I loved the Hyundai Veloster N. It was a funky, weird three-door hatchback with a killer drivetrain and honest performance at a reasonable price. On the surface, it seemed like the answer to what enthusiasts have been asking for. In reality, everyone clamoring for “something interesting” or “something weird” realizes their priorities are elsewhere and the Veloster N was deemed too much. Not willing to let a good thing go to waste, Hyundai built two more N-cars, and they’re just as fantastic.
The 2022 Hyundai Elantra N and 2022 Hyundai Kona N are siblings in spirit if not platform. The Hyundai Kona replaced the Hyundai Elantra GT and shares that platform, but neither car is a platform-mate with the current Elantra sedan, which was released in 2020. And that’s to say nothing of the now-dead Veloster N, which is on yet another platform. I guess the cars are more cousins than direct siblings.
In any case, the Elantra N and Kona N share the same drivetrain as the Veloster N. It’s a 2.0 liter turbocharged four making 276 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque, which is sent to the front wheels only in all applications. All-wheel drive fanbois, pipe down. These cars have character and you can install snow tires if you need more traction. Traction is aided by a standard limited-slip differential, a welcome sight in a world of “oh we’ll use the brakes for that” and subsequent open-diff sadness.
Transmission choices differ, in that the Elantra N offers both a six-speed manual or a DCT and the Kona N can only be had with the DCT. Brakes are upsized on both cars, suspension damping is adjustable, interiors come with aggressively-bolstered (comfortable!) seats, and wheels are unique, wrapped in summer tires.
Hyundai also installs an active exhaust on both Elantra N and Kona N, though it’s far, far more rowdy in the Elantra. The Elantra N is also made stiffer thanks to a front strut tower brace and a rear chassis brace.
“The N formula” works well with both cars, and both are equal parts amusing and outright capable when pushed. Despite being longer than the departed Veloster N, I found the Elantra N to be a wonderful sport sedan that could play up the Jekyll-and-Hyde thing depending on where I was driving and my chosen drive mode. I liked the outlandish exhaust, the willing chassis, the pretty-good manual transmission.
Meanwhile, I had a harder time warming to the Kona N. Conversations with other automotive journalist friends before my week in the Kona N may have set my expectations too high. Everyone said something along the lines of “if you liked the Elantra N, you’ll love the Kona N, it’s so fun!” and I didn’t find it to be more fun than the Elantra.
In a vacuum, the Kona N is its own amusing and capable hot hatch. But it’s missing some of the theatrics that come in the Elantra N (thanks to that exhaust), it rides higher and isn’t quite as stiff, and while I know the DCT is the faster transmission on paper, the manual – most manuals – are simply more enjoyable.
Now if you need the versatility of a hatchback with folding rear seats, the Kona N is your gal. Neither car is a bad choice, and I am so pleased that Hyundai is N-ifying several cars in their lineup instead of just one size and body style. Maybe we can get a Palisade N next.
For more driving impressions on the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N and 2022 Hyundai Kona N, check out the videos below.