WITHOUT factoring the impending arrival of the ‘fully sick’ N version of the Kona into this conversation, the 2021 Hyundai Kona N Line Premium is the pinnacle of the current range, at least in terms of sportiness and price.
We say price, because it is in fact the dearest Kona variant on the market (until that N arrives), at $46,944 drive away, or thereabouts. That makes it about $5,000 dearer than the Highlander variant.
That said, aside from the name, there’s plenty different between them, including the powerplant. In the case of the Kona N Line Premium, you’ll find a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol GDi engine under the hood, spitting out 146kW of power and 265Nm of torque.
It’s paired to a 7-speed DCT gearbox and offers all-wheel drive. It has a host of N Line goodies too, including exclusive 18-inch wheels, front and rear bumper, mesh styled grille, and rear diffuser. There’s also twin exhaust tips and multi-link rear suspension.
It’s the last of these that, when paired with the AWD platform, makes the N Line Premium version of the Kona a damn nice car to drive. It handles like a warmed up hatch rather than a higher riding compact SUV, or cross-over, if you prefer.
It feels agile on the road, even if the gearbox is a little grabby between first and second on the upshift. Put your foot down on a steep hill from a standing start and that’s amplified just enough to be annoying. The Continental rubber is noisy too.
Claimed fuel economy is 6.9-litres/100km but real world testing revealed an 8.0-litres/100km reality. Still not bad at all, and we were driving in mixed conditions, including some reasonably heavy Sydney traffic.
At this point, it would be remiss of this author not to share a little story about how your significant other advises you during our test of the Kona N Line Premium, that we should buy one.
Not how much is it, not what’s the cheapest model in the range, none of that. Simply, “I really like this, it’s got get up and go, and it’s nice to drive. It feels really stable on the road too. We should buy one.” That’s a pretty decent endorsement.
We suspect she was sold on the interior, where there’s some pretty comfy 10-way power adjusted heated and ventilated, N Line specific leather front seats, complete with red stitching.
It’s not super sporty like a proper N, but it’s better than the base model Kona, if that makes sense. Some elements feel little cheap though.
You do get a nice 10.25-inch infotainment system that’s super crisp and runs the latest version of Hyundai’s software. It’s really quite cool, with some nifty features, like ‘tube’ styled numbers for radio frequencies.
There’s also Sounds of Nature. A new addition for Hyundai, it essentially lets you pump a variety of relaxing sounds from the bush and forest (and snow and rain) into your car, to keep the mood chill. There’s some ambient lighting thrown in too.
The instrument cluster is also of the digital variety, and is as sharp as the infotainment system, and adds an upmarket touch. An 8-speaker premium Harman/Kardon sound system delivers pretty damn good sound, thanks to the external amplifier.
You’ll also find satellite navigation, wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay that works a treat, DAB+ digital radio, USB charging ports, a wireless phone charger, a head-up display, and N Line exclusive sports pedals. The rear outer seats are heated too.
And while we’re back there, leg and headroom are good but not great, if you’re over about 180cm. Plenty of room for the kids or short adult humans though, just not really tall passenger friendly.
When it comes to safety, Hyundai’s full SmartSense suite has been loaded into the Kona N Line Premium, including blind-spot collision-avoidance assist, driver attention warning, and forward collision avoidance, with pedestrian and cyclist detection.
You’ll also find high-beam assist, a somewhat temperamental lane follow and keep assist, which can make the steering feel jittery as it offers multiple small corrections, rear cross traffic avoidance, rear occupant alert and safe exit warning.
The smart cruise control is pretty damn good and there’s parking sensors everywhere. The rear view monitor has guidance too, with tyre pressure monitoring completing the package. Multiple airbags and a roll-over sensor add to the protection offered.
ABS, brake assist, hill start assist, traction and vehicle stability control and downhill brake assist are also fitted. This last one works exceptionally well when you’re doing a little adventuring, or having some light off road fun.
There are four drive modes, Eco, Comfort/Normal, Sport and Smart (and let’s face it, Sport is the best place to play in), as well as three traction modes, Mud, Snow and Sand, for when you need to get dirty.
There are some decent rivals for your sporty crossover dollar too, with the likes of the Volkswagen T-Roc 140TSI Sport and Toyota C-HR GR Sport both playing in the same space. It’s a hard call which one to choose, and the Kona and VW are right up there.
The 2021 Hyundai Kona N Line Premium is available in a cool mix of colours, including Dive In Jeju, Dark Knight, Ignite Flame (as tested), Surfy Blue and Atlas White (all of which can also be had with a Phantom Black roof), and Phantom Black.
It comes with Hyundai’s 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty, and capped price servicing (which can also be prepaid). Overall, we reckon it’s the pick of a litter that totals half a dozen variants, despite the hefty price tag. The performance goodies make up for that.
Our test vehicle was provided by Hyundai Australia. To find out more about the 2021 Hyundai Kona N Line Premium, contact your local Hyundai dealer.