Of course you should track your Hyundai Kona N: Member Trips
Hyundai’s N division continues to produce some of the most interesting performance cars on sale today, all the way to the performance crossover Kona N. Today’s featured member ride comes from Nsane In The MembraNe, who enjoyed his Hyundai Kona N. in its intended home : Racetrack, duh.
(Welcome to Member Journeys. This is a weekly feature in which we take a look at the people who have become members of the site through Subscribe here And they part with a little hard-earned dough to keep The Autopian going. Our plan is to do this every week! Today it’s Nsane’s turn as MmbraNe!)
“But wait, isn’t this a sensible family CUV?” You ask. Well, yes, but it’s a Kona N! “N” you fools! It’s there in the name! The N division gets its one-letter name from two things: the Namyang location of Hyundai’s R&D center, and the Nürburgring, one of my favorite race tracks on Earth. You’re playing yourself if you think the Kona N is just for hauling kids and groceries.
After all, we’ve come to expect track-focused hot versions of high-end SUVs like the Porsche Macan GTS, so why shouldn’t Hyundai follow suit? It’s a classic case where a lot of people wonder why, and very few people wonder why. Nsane and I are convinced that the Kona N is the kind of car that is considered holy fodder for the future.
Unfortunately, we’re still waiting to find out if the new 2024 Kona will get another N model, so perhaps speaking with a current Kona N owner will help force Hyundai’s hand. Take it away, you forget me in the membrane!
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the world of cars.
I was born and raised in the DC area and still live here. I am happily married, in love with all four-legged friends, and my other hobbies include sports, music and cooking. I got into cars when I was a kid. It started with my aunt, who had an NA Miata since it was brand new. When I was little, she would let me shift the gears for her, and I actually ended up learning to drive on her in 2020. So, things have come full circle.
One of my uncles also drags races. Last I heard, he still had the monstrous Dodge Dart he’d had since I was a kid. I think it was a 68 Dart, but I could be wrong. He took me to a drag strip when I was about 11 or 12, which obviously blew my mind. I also had another uncle who was a German car enthusiast. He got me several Porsche books when I was about the same age.
Although I wouldn’t call him an enthusiast per se, my father has always owned exotic cars and enjoyed them as well. He had a manual Saab 93 for years and has since moved on to a variety of Jeep Grand Cherokees (shout out to DT) and big Audi sedans, with a few Volvos in between.
Today, I like to spend time on the weekends detailing my Kona N and going on spirited drives on select back roads in the area. My dad and I will get the local cars and coffee together every now and then too. I don’t have a lot of free time these days, but I often like to spend bits of it here with you idiots or watching cars on YouTube. Naturally, my favorites are Regular Car Reviews and SavageGeese, but I also enjoy Throttle House and a weekly dose of Doug DeMuro, who grew up a few miles from me, even though I’ve never met him in person.
So, why did you choose the Kona N?
As commentators know, I more or less ended up in Kona Inn as a compromise. In 2020, I bought a brand new Mk7.5 VW GTI, which has been pretty much the car I’ve wanted since I was a teenager. However, I quickly became frustrated with him. It had serious problems with misfires and other German car phenomena. It also made me more interested in driving actual sports cars, which unfortunately made me like them less.
Shortly after I bought it, I drove a fifth-generation Camaro, learned to drive on my aunt’s NA Miata, and began taking the GTI for serious backroad rips in the middle of nowhere that was, of course, always within the bounds of the law. The combination of the mechanical issues, experiencing more attractive cars, and the fact that VW only lets you drive at a 7.5/10 has me wanting more.
I originally had my sights set on a GR Corolla, but the enormous and expensive headache it would be to get one quickly became apparent. As a result, I checked out the Elantra N on Sunday afternoon to take a look at the competition. I ended up being completely smitten. Between the steering feel, the loud exhaust and engine note (for a 4 bobber), the way the DCT fires off shifts, the quickness, and the mechanical grip (praise the N differential), I was sold.
Then I had a conversation with my wife, who said that her condition for me getting out of the car and into a new car after just two years — which is objectively stupid, financially — was that it had to be a useful package. She said the Elantra N looked small (true, at least until 2024 is here) and asked if they had any other N cars. Naturally, the Veloster was out of the question due to its quirky design, and then it occurred to me… Guess what, babe? There N CUV!
I then had the coveted wife’s blessing and was able to track down one a few weeks later at an MSRP only dealer who also gave me a $500 discount. I drove it, and it ended up being about 95% as good as the Elantra N, and that’s all I wrote. I’ve owned it now for 18 months and 11,000 miles and I’m as happy with it today as I was the day I got the car out.
What are your favorite things about the Kona N so far?
I think what I like most about it is that it can be a regular car when it wants to be. In Normal and Eco driving modes, it operates more or less like a plain old Kona. It has plenty of room. The seats are comfortable. The Harman Kardon sound system is very good. You can eat your road trip miles as you would any traveler as long as you can handle the flight, which is very difficult. There’s no way around that, unfortunately. In the softest mode, it still vibrates a little, its middle mode is for track use or smooth backroad blasts only, and the harshest mode will send you straight to the chiropractor. With a baby on the way, I’m thinking of putting some springs on it which will lighten things up a bit.
However, when you want to drive aggressively, it’s just a click away. I always use my custom mode and set the parameters to suit whatever route I’m taking. Generally, I have the engine, exhaust, and steering in Sport+ mode, the transmission in either Sport or Sport+, and the suspension in Normal or sometimes Sport. It’s absolute terror on the back road. You can also defeat the traction control completely, although I only interfered with it once when I left it in Sport mode. Make no mistake, this car will let you dance.
When I filled out the member travel survey, I mentioned plans to put the Kona N on the track for the first time. How would that go?
I took it to the day of the attack at Dominion Raceway in September, and it was completely torn up. We played for about an hour and there were no problems. The engine didn’t overheat, the brakes didn’t fade, the power delivery was spot on all the time, and it was a threat in the twisties. One of the coaches kept moving her into faster sets and she kept up with the more powerful cars, albeit in a largely controlled environment. After we finished several people came up to ask me about it, because no one thought the goofy-looking crossover had any business there so they couldn’t keep up.
And here’s my favorite thing about a car: no one knows what it is. People more or less ignore it. It’s fairly anonymous, and in its softer settings, it blends in perfectly. It attracts almost no attention at all. But when you press one of the N buttons, he turns into a deranged maniac. I love the damn thing to death and plan to drive it for at least a few more years. I will also be returning to Dominion in the spring for some High Performance Driving Education (HPDE) days where I plan to take my driving path a few steps further. I’m sure it will be great and continue to be a great daily newspaper in the meantime. N cars are something special and I encourage everyone to try them out because the intersection of fun, capability and value is the best it can get.
We love a good sleeper at the factory! Let’s daydream a little, though. What would be in your dream garage?
The Bronco Raptor for stupid capability, the Lexus LC500 for fun, and the BMW M550i as an everyday car split the difference.
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