As of 2023, the Hyundai Veloster N will be discontinued. RIP. But in its place will be the new 2022 Elantra N and Kona N. Can these two cars live up to the sporty characteristics set by the Veloster?
Engine – Both of these cars use the same 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine of the Veloster N but with one slight change. The turbine passage area has been increased by 2.5 mm² which adds one additional horsepower. Total output is now 276 hp and 289 lb-ft of torque (206 Kw & 392 Nm). With the NGS mode (N Grin Shift), an additional 10 hp (7.5 Kw) is produced for 20 seconds after which a 40 second cooldown period prevents the use of this mode. But if you don’t use the full 20 seconds at once, you can use the remainder before hitting the cool off period. This NGS mode is only available with the DCT transmission.
The engine produces the peak torque at low rpms that is then sustained throughout the mid-rev range. Hyundai calls this a “flat-power” engine because of the flat torque curve and the peak horsepower which is sustained from 5,500 rpms to 6,000 rpms. The throttle response can be changed through the different drive modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport, & N) or it can be customized using the Custom 1 or Custom 2 drive modes. With traction control and the automatic transmission, the Elantra N can hit the 100 km/h mark in 5.3 second while the Kona N can do it in 5.5 seconds according to Hyundai.
Fuel Economy – Though the Elantra N is lighter than the Kona N, it’s the Kona that gets better fuel economy ratings in a city when comparing these cars with their automatic transmissions. The 2022 Elantra N DCT is rated for 12.1 L/100km (19.4 MPG) in a city and 7.9 L/100km (29.7 MPG) on a highway. The 2022 Kona N DCT is rated for 11.8 L/100km (19.9 MPG) in a city and 8.7 L/100km (27 MPG) on a highway. However, with the manual transmission, the Elantra N is rated for 10.9 L/100km (21.6 MPG) in a city and 7.7 L/100km (30.5 MPG) on a highway. During my time with the cars, I averaged 9.5 L/100km (24.7 MPG) in the Elantra N and 10.7 L/100km (22 MPG) in the Kona N.
Transmission – The Kona N is only available with the 8-speed dual-clutch automatic while the Elantra is available with the same automatic (albeit with a different final drive ratio) but also a 6-speed manual with rev-matching. Both of these demo vehicles came equipped with the 8-speed DCT. This is a smooth shifting and fast reacting transmission. Setting off from a stop is almost the same as setting off in a vehicle with a torque converted automatic. Using launch control doesn’t “dump the clutch” like how it would in something like the Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG. The transmission lets the clutch slip a bit before fully engaging it.
This 8-speed DCT also has a few special programs for track and enthusiastic driving. When pressing the NGS button, the transmission downshifts to the lowest possible gear. In N mode and when the driver applies 90% or more throttle application, the transmission uses N Power Shift to change gears without any loss in engine torque. And finally, N Track Sense Shift will “sense” the optimal times for upshifts or downshifts around a racetrack so that the driver can focus on taking the best and fastest racing line or hitting the braking points. This function does not work if the transmission is in manual mode.
Braking – Both the Kona N and Elantra N receive larger brake discs to slow the cars down. In the front, they measure 14.2” in diameter and in the rear, they are 12.4” in diameter. Both cars also have small air ducts to help keep the discs cool and a pre-fill brake function. After releasing the throttle pedal, brake hydraulic pressure is filled in advance so that the brake is applied immediately. Though this only saves a few milliseconds around a racetrack, milliseconds could be the difference between 1st and 2nd. Plus, it provides a firm and confidence inspiring feel in the brake pedal. Around city streets, the brakes are not grabby and can be smoothly operated for gentle stops.
Handling – One of the biggest changes to the Elantra N (though I haven’t been able to find any mention of this in the Kona N) is the integrated drive axle (IDA). The drive shaft, wheel hub, and wheel bearing have all been integrated into one unit for reduced weight, improved lateral g-forces, and noise reduction. However, if the wheel bearing wears out, I suspect it will be quite expensive to replace the one piece rather than individual components. Both vehicles received extensive body rigidity enhancements with the Elantra N’s being a bit more in your face. It has a bright red rear strut tower brace that is cool to show off to your friends but it gets in the way of storing longer items in the trunk. Both cars are also equipped with adaptive dampers and an electronic limited slip differential.
All of these changes and features provide both the Elantra N and the Kona N with a planted and sure-footed feeling when driving on twisty roads. The limited slip differential does wonders to pull the cars out of a corner under full throttle applications. No power is wasted with wheel spin like the Sonata N-Line. There is a little hint of torque steer with each car but it is far more controlled than the hot-hatches of a decade or two ago. The adaptive dampers have three different stiffness settings and the steering itself can also be adjusted to provide more resistance to turning. Steering in both vehicles is direct and fast but the Elantra N has a poor turning circle at 11.7 meters vs 10.2 meters for the Kona N.
The Kona N also receives four different Traction/Terrain drive modes. Snow, Deep Snow, Mud, & Sand. I’m not sure why this high performance N variant received these modes because it is not available with AWD. The most off-road situation that this car will probably see is a compact gravel road that any FWD car can handle.
To drive, the lower center of gravity and lighter weight make the Elantra N just a tiny bit sharper than the Kona N. However, that’s not to say that the Kona N isn’t fun to drive either because it is. With smooth throttle and steering inputs, both of these cars are planted through corners. But if you lift off the throttle momentarily when entering a corner, the back end will begin to rotate. Then quickly reapply throttle and the e-LSD will pull the car and the chassis settles down again. Both of these cars are a hoot to drive but I personally prefer the Elantra N over the Kona N. I just like the lower seating position and the ever so slightly sharper response.
Ride Comfort – The 2022 Elantra N and Kona N have an overall stiffer ride than their non-N counterparts. However, the adaptive dampers do their best to still provide a comfortable ride on city streets or highways. In Comfort mode, both cars are decently comfortable if you choose to commute to work on a daily basis. The ride doesn’t feel too punishing. In the stiffest setting, the ride is much more jiggly but strangely, it doesn’t feel quite as jiggly as I remember it in the Veloster N.
Interior Space – Between the Hyundai Kona N and the Hyundai Elantra N, you’d expect the Kona to be more spacious because it is a crossover SUV. Not entirely so. Yes, the Kona has a lot more headroom but it’s the Elantra N that has more front & rear legroom and still a decent amount of headroom. Even with the lower roofline, you can wear a helmet during a trackday in the Elantra N without the helmet touching the headliner. Behind my driving position, my knees are close to the front seat in the Elantra N but they’re not touching whereas in the Kona N, they are very squished. As well, I prefer the bucket-style seats of the Elantra N more than the Kona N’s seats. Both do a great job of holding you in while cornering quickly but the Elantra’s seats feel better contoured to my body. Unfortunately in the Elantra, the seats are manually adjustable whereas in the Kona, they are power operated. At least for the driver.
Behind all rows of seats, it is the Kona that provides more space. 544 L (19.2 cu-ft) of cargo volume vs 402 L (14.2 cu-ft) for the Elantra. Interestingly, the Veloster N has slightly more cargo capacity than the Kona at 565 L (20 cu-ft) of space. That has me scratching my head. But with the seats folded, the Kona has 1,296 L (45.7 cu-ft) of space and the Elantra N has a bright red cross brace in the way. The rear seat backrest folds in one piece (60/40 in the Kona) but it doesn’t really matter because it’s hard to use the extra space due to that brace. Maybe some skis can fit between the openings??
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – One of the best features about Hyundai N cars is the active exhaust. It can be relatively quiet when the valves are closed but can easily make the car sound like a rally or touring car. Crackles, pops, bangs, it’s all there. In the Elantra N, you can also add some enhanced sounds into the cabin through the stereo system. In the infotainment system, you can choose between Sporty, high performance or TCR (touring car). You can also customize the sounds for a deeper bass or more whine and fine tune the volume. Wind noise is minimal in both vehicles but road noise is a bit evident on porous or concrete highways.
Odds and Ends
Pricing – The 2022 Hyundai Elantra N starts at $37,199 CAD ($32,150 USD) with the 6-speed manual transmission. For the DCT, it’ll cost an additional $1,600 CAD ($1,500 USD). The 2022 Hyundai Kona N costs $39,999 CAD ($34,200 USD). The only options are the paint colors.
Gadgets – These being top of the line trims, they come equipped as such. They both have heated front seats, heated steering wheels, backup cameras, wireless phone charging, automatic climate control, LED headlights, keyless entry and push button start. There are a few differences though. For example, the DCT version of the Elantra comes with a sunroof whereas the manual version nor the Kona N have it. But the Kona N has a head-up display and the aforementioned power driver’s seat.
Both have 10.25” infotainment touchscreens with the same infotainment system that is found on other Hyundai vehicles. The only difference is the addition of the N performance pages. These display various performance parameters such as throttle & brake application, g-force, and lap times to name a few. Speaking of lap times, there are a few pre-programmed tracks in the system and you can set one of the two N steering wheel buttons to start or stop the lap timer. These performance pages also allow you to customize the N1 and N2 buttons, customize the launch control & shift light rpms, as well as activate Track Sense, Power Shift, and Launch Control modes.
Interior Design – Apart from the seats, the interiors of both cars don’t look all that different from their N-Line counterparts. The only major cosmetic difference with the Elantra N is the placement of the Drive mode button which is now next to the shifter rather than the far left portion of the driver display. The Kona N looks identical apart from the light blue N highlights and the extra buttons on the steering wheel (just like the Elantra N).
Exterior Design – The similarities continue on the outside for the Kona N. It looks strikingly similar to the Kona N-Line. It’s around back that sees the most changes with the dual exhaust outlets, a more pronounced diffuser, and a larger roof spoiler.
It’s the Elantra N that looks significantly different from the Elantra N-Line. It has a more pronounced front lip, larger side moldings, dual exhaust tips, rear spoiler, and large 19-inch wheels. Both cars also feature red highlights along the front, side and rear.
Safety – Both vehicles are equipped with a lot of advanced safety and driver aids. These include automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning with lane keep, lane centering system, rear cross traffic alert, rear parking sensors, blind spot sensors, safe exit warning, and auto high beam headlights.
The IIHS gave the Hyundai Elantra a Top Safety Pick with good scores in the crash tests but Good or Poor scores for headlights depending on trim level. Again, this N version has LED headlights.
The Kona on the other hand did not receive a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS but it still fared well in crash tests with Good scores. The blemish comes from an Acceptable score for the structure and safety cage.
Warranty – In Canada, the 2022 Hyundai Kona N and 2022 Hyundai Elantra N are covered by a 5 year / 100,000 km new vehicle and powertrain warranty. In the United States, the basic warranty is 5 years / 60,000 miles and the powertrain warranty is 10 years / 100,000 miles. For more information on Canadian warranty, click here. For USA warranty information, click here.
Conclusion – There is no doubt that both of these vehicles are a big bump in performance over their N-Line counterparts. But in my opinion, it’s the Elantra N that is the better of the two and is a more worthy successor of the Veloster N. The Kona N has too many compromises as a performance CUV. The seats aren’t as nice, the taller driving position feels a bit more unsettling, the back seats are cramped, it doesn’t have an AWD option as other CUVs have, It’s less fuel efficient, it’s not available with a manual transmission, it’s more expensive, and it overall doesn’t drive as well as the Elantra N. So as a performance vehicle, the Hyundai Elantra N is my clear choice. If you want a fun to drive CUV with AWD and all the same bells & whistles as the Kona N, get the Kona N-Line and save yourself a few thousand dollars.
Thank you to Hyundai Canada for providing these vehicles. www.HyundaiCanada.com