for in today’s traffic you’ll benefit from a car’s ability to cut and thrust; the Kona’s smallish platform – 166 inches of overall length planted on a 102-inch wheelbase – provides the cut, while it takes the 1.6 turbo to supply the thrust. With two driving modes, the standard-setting will get you where you need to go, while ‘Sport’ delivers a smile every time you arrive. And in a week’s worth of stop-and-go and freeway driving, our dashboard calculator gave us a solid 30 mile-per-gallon average.
From the outside looking in, I like the Kona’s upright proportions and a decent amount of glass area, but don’t confuse it with a traditional SUV; with just 6.7 inches of ground clearance this isn’t the vehicle to traverse Moab, but will work in Manhattan; it’s perfect for the urban or suburban commute and, if it’s just you and one passenger, the week-long cross-country trek.
Inside, its cabin and four doors give you a modest amount of practicality, as does its 19 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seat up – and almost 46 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. During our week with the Kona we were helping our daughter and her family move, and while the moving company did the heavy lifting (literally and figuratively), the Kona swallowed a lot of the miscellany that is part and parcel of any move, and did it willingly.
If, like me, you regard the 1.6 turbo and its 195 horses mandatory, Hyundai will supply that powertrain in one of two trims, the N-Line tested or its Limited. Both are available – with optional all-wheel drive – for under $30K, and both will supply a degree of versatility you won’t outgrow ‘til the kids (or grandkids) are in their teens. And then, of course, you can pass it on to one of them.