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Dynamic updates drive 2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T N-Line

A sporty engine to purr over

The 2021 Kona 1.6T engine is quite special - now the most powerful 1600 available in South Africa.

By Gordon Hall

N-Line. Ho-hum. Just another GT-, Sport-, S-, M-Line or AMG appearance pack tacked onto an ordinary car to make it look sexier and, possibly, fool the public?

Well, no. When Hyundai facelifted its Kona lineup recently, it dropped the little 1.0-litre turbo-motor and replaced it with a sizzling-hot 1600 T-GDI to join its 2.0-litre, naturally aspirated, Executive car.

The engine is quite special – now the most powerful 1600 available in South Africa. And with power and torque numbers of 145.6 kW (195 bhp) and 265 Nm (195 ft-lb), it puts out similar figures to 3.4-litre Jaguars of times gone by. That makes it far from ordinary, although still nowhere near as potent as the genuine, 2.0-litre, i30 N-car.

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N-Line is a jazzier version of the above mentioned 1.6-litre Executive model. Appearance-wise it has ventilation slits above the grille, LED lights in front, less black padding along the sides and a slightly different rear end. The interior offers model-specific leather seats with electrical adjusters and lumbar support, red stitching and highlights, a 10.25-inch supervision cluster rather than the others’ 4.2-inch screen, electrical parking brake and more safety kit. That includes adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection and collision avoidance, lane keeping aid with departure warning, fatigue detection, forward collision avoidance and rear cross traffic alert with avoidance.

The interior offers model-specific leather seats with electrical adjusters and lumbar support, red stitching and highlights. Pictures: Quickpic

Dimensionally, N-Line is 10mm longer than its sisters and stands 10mm taller with ground clearance 8mm higher. Brakes are as per the previous range but rear suspension now features multi-links. I have no idea how Hyundai did it but luggage volume, under cover, is now rated at just more than 50% bigger than before, although overall length increased by only 40 to 50mm. Rear seat legroom remained the same, as did the fuel tank.

With each change of drive mode; Eco, Normal, Sport and Smart, the virtual instruments change colour. Sport is very red, as expected, but Eco and Normal are in wishy-washy shades of light blue and silver. I think Hyundai should change that. Image, you know.

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Because the seven-speed gearbox is a DCT, there is little sensation of kicking down when applying urgent pressure with the right foot. The gear indicator confirms that something dramatic is happening but the car just goes faster – no thump in the kidneys, like one feels with normal automatics.

Dialling drive mode from Normal to Sport leads to changes in behaviour. Everything becomes more urgent, more responsive, sharper. Dr Hyde morphs into Mr Jekyll, Eve White becomes Eve Black. And N-Line feels almost like N. One could get used to it.

Traction control modifies responses between Normal, Snow, Mud and Sand but don’t be fooled into thinking this car might have all-wheel drive. It doesn’t.

But the ride stays the same in every mode, sporty and firm. Older folk might find it too harsh for modern city streets littered with asphalt patches and potholes, but the end goal is handling, so much is forgiven.

Luggage space: 68cm above ground level, tidily shaped, one bag hook, four lashing rings, a light, small side box and cargo net. Compartmented storage tray under floor. Seats split 60:40 and fold almost flat.

The ride stays the same in every mode, sporty and firm.

Back seat: Adequate head- and foot room for 6’1” passengers. Knee space cramped. Armrest with cup holders, two seatback pockets, second courtesy light, three seatbelts and head restraints, two ISOFix mounting sets, tiny door bins.

As more things change, so do more stay the same. This is still a grand little SUV with greater luxury and performance than you might have anticipated. Just don’t expect it to be cheap.

Test car from Hyundai SA press fleet

The numbers
Price: R579 900
Engine: 1598cc, DOHC 16-valve turbocharged four-cylinder
Power: 145.6kW at 6000rpm
Torque: 265Nm between 1600 and 4500rpm
0 to 100km/h:7.7 seconds
Top speed: 210km/h
Real life fuel consumption: About 8.4 l/100km
Tank: 50 litres
Luggage: 544-1296 litres
Ground clearance: 178mm
Turning circle: 10.6m
Standard tyre size: 235/45R18
Spare: Spacesaver
Towing, braked/unbraked: 1100/750kg
Warranty: 5 years, 150 000km plus additional 2 years, 50 000km on powertrain
Roadside assistance: 7 years, 150 000km
Service plan: 5 years, 75 000km at 15 000km intervals

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