The transformation from a $25k small SUV to a go-fast soft-roader should be relatively simple with Hyundai’s new Kona.
With the limited edition Iron Man model Hyundai has already teased one potential design theme for a hot shot N version of a car that will arrive in Australia in September, 2017.
Key to the look of the Iron Man Kona are flared wheel arches that house larger wheels and tyres, something that a Kona N would need in its quest for sharper dynamics.
“If we were to do an N then it would have to have bigger wheels and a wider track,” says Hyundai design boss Luc Donckerwolke.
He points to the black plastic “armour” highlights around the wheel arches, something he says allows more design flexibility throughout the Kona’s life.
“We could make the car evolve through the life cycle and do some variations where we paint them in body colour … in contrasting colours,” says Donckerwolke about the black highlights. “This offers a lot of potential.”
Indeed Donckerwolke would love to create Kona N.
“This car definitely has the right base to be an N,” he says enthusiastically. “But this is only pure … design thinking. There is nothing planned. Today there is no N version [of Kona] planned.”
While Donckerwolke says the basic design allows for more freedoms when it comes to modifying things such as suspension geometry, power is also important to future N models.
Currently the Kona’s most powerful engine is the 130kW 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo mated to an all-wheel drive system.
The same engine is available in the Elantra SR and i30 SR making 150kW, making it an easy win to up the output of the Kona.
Such a move could easily create a Kona Sport or Kona SR, if demand was there.
As for an N model, it would likely need a lot more grunt, such as the 200kW-plus 2.0-litre four-cylinder set to debut in the first ever Hyundai N car, the i30 N.
The head of Hyundai N division, former BMW M boss Albert Biermann, loves the prospect of an N SUV.
But he says there’s nothing coming in the short term.
“There is no development yet but we would pretty much know what needs to be done,” says Biermann.
“I would love to [develop an N SUV], but we also have limited resources.”
However, it appears an N SUV – possibly based on the Tucson mid-sizer – is inevitable.
“The whole market is going into SUV … this is where I think where we should be with the high emotional Ns. From an engineering point of view it would be tonnes of fun.”
Kona development director Jonghyuk Yoon fuelled similar speculation.
Speaking through a translator, Yoon all but ruled out a Kona N – at least one based on the current car – while admitting SUVs held plenty of performance potential.
“We believe that higher performance and higher output could be possible [for SUVs], not for Kona but for other models.”
So expect some faster Hyundai SUVs soon.