The N Line is the sportiest version of Hyundai’s new Kona, but it struggles to justify the extra cost
3.5 out of 5
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There’s no denying that the Hyundai’s 1.6-litre motor serves up a decent level of punch, even for a car that has increased in size between generations like the Kona has. It’s capable of gathering speed with ease, and while the engine isn’t the most sonorous, it spins up freely and smoothly, with only a little background whistle to remind you that there’s a turbo helping you along.
What’s less satisfying is how the gearbox interacts with the motor – or rather, gets in the way of you interacting with it. It suffers from old-school dual-clutch traits like jerkiness at low speeds, and never feels properly in tune with what the engine is doing. You can override the system and change gear using paddles behind the steering wheel, but this isn’t a particularly satisfying experience either, with a slight clunkiness to the shifts. We’re keen to see how a manual stick would improve matters, particularly since the six-speed gearbox in the cheapest 1.0-litre Kona has such a well-calibrated setup.
The chassis isn’t really configured for back-road thrills, either. N Line S is a cosmetic pack rather than a technical one, so you don’t get a lowered ride height, let alone any bespoke suspension settings. As such, this car just feels like a faster version of the base Kona – which is to say that it is secure and stable, with inert but accurate steering and not that much involvement. Despite its price positioning, it’s ostensibly a styling pack rather than a true performance variant, and there’s no escaping that. A Puma ST, which does have proper chassis tweaks, offers much more agility and fun, but for less cash.
Of course, these dynamic foibles don’t take away from the Kona’s cabin, which remains a deeply impressive experience, with high-quality materials, rock-solid build quality and enough space for four grown-ups, plus a whopping boot.
|Hyundai Kona N Line S 1.6T 198PS Automatic
|1.6-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
|Seven-speed dual-clutch auto, front-wheel drive
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