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It might sound weird to compare Hyundai’s smallest SUV to a formidable hot hatchback like the Honda Civic Type R, but it makes sense. The 2022 Hyundai Kona N is the model’s sporty trim level and although it’s called an “SUV,” the Kona N is more of a hatchback than a utility vehicle. I have had the pleasure of testing both of these high-strung turbocharged cars, so here is a short real-world comparison between them.

2022 Hyundai Kona N vs Honda Civic Type R: Similar power output

2021 Honda Civic Type R front
2021 Honda Civic Type R | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

I can’t compare these two cars without addressing the power output first. The 2020 Honda Civic Type R that I drove carries a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that puts out 306 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The potent mill sends its power to the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission with a limited-slip differential. If you don’t know how to drive a stick, that’s too bad because this car only comes in three-pedal form.

On the other hand, the 2022 Hyundai Kona N is also powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine. But this engine puts out 276 hp and 289 lb-ft of torque, which is a little less than the Civic. However, two-pedal drivers can rejoice as the Kona N send its power through an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission that’s equipped with an electronic limited-slip differential.

As for driving each car, the Civic Type R felt more exciting behind the wheel as its power delivery picks up quickly and pulls hard up to the redline. The Kona N feels similar, but I noticed that there’s more turbo lag. That’s when the engine hesitates upon accelerating because the turbocharger needs to spool up to make power. Otherwise, both engines feel strong when driving around town and were a lot of fun when driving on canyon roads.

2022 Hyundai Kona N side shot in the mountains
2022 Hyundai Kona N | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

Both cars have the same amount of interior room

2022 Hyundai Kona N's interior
2022 Hyundai Kona N’s interior | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

Considering the Hyundai Kona N is classified as a small SUV, you would think that it has more space than the Civic Type R. However, when comparing the interior dimensions of each car, their dimensions are very similar. Both cars have about 39 inches of headroom and 42 inches of legroom up front, but the Civic actually has a little more legroom in its second row.

To be honest, it’s hard to tell these minute differences in person. But when it comes to interior comfort, I will say that I prefer the Civic’s race-inspired seats over the Kona N’s. They’re better bolstered to hold you well in the corners. However, the suede and leather materials in the Kona N are nicer than the Civic’s. So really, I wish I could mix the two cars.

When it comes to handling, the Civic Type R is the clear winner

2021 Honda Civic Type R rear view
2021 Honda Civic Type R | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

Both of these cars are front-wheel drive, but when you’re in the Civic Type R, you won’t even notice. Honda did its magic when it came to engineering the car’s suspension and wheel setup to the point that it just sticks to the ground when going around turns. The Kona N handles well too, but it understeers more and has a little more body roll. The rear end of the Kona doesn’t rotate as well when going around the turns. So if you like really sporty driving, the Civic Type R is the one to get.

Which car would I pick?

Hands down, I would personally pick the Honda Civic Type R. While the Hyundai Kona N comes close as far as driving thrills, interior comfort, and handling, it still doesn’t beat the visceral feeling I got behind the wheel of the Civic. Although the prices for used Civic Type Rs are crazy right now, so technically, the Kona N could be a better value. But if you want all-out performance, the Civic Type R is the way to go.


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