HYUNDAI KONA N-LINE
For when family life demands a compact SUV, but the driver in you wants one in a tracksuit and trainers
THE SUB-GENRE of warmed-over compact and small SUVs and crossovers has suddenly become motoring’s hot new ticket. Into this increasingly populated zone comes the Kona N-Line, looking fast standing still and, in Premium spec tested here, the cream of the Kona crop.
The N-Lines (there’s a regular version priced $8100 lower than the Premium) pack 1.6-litre turbo-petrol power, a dual-clutch transmission, AWD and a multi-link rear suspension.
And if you’re thinking, ‘Hang on, you can get all of that stuff on any of the regular Konas’, well, no you can’t. Not anymore, in facelifted form. ‘Range consolidation’ has left the four-tier pedestrian Kona range with what was and remains the lower-grade underpinnings: atmo engines, front drive, a torsion beam rear-end and, now, a CVT transmission.
Back inside the N-Line Premium, the seat contouring, padding and perforated surfacing are decent rather than exceptional.
Exclusive to this range-topper is the 10.25-inch digital driver’s screen, and it’s a mixed bag: sharp in resolution, but the installation smacks of afterthought. By contrast, the identically sized infotainment screen seems much larger and more upmarket simply through more resolved integration. It offers a nifty split-screen option and fine navigation facility.
In the back seat it’s less great: tight for adults and lacking rear air vents.
The N-Line’s heartbeat is the newest, most substantial addition to the
Kona menu. The G1.6T-GDi engine is new for the range and ups power to 146kW (a 16kW hike over the unit it replaces). It’s a tiny 0.2L thirstier than its predecessor (6.9L/100km official; we used around 8.0L/100km on test) but will run on 91RON fuel or E10.
The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is mechanically unchanged but benefits from a new calibration.
The on-demand all-wheel-drive system offers a selectable 50/50 (front/rear) lock mode at speeds under 50km/h.
Interestingly, Hyundai Australia says there has been no change to the Aussie-developed suspension tune between the N-Line and outgoing multi-link-rear variants, and we can see why. The highlight of the on-road N-Line experience is the ride and handling balance. Its natural state is slightly firm with surprisingly pliant compression and fast-settling rebound. There’s nothing brittle or terse about the chassis, yet the flat composure and body control is, at times, miraculous.
Steering is also crisp, direct and linear, compounding in a machine that flows nicely and carries good pace without demanding a lot of driver input or correction.
The powertrain is at its liveliest on the move with Sport drive mode selected. Thus set, the turbo four’s torque swells nicely in the mid-range and the dual-clutch transmission is generally cluey enough to hover the engine around its sweet spot. At high revs the 1.6’s shove tends to wane a bit, and with no paddle-shifters to manually control the gearbox, you’re very much in the hands of the ECU.
Cool your enthusiasm – whether in Eco, Normal or Smart drive modes – and the powertrain errs a little too much towards thriftiness. Off-the-mark performance isn’t the N-Line’s strong suit, while pulling onto a motorway demands a heavy right foot.
While Hyundai offers its luxuryfocused Highlander in 2.0-litre CVT front-driven form, the cream of the Kona crop is the N-Line Premium for all-in sporting and luxury completeness. On balance, it’s more accomplished in its sporting role and, despite some urban powertrain lethargy, it makes for a damn fine all-rounder and should be on your short list.