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There are a lot of us. I daily-ed a MK7.5 GTI for a few years but for some reason it always left me wanting a bit more…they’re fun cars to drive but after a few weeks it just didn’t make me feel much of anything. In my humble opinion they’re too refined for their own good. They’re a good gateway into enthusiast life but after you drive a wider variety of cars they just feel so vanilla.

They sound like vacuums. VW’s systems don’t really allow you to go harder than 8/10. They run out of oomph at about 5,000 RPM…and I found the power delivery to be a bit inconsistent, not to mention the brakes had too much initial bite and the DSG got jerky in traffic. After only about 18 months with it I was ready to move on.

Was planning on a GR Corolla but got bored on a Sunday and decided to go check out the N cars. They absolutely blew me away and offered everything my GTI was missing…they sound mean, the power delivery is butter smooth, the brakes are way more progressive, there’s more steering feedback in the heavier modes, et cetera. You sacrifice a little refinement and ride quality, but who cares. If I wanted something smooth and comfy I’d buy a Lexus.

I originally wanted an Elantra N, but the seats just didn’t work for me. Way, way, way too stiff, and I road trip a fair amount. Plus my fiancée thought the styling was immature and for some reason believes a CUV is somehow exponentially more practical, so I took a Kona N out and the rest is history. I actually think the Elantra N drives a tiny bit better, but the Kona more than makes up for it in comfort and general usability.

Welcome to the Nthusiast family! We’re happy to have ya. It’s interesting to see how many people seem to be moving to the N products these days. I think Hyundai has cooked up something pretty special…that being said, it seems like the Kona N and MK8 GTI are pretty much neck and neck when it comes to speed. The stats say the Kona N is faster, but it seems like actual results vary based on what I see online, if you care about that sort of thing.

I personally don’t…I care about smiles per mile, and there’s nothing under 40-45k or so that can top the N cars. Trust me…I’ve driven a lot of what else is on offer. If you love driving but need a practical package that doesn’t break the bank it doesn’t get much better.
 

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I agree with everything above! I have a friend who has only had Gti's and now he is in the market for an N after seeing mine. He wants to test out the Elantra N but is leaning towards the Kona. Hyundai is making big moves in this segment and plucking away life long VW fanboys such as myself.
My family has owned VAG cars for ages and a GTI was always my attainable dream car…but owning one was just underwhelming. They’re good at most things but not amazing at anything in particular. I got bored of mine quickly and it just left me wanting more edge. The analogy I’ve been using to explain my choice to people is that the GTI is like a buttoned down business casual approach while the Kona N is like wearing a patterned shirt to work. One gets dull to a fault, the other is a way to have more fun without breaking all the rules.

The Elantra N is an amazing drivers car if you can get past the boy racer styling and seats. I personally couldn’t, but different strokes for different folks. There’s a reason they offer multiple N cars now.
 

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Congratulations- picked mine up just a week after you- also Ultra Black! Paid 4% over MSRP :( but did well on the sale of my 2013 Civic Si on Cars & Bids so... pain alleviated a little. We're already calling ours The Batmobile. It's such a blast and I just don't get all the complaints about height and stiffness- this thing is a modern sleeper and the height just helps hide it's true intentions and abilities. And no, I'm not going for lap times at Watkins Glen in it. Would I lower an inch if OEM springs were available? Maybe. Do I love driving a giant-killer that looks like the demon child of a GTi and a CRV? Yes, yes indeed. I did consider briefly the GTI- but the messed up infotainment, VAG maintenance history, and lower performance for the $ turned me off. Only real other consideration was the M240i but $$$$$ and none to test drive anywhere near me... oh and HEAVY... and did I mention $$$$$? So here I am, glad to be part of the N family and happy to be driving a "CUV" named after good coffee and good earth :). My other car is a 2004 Miata- now I go from smiles per gallon to... more smiles per gallon!
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Volkswagen’s poor reputation for reliability has been earned, unfortunately. I had a 2020 GTI S for two years and it wound up in the service bay multiple times for unexpected issues…the biggest of which were misfires. 3-4 times in the first 4000 miles the car would misfire, shut down two cylinders, drive like a dog, and light up the dashboard like a Christmas tree.

I worked with VW service centers 3 different times. The first told me it was essentially a “common bug” (pardon me?) and to simply ignore it. The next time it happened on a road trip and forced me to stop at a VW dealership in another city. They said they couldn’t find the issue, put an additive in the gas tank, and sent me on my way. It then happened again and my local dealership couldn’t find an issue and just changed my oil. Mind you I was using premium the entire time so it’s not like I was dumping garbage fuel in it.

And don’t get me started on the quality of materials (or lack thereof) on that thing. The paint would scratch if you so much as breathed on it. I eventually gave up on getting them buffed out because they’d just start appearing again in a few days. That thing was frustratingly sensitive, and my sister’s Tiguan has similar fit and finish issues. If you so much as look at it funny it’ll be scratched into oblivion.

I’d wanted a GTI since I was a teenager but the actual experience of owning one wound up leaving me wanting more. It seems like the MK8s are two steps forward one step back…they’re way faster (there’s a video on YouTube of one smoking Kona N, but it’s by SamCarLegion and I don’t really trust him/he seems like a total a hole with an agenda) and the styling is less of a snooze fest but that infotainment nonsense is a crime against humanity and would be a dealbreaker for me.

I also considered an M240i and the new Golf R but at the end of the day we couldn’t justify throwing the extra money away when the N cars had everything I really wanted and needed for 10-15 grand less. I have 0 regrets and like my Kona N much more than my GTI and more than the MK7 R as well, which I’ve also driven. The German cars are stat machines but they don’t offer the type of engaging, emotional driving experience that the Ns do unless you have the funds to buy something that’s 60kish or more, which we don’t at the moment.

At the end of the day I want an engaging and entertaining drive. The Ns do that better than just about anything under 50 grand that isn’t a coupe….and I love the DCT options. I enjoy driving stick but I live in the middle of the city and am not willing to put up with a manual when probably half of my driving is in traffic. I know that lots of enthusiasts say that diminishes my credibility, but I don’t care. The IT HAS TO BE A MANUAL OR IT’S INVALID crowd has never had to live with one in a dense area…and the sporty Japanese offerings are all essentially manual or GTFO. If they do offer an auto it’s so bad that it ruins the car…like in the BRZ/GR86 and WRX, and Honda has no interest at all in anything but stick for their Civic variants.

You’re lucky to have a Miata as a second car too! My aunt has a pristine NA that she lets me whip around every couple months. That car is the benchmark for me as far as an engaging drive is concerned. I could never make one work as a daily or really for any purpose other than pure driving joy, but in the future I’d love to buy a nice secondhand NC or ND as a weekend/project car.
 

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My Kona N gets a ton of attention. I assumed no one would know what it is but I was wrong. I brought it out to a cars and coffee a few weeks ago and tons of people (mainly young folks) were checking it out. The other day an employee in the Costco lot walked up and told me he liked my car. I even had a guy driving a truck point at me and snap a picture the other day. I literally never got a single comment about my GTI the entire time I owned it…

The ride is harsh, but that comes with the territory. If you leave your suspension in its softest setting it’s comparable to other performance oriented cars in this segment. N mode is basically unusable anywhere but a freshly paved track, but who cares…just use your custom mode. I’ve found that the sweet spot for having fun with it as a daily is to have the engine and steering in sport +, the suspension in normal (its softest setting), ESC and transmission in sport (sport + means no traction control and the transmission basically holding gears until redline every time), LSD in sport +, and exhaust in sport +. The crackles and pops really only happen after 4,000 RPM, so it’s not hard to avoid them during daily driving if you don’t want them.

Gas mileage is what I expected…if you’re stuck in traffic or hoon the daylights out of it it doesn’t do great. In horrific traffic mine dips to around 15, but nothing does well in my area other than hybrids and EVs because the traffic is some of the worst in the country. When I beat the snot out of it on a backroad for 45 minutes last weekend it managed a little over 18.

On suburban roads I manage about 24 or so, however my car beats its EPA estimates on country roads and highways. I’ve gotten as high as 32-33, and I managed over 30 both ways on a recent 4 hour highway trip and managed over 30 both ways on long drive into a rural area where my family has a vacation property.

Such is life with a performance car. It genuinely doesn’t bother me personally. In my experience almost nothing actually hits EPA city estimates, but I find that most cars will beat their highway numbers without much effort. The Kona N really hasn’t been any different from my GTI when it comes to gas. It just is what it is…if gas mileage is your primary concern then buy a hybrid or EV. No pure ICE performance car is going to blow you away on that front.

I think the people that have voiced displeasure with the Kona N are expecting it to be something it isn’t. It’s a performance car first and a practical car second…not to mention you need to spend the time to really figure out the drive modes and which ones best suit your needs. If you don’t put in that time and expect it to function every day like a RAV 4 or something of course you’ll be disappointed…but that isn’t the car’s purpose.

It’s meant for fun. The fact that it happens to be a hatchback with 5 seats and great headroom is a bonus. If you understand that you’ll love it-I know that I do and most automotive journalists are singing its praises. Really the only negative press I’ve seen is the result of people not understanding the car and its design philosophy.
 
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