When Hyundai first introduced the Kona back in 2017, it represented a key turning point for the brand. Not only was the CUV Hyundai’s response to the trend of funky looking crossovers, but it was also a massive sales success for the company, and ushered in a new design language for Hyundai’s utility lineup.
Even the best of things deserve an update from time to time, and Hyundai is doing just that for the 2021 model year.
The most significant changes here on the outside, with Hyundai designers completely revamping the look of the bold CUV. The basic shape is still the same, but everything else has been heavily adjusted to help achieve newfound levels of freshness. The front fascia for example retains the split headlight design, but comes with an all new front grille, new intakes, new DRLs, new headlights and even a re-positioned Hyundai badge.
It’s certainly far more expressive than the outgoing model, and it even imparts a higher degree of aggression. The rear fascia benefits from similar updates, with updated taillight graphics, revised lighting elements, and a reworked rear bumper.
This expressionism is turned up a notch in the N-line model which is the first time the sporty themed package has made its way to the Kona. While it’s not the souped up N model that has been spotted in various stages of development, it’s a welcome step in the right direction, and it’s even available on both of the Kona’s engines.
Wider air intakes and body colored wheel arches boldly announce its sporty intentions, while a rear diffuser, package exclusive 18-inch wheels, dual exhaust tips and other minor additions further enhance the performance motif. The N-Line badge stays in the grille, but the leading edge of the hood now sports three distinct nostrils that are sadly meant to be a design statement versus being anything related to functional air intakes.
As mentioned earlier, the N-Line package is available for both the Kona’s engines, but buyers that choose to equip it to the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and the all-wheel drive system will benefit from package exclusive “steering tuning” which could mean a more communicative tiller with less feel sapping boost. The 1.6-liter turbocharged four cylinder in the N-Line variant is the same one used in the Elantra GT N-Line, but power is down slightly, with the engine making 198 horsepower (versus 201) and a 7-speed dual clutch automatic managing the task of shifting through the gears.
While Hyundai’s unveiling focused on the European market, American buyers can expect the same two engine lineup that is already present on our shores, with the 136 horsepower diesel engine and the six speed manual not making the trek to our shores. The smaller 120 horsepower 1.0-liter will most likely not make the trip either in its present form, but that could change if the company decides to offer the Hybrid model for sale in the U.S.
The interior of the Kona has also seen its fair share of updates, with Hyundai designers tweaking the dashboard and the center console. This helps make the cabin appear more spacious and airy, especially with the all new electronic parking brake replacing the old manually operated one. Technology was a driving force behind the original Kona, and that remains true in the new model. An extensive update wouldn’t be complete without more screens, and the CUV now features a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and an optional 10.25-inch infotainment screen. The standard infotainment system doesn’t get left in the cold either, with that system pitching its old 7-inch screen for a bigger 8-inch display.
The 2021 Kona and its N-Line badged sibling will begin arriving in European dealerships towards the end of 2020, with the fuel sipping Kona Hybrid arriving later in 2021. As for the U.S market, we suspect that Hyundai will wait until the middle half of next year to bring the new Kona here, with our first glimpse at it perhaps occurring in the spring auto show season next year. We hope that it won’t be too long of a wait, the U.S. is still a very key battleground for CUVs, and the addition of the N-Line model might please buyers that want a spicier Kona for their driveway.