2022 Hyundai Kona N at Lightning Lap 2023
From the February/March 2023 issue of Car and Driver.
Lap Time: 3:06.1
Class: LL1 | Base: $35,495 | As-Tested: $35,495
Power and Weight: 286 hp • 3340 lb • 11.7 lb/hp
Tires: Pirelli P Zero PZ4; 235/40R-19 96Y HN
Hyundai has some explaining to do. Like why it created a tenacious and affordable little crossover that has no peers, one so extreme that its most aggressive N suspension mode is too stiff for VIR, causing us to dial it back to Sport. And yet it came to Lightning Lap packing no extra tires and its rears on the wear bars (with a dealer-inspection sticker calling attention to this fact, no less).
We immediately ordered a new set, and while the old tires were disappointingly slippery, the Kona N's electronically controlled limited-slip differential is so competent at putting down the power out of corners that we had to think twice when someone asked whether the Kona N had all-wheel drive. Slight torque steer is a front-drive tell, but mostly the torque goes cleanly to the pavement, with the dual-clutch automatic doing a stand-up job of being in the right gear at the right time.
The brake pedal got softish, and we bled the brakes after day two, but they never faded alarmingly.
With new tires on day three, the fresh grip erased three seconds of lap time, putting this pugnacious little hatch ahead of the lighter Veloster N and Elantra N, the latter of which didn't get its new tires in time. Embarrassing the GTI by 5.3 seconds and matching the GR Corolla through the esses means this isn't just impressive-for-a-crossover performance. Even better, all the Kona's track-capable hardware is standard, a rarity these days. The Kona's time elevates it to third place in our all-time LL1 results, behind two Camaro 1LEs. It also notably outpaces some headier LL2 entries, including the recent Cadillac CT4-V and Acura TLX Type S. Explanation? Admiration.
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