|Positives: Sporty design and striking looks, great steering and handling, peppy turbo engine, great in-car tech, strong standard feature set.|
|Negatives: Performance doesn't match the appearance, turbo lag, harsh ride, interior on the cheap, overly flat front seats.|
|Bottom Line: The Kona N Line is an interesting package that offers great looks, fun driving, and great tech. It's just not nearly as fun as the Kona N.|
The Kona N Line's turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four is the very same engine as the one found in the Kona Limited. 195 horses isn't paltry, but it doesn't match the looks of the Kona N Line. We actually thought our tester was high-powered N because we didn't look at the Monroney sticker carefully enough (or the badge, for that matter). When we mashed the gas, the result was a letdown, but that's partly our own fault.
Ride Quality: The ride is firm and on the harsh side. It doesn't feel hollow when hitting bumps and gaps, but you feel the road surfaces quite a bit.
Acceleration: 60 mph from a standstill comes in 7.3 seconds, which is quick for the segment. The problem comes when the dual-clutch transmission fails to respond with alacrity, doing the Kona N Line no favors in the fun department.
Braking: The brakes modulate well, and pedal feel is good. We had no issues bringing the Kona N Line to a solid stop quickly.
Steering: There is some vagueness on center, but the heft and quick-turn in are great. There's actually some feedback coming through the wheel.
Handling: The Kona N Line manages turns very well, and everything feels well put together, enhanced by the all-wheel drive and the torque vectoring by braking.
The Kona N Line gets a standard 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster that changes its look based on your selected drive mode, and you can swap in a bigger 10.3-inch infotainment system screen for the standard 8.0-inch version via the Tech package, which our tester had. There's Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, bu sadly there's no wireless feature for these systems. You have to use a cable. Ugh.
Infotainment System: Both 10.3-inch screens for the instrument cluster and infotainment are colorful, vivid, and crisp. Responsiveness isn't as good as Ford's Sync 3, but Hyundai still makes one of the best systems in the industry.
Controls: We love all of the controls in the Kona because they're physical buttons and not all relegated to the touchscreen. Climate control knobs are big and grippy, the audio controls, drive mode, heated seats, and auto stop/start are buttons and knobs. It's simple, easy, and there's really no distraction like other cars with annoying touch controls.
We wouldn't call the Kona N Line beautiful by any means, but it has a fresh, sporty look that sets it apart from the rest of the pack. The added trim bits include a mesh grille with three slim vents just in front of the hoodline, body-colored fenders, and a Kona N rear diffuser, model-specific badges, and unique 18-inch wheels. The interior doesn't get much more above stock than sporty red accents.
Front: The more monochromatic front end looks great, and we like the different headlight and faux fent cluster that makes it look more aggressive.
Rear: The back end gets dual pipes out the right side, a diffuser, and a body-colored bumper. It looks more cohesive than the standard Kona.
Profile: The premium white paint, the body-colored fenders, and the special wheels give it a very sporty look from the side view.
Cabin: While the overall layout is nice and clean, there's just a lot of grey going on that could be mitigated by different (and better) materials. The N-style shifter, the aluminum pedals, and the red highlights help but can't overcome the sea of grey.
The Kona is not large or plush in any way. The fabric is a bit on the cheap side, and there's a lot of hard plastic in the cabin. It's more than passable for daily commuting, but longer trips could be a challenge, especially for more than two people.
Front Seats: The seats could use better cushioning and bolstering. They're pretty flat but not what we would call uncomfortable.
Rear Seats: The legroom is tight, but the headroom is decent. The seat cushions are on the flat side, but at least there's not too much protrusion for the middle position seat back.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The 1.6-liter turbo four is buzzy, and there's a fair amount of road noise. The Kona N Line could use more sound deadening.
Visibility: Visibility is good thanks to a solid seating position and sloping hood. The C-pillars do inhibit some rearward visibility.
Climate: The climate system, including the heated seats, work very well. It's responsive and easy to control.
The Kona gets good marks for safety but barely misses top awards from the IIHS. It's still a very safe car because the demerit has nothing to do with crash testing. As with all Hyundais, the safety tech suite is impressive. Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, and blind-spot monitoring are all standard equipment.
IIHS Rating: It fails to earn the Top Safety Pick or Pick + because of the marginal score on the LATCH ease of use. Otherwise, it scores very high in crash and rollover risk testing.
NHTSA Rating: The Kona earns five stars from the federal government.
Standard Tech: The Kona N Line comes with a huge set of features including Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist and Lane Following Assist, Driver Attention Warning, Rear Occupant Alert, Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, Safe Exit Warning, Downhill Brake Control, Hillstart Assist Control, and Tire Pressure Monitoring System w/ Individual Tire Indicator
Optional Tech: Our tester cam with the $2,500 Tech Package that includes Highway Driving Assist and an excellent Smart Cruise Control system that's very responsive.
For a vehicle this size, there are some good cabin storage spaces that are reachable by the front occupants. The cargo section is about average, but there's still a good amount of space for luggage and gear.
Storage Space: The front cubby with the wireless charger is bigger than most in this segment, and it's very usable space. The armrest is on the small side, but there are useful cupholders between the seats, as well as decently-sized door pockets.
Cargo Room: The Kona has 19.2 cubic feet behind row two, and 45.8 cubes with the seats folded flat. It's smaller than the Honda HR-V but about the same as the Mazda CX-30.
We drove the Kona N Line in Sport mode for the majority of the time in order to extract the most from the engine and transmission. The result was decent gas mileage but not as good as we would've attained under less aggressive driving. The 29 combined mpg is pretty good, but we didn't come close to those numbers. Not that we were trying.
Observed: 21.7 mpg.
Distance Driven: 86 miles.
As part of the robust Tech Package for $2,500, the Kona N gets the Harman Kardon premium sound system, which sounds very good, if not great. It could use more bass, but the clarity is excellent. It's worth the extra expense because you get so much for your money as a whole package.