The new Kona N – a performance SUV within financial reach. $35,445; that’s the modest price of the Kona N – one of the most unique enthusiast cars on the market today…or shall I say SUV. However you describe the Kona N, this is Hyundai at its nuttiest and I mean that in a good way. The high-performance N story began with the Veloster and has since spread to the Elantra and now the Kona with more to come later this year. Available in white, black, blue or red with a 2.0-liter turbo, 8-speed dual-clutch transmission, a limited slip, electronically controlled shocks and summer-use Pirelli rubber, the Kona N is a front-wheel drive hooligan. With 276 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque delivered more linearly via what Hyundai dubs “Flat Power” technology, this is a torque-steering, exhaust-popping, rigid ride with fun technology built-in. Names like Grin Shift, Grin Control and Corner Carving Differential intertwine with N Mode infotainment creating a video-game-like atmosphere. There’s launch control, all sorts of ways to measure and monitor your performance and even built-in racetrack layouts with lap timers. This Kona is a hoot. It’s super stiff and gives you the feeling that you’re driving a rally car. Short for N Grin Shift, when you press this button it’s like inserting a sugar IV needle into a kid’s arm; 20 seconds of over-boosted turbo and the most aggressive shifting available when rapid acceleration is required. Kudos to Hyundai for producing something this crazy that isn’t so over the top that it’s completely impractical. This one’s for the driver who craves automotive personality.
2022 HYUNDAI KONA ELECTRIC TEST DRIVE
The Kona Electric advertises a 258 mile driving range and offers 3 levels of charging – the quickest of which takes less than an hour if you drain the battery all the way to zero – an unlikely scenario so in most cases it takes about 30 minutes to reach an 80% charge…just enough time to go shopping. And even then, fast charging at Electrify America stations is free for 3 years. I plug my Kona into a standard outlet in my garage and for me an overnight charge typically brings me back to 100%. The most notable change this year is the Tesla-inspired, smooth front end with slimmer headlights. I think Teslas are the ugliest cars ever produced so this is not a selling point to me but I kind of like the deletion of the SUV-like, gray body cladding. It’s now all body color and it classes the car up. Hyundai really loads up this Limited trim so you get all of the safety features, the best infotainment and high-end convenience features like a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated seats, and 3 years of BlueLink telematics which includes a great app for connecting with and controlling your Kona. There’s even a height adjustable passenger seat. Available in SEL and Limited trims with a starting MSRP of $35,185 the Kona Electric does qualify for the full $7,500 federal tax credit but this model – like many others – are currently pretty scarce so pricing may vary. Much like we had to convince my grandmother back in the 80s that a microwave oven was something she would enjoy – and in short time very much did – driving an electric car is similar in that once you experience it there’s no looking back.
So you’re drawn to this new design – what Hyundai calls Parametric Dynamics – and now the all-new 2022 Tucson is on your shopping list. But which one do you choose? The gas model? Sporty N Line? How about a plug-in? Or perhaps this new Hybrid is right for you which even comes standard with all-wheel drive.
Hyundai sells more Tucsons than any other model and it’s not even close. So it’s no wonder they’re expanding its offerings with a variant for everyone. And this week I’m getting to know the gas-electric hybrid Tucson without the plug with a starting MSRP of $30,275 including destination. It’s available in 3 trim levels and as usual I’ve got the top-of-the-line model called the Limited. That gets you exclusive standard features such as premium exterior design details like these funky daytime running lights integrated into the grille, a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated leather seats with driver’s side memory, an 8-way power passenger seat, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, the larger touchscreen with navigation, capacitive touch HVAC controls which can also be summoned with voice commands, smart park that allows you to use the key fob to pull the Tucson into and out of tight parking spots, wireless device charging, expanded ambient interior lighting and a host of driver assistance features including an around view monitor and blind view monitor a la Honda but better. That’s a lot of stuff to entice the Tucson Hybrid shopper into the Limited which stickers here for $38,854 with the only option being the floor mats. If you can embrace the polarizing design, the Tucson, in all of its various flavors, makes a compelling argument for purchase.
A truck/SUV crossover with decidedly car-like cabin, similar in length to Hyundai’s Palisade 3-row SUV and it’s a curiosity worth exploring.
I’ve always been supportive of car companies who dare to do something different. And when I think back to some of the most memorable cars I’ve tested names like Baja and Avalanche come to mind. Which leads me to this new pickup truck/SUV called the Santa Cruz. I fell in love with it when I first saw it in concept form years ago but unlike most automakers who keep their experiments in the design lab Hyundai has the guts to actually bring this one to market. And it’s a curiosity worth exploring.
The Santa Cruz drives like a car. It’s nimble, peppy, quiet, comfortable – an anti-truck, if you will. The turbo is really strong; it rides very comfortably and drives with an unexpected purpose. And with 8.6” of ground clearance, solid Michelin light truck tires and a switch to lock in the traction of all 4 wheels, the Santa Cruz has the advantage of a full-time all-wheel drive system and not part time like some other small trucks. I’m just surprised Hyundai didn’t include an off-road mode in addition to the snow setting.
Whether you want a traditional gas engine, a 54mpg hybrid or a turbo with a 6-speed, the new Elantra has got it covered. With spacious passenger volume and a trunk that’s bigger than that of a Mercedes S-Class, this is an affordable, frugal, do it all kind of sedan that Hyundai decided needed edgier styling. And boy did they deliver on that front. Now, I’m not sure it’s going to age very gracefully because the body is so overly styled with crazy creases and a very prominent grille, but if you’re allergic to boring in the inexpensive, not-so compact car segment this is your cure. Much like Hyundai did with the new Sonata, they’ve reversed course on reigning in the design and instead opted to make a visual splash and that it most certainly does. For $26,000, you are not going to beat what this Elantra Limited is offering. It’s highly stylized, pleasing to drive and packed with high-end features and top notch infotainment. And because this system is fed information from the cloud you’re navigation is always up to date and the Blue Link system can answer common questions through speech much like you would ask Siri. When is Mother’s Day? But for times when you’re using the Smart Card you have to place in down here on the wireless charger in order for it to start the car. And this area down here is kind of congested already because you still have to use your Lightning Cable on this particular model so the ergonomics get a little muddy.
At night, the ambient light choices add a dash of Mercedes to your sub-$30,000 car – another reason you might want the Limited. Loaded with advanced safety features and creature comforts – though no heated steering wheel, this is the kind of car that would have cost $40,000 not long ago. Now, you can lease this exact car for $212 per month. Pretty impressive but it has 2 things working against it: 1) it’s not an SUV and 2) it’s not electric so the Elantra’s relevance is waning.