If the Hyundai Kona N Isn’t an SUV What Is It? Subaru Knows

I’m not sure how to feel about cars like this. On one hand, I know that the Hyundai Kona N will sell like hotcakes. Consumers seem to love a small, fast crossover, as evidenced by the success of the Porsche Macan and Jeep’s surprisingly zippy Trailhawk. On the other, why not have a hot hatchback? Evidently, Hyundai decided to make like Old El Paso and say “Por que no los dos?” In other words, why not both? It’s a common formula, one which recent reviews, and Hyundai, are insisting makes the Kona N not an SUV.

The Kona is versatile, but is it a crossover?

A white Kona EV charging at an auto show
The Kona EV | Raymond Boyd via Getty Images

Presently, Hyundai does a lot with the Kona platform. The brand makes an EV, seen above, or just a standard run-of-the-mill A-to-B car. Or crossover? Or SUV? Frankly, no one is really sure what to call the Hyundai Kona N. I know I’m not. One look at the proportions and you can tell it’s not an SUV. The N is too low, its stance too wide. But what about a crossover? Well, things get somewhat complicated there.

You see, even if the Hyundai Kona N is a crossover legally speaking, which it is, it isn’t one in spirit. The Mercedes-Benz GLA comes to mind. It’s effectively a lifted hatchback, and that’s what the Kona is. I say that because Hyundai took all the drivetrain and special interior bits from the Veloster N and grafted them into the Kona, along with some sportier suspension.

The Hyundai Kona N relies on an old formula

A blue Subaru Forester STi
Subaru has been wise to the game all along | Torque GT

As I’ve said before, that’s not a new idea. Rather, it’s a pretty old one. If you ask me, Subaru got there first. The brand realized that enthusiasts weren’t really buying the Forester. So, it made the Forester STI, effectively an Impreza WRX STI driveline grafted into the Forester, with a few choice suspension bits. Sounding familiar? Clearly, the Hyundai Kona N sits on a plinth constructed from older fast crossovers.

Of course, the most successful of those is the Porsche Macan. The GTS model is in many ways, 911-fast. While the Kona N’s 286 hp makes it no slouch, it can’t hold a candle to the more expensive Mercedes and Porsche equivalents. But the Hyundai Kona N doesn’t need to. The Kona’s added ground clearance gives it some more practicality, but it, unfortunately, lacks an all-wheel-drive variant.

Smaller cars are making a comeback

The rear end of a red Kona N at sunset
The Kona’s rear makes some interesting design choices | Kona

On the surface, it seems a performance version is logical, consumers’ taste for fast SUVs and crossovers aside. The small car market is in a little bit of a renaissance right now. From trucks like Hyundai’s own Santa Cruz to the Ford Ranger and Maverick to the Kona and the GR Yaris, there’s evidently a (potentially small) group of consumers more interested in small cars than SUVs. And I for one, welcome our new small-car overlords.

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