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N’ Disguise: 2021 Hyundai Kona N Line Review

I will admit that I too was a skeptic when Hyundai first introduced their ‘N’ brand to the world. However, I was quickly made a convert by their fantastic i30N and i30N Fastback. So if ‘N’ is their pure performance brand then where does that leave the ‘N Line’ cars you may ask?

A good question and one that I set out to find an answer to. I was curious to see whether the new Kona N Line was just a nicely trimmed spec or an N car in disguise!

Close-up view of the 2021 Hyundai Kona N-Line
The N Line body kit makes the Kona look a lot sharper

It’s striking N body kit drew impressive looks from bystanders, this clearly isn’t a regular Kona. The gloss black grille and new fascia further add to the aggressive look of this N Line model. I also especially admire Hyundai’s decision to air on the conservative side where the grille’s size is concerned. They haven’t expanded the grille just to slap their badge in your face, it’s almost a way to describe the car’s styling overall. It may be subtle compared to the Kona N but still very impressive.

Essential flared wheel arches further enhance the road presence of this Kona N Line. They need to be large as they house a feature that became my favourite on this car. That would have to be the combination of those 18 inch wheels and 235mm width tires. They give the car a sporty look but are equally as functional when it comes to handling.

Rear three quarter view of the 2021 Hyundai Kona N-Line
The right size for a sporty daily driver

It’s a similar story on the inside which has also gotten a good dose of the N Line treatment without taking the spotlight away from the actual Kona N. Notice that all the contrast stitching and highlights are in red on the N Line whereas they are in light blue on the N. It’s fair to say that scratchy plastics are to be expected in a car at this price but Hyundai have done a good job with concealing them. The top of the doors are covered in an interesting patterned plastic, while leatherette materials surrounds the door handles.

The N Line leather electronic seats are really comfortable too and can be heated when winter comes around. The steering wheel is also an N badged accessory and while some may prefer paddles, I’m one to use the gear shifter instead.

Interior shot of the 2021 Hyundai Kona N-Line
Red accents liven up the sporty themed interior

Another addition to the new Kona Series 2 is the infotainment screen which has a simple layout to it, something that is helped by the shortcut buttons below. The screen itself has a really nice purplish theme to it and my passengers especially enjoyed the sounds of nature feature as well as that cracking Harman Kardon audio system. Using its 8 speakers, the system packs a real punch. Perfect for the heavy guitars in Whitesnake’s ‘Here I Go Again‘ or the saxophone solo in Van Morrison’s ‘Moondance‘. Admittedly, I do need to disclose my loyalty to big Harman Kardon as both my desktop and laptop speakers at home are made by them. With that out of the way, let’s drive!

Harman Kardon speakers on the 2021 Hyundai Kona N-Line
Harman Kardon sound adds oomph to the drive

I haven’t driven a Hyundai Kona before so I really didn’t know what to expect from that engine and drivetrain combination but it was a pleasant surprise. That 1.6 litre turbo GDi unit really can pull and it’ll happily take you all the way past the speed limit. Not that I tried it! 146kW and 265Nm on tap means this Kona N Line is no slouch. Though if it’s efficiency you want, the gearbox is well set-up to achieve that. I averaged 8 litres per 100km in normal mode with some spirited driving!

Side view of the 2021 Hyundai Kona N-Line
A great drive all-around

Speaking of spirited driving, this is probably what surprised me most about the Kona N Line. It’s actually great fun! Hyundai have kept the weight down and the steering quick making for an SUV that really loves the corners. An experience helped along by those wide 235mm tires, I told you they would come in handy! The suspension is set-up just so that you have a bump free drive but it’s not too far removed from the road either. On the other hand, you might want to turn off that intrusive lane keep assist though because it will remove you from the road. When you’re not attacking the back roads, the Kona N Line will sit very comfortably in 7th gear at either 80 or 100km/hr on the motorway. Though the transmission doesn’t like start-stop traffic all that much but then I have yet to meet someone who does!

The Verdict

Offering the perfect blend of practicality, comfort and fun, the Kona N Line is one of the best in the game. I really enjoyed the quick steering and the audio system especially but try as I might, I couldn’t fault the car for the most part. My only advice to you is to be mindful of that lane keep assist system and master stop-start traffic.

It may be in disguise but if you are in the market for a compact SUV with sporty flair, you absolutely cannot afford to overlook the Kona Series 2 N Line.

2021 Hyundai Kona N-Line: 4/5

Thanks for reading! For more news and reviews, check out Tarmac Life.

Words and pictures by Matthew D’Souza, special thanks to Hyundai Motors NZ for the car.

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