Some cars are built to be practical, some to be economical and then there are the cars that are just built to be FUN. The N range from Hyundai very definitely falls into the last category.

N stands for Namyang, the Hyundai R & D Division in Korea. It also stands for Nurbergring, the famous track in Germany where the cars are tested and honed. The WRC (World Rally Championship) is where they've been proven.

With this pedigree behind them, the latest i30N hatch and new Kona N Crossover/ Suv's have arrived in SA. To prove the fun factor again, search and find the button on the steering wheel with the legend "NGS". In some languages, this is a form of overboost button. In Hyundai speak it translates as N division Grin System and BOY does it work. One prod provides instant overboost and rocket acceleration for 20 seconds with a bright red countdown in front of the driver.

I used the NGS button on the road section for overtaking and it’s instantaneous and honestly does induce a manic grin and cackle from the driver.

The new cars are not 1 trick ponies though. The 2L turbo engine blasts out 206kW and 392Nm to the front wheels through an 8 speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. It has the obvious Eco, normal and sport modes, accessed by blue buttons at the bottom left of the steering wheel. Another similar button at bottom right goes straight to N mode. BUT....this mode can be fully customised. Engine, gearshifts, exhaust, suspension and more can be set to the drivers choice of combinations with 3 levels available for each. There are also 3 memory settings for the owner to save his preferences.

The launch activity included both track and road sessions. For the track there is even a special setting for the gearbox where it is optimised electronically and you can get on with keeping the car on track and setting the fastest lap times. The electronic limited slip diff and various other suspension and handling tweaks ensure that this can take it all on the track.

Naturally, the i30 is more suited to the track with it's lower body and ride height but the Kona still surprised on the track.

Out on the road, with most settings at the highest and suspension on its softest setting, cruising is easy and smooth. In this mode, the gearbox shifts seamlessly and smoothly yet progress is still swifter than many cars over Franschhoek Pass.

Both versions add many luxury and safety items to the mix. Lane keep assist gently pulls the car back into line when needed. Kona has active cruise control where i30N has normal and Kona N has a heads-up display.

 At the end of the day, the i30 is definitely the more focused performance monster with the Kona being more comfort and family orientated yet boasting the same manic prowess if the mood captures you.

Both versions are currently priced at R749 900 including a 5 year/ 75 000km service plan and 7 year/ 200 000km warranty.

Alan Rosenmeyer: MotorMatters.co.za