Hyundai's latest SUV drives well, should be cheap to run
- Should represent great value
- Has Hyundai's latest design language
- A good range of petrol engines
- Another entry in an already crowded market
- Diesels limited to one engine option
- Styling is of the Marmite variety
From launch it will sell alongside the similarly sized ix20 compact MPV, although for how long remains to be seen.
Kona expands the Hyundai range
It’s a fast-growing crossover sector that the Kona’s being launched into. Sized to compete with Nissan’s Juke and the Vauxhall Crossland X, along with the Peugeot 2008 and Renault Captur, there will be rivals from the Volkswagen Group as well as the MG XS over the coming year.
It’s an important car for Hyundai, as it continues a number of new visual themes, introduced in the latest-generation i30 hatchback, albeit with a Citroen-inspired vibe. It rides on a modified version of the i20 hatchback’s platform and is shared with its closely related Kia Stonic cousin.
Option of all-wheel drive and dual-clutch automatic
The Kona comes with a range of turbocharged engines – consisting of 1.0-litre and 1.6-litre petrols and a 1.6-litre diesel in two power outputs. Likely to be the cheapest is the 1.0-litre 120hp petrol, while the most economical should be the lesser diesel engine with 115hp.
Meanwhile, the most powerful – the 177hp 1.6-litre petrol – comes with all-wheel drive and a dual-clutch automatic gearbox as standard and is capable of accelerating to 62mph in a brisk 7.9 seconds – compared with 12.0 seconds for the 1.0-litre.
The 1.0-litre, on the other hand, comes with a six-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive, as does the 115hp diesel, while the 136hp diesel will also be available in automatic, all-wheel drive form when the diesels arrive in mid-2018. An all-electric Kona is also expected to arrive in 2018.
All engines have been tuned for low engine speed punch to make them easy to drive with palatable fuel economy. Expect just above 50mpg for the 1.0-litre petrol and just under 40mpg from the 1.6-litre. Figures for the diesels will be announced closer to them arriving in showrooms.
Channeling its power to the road, the Kona will come with chunky alloy wheels up to 18 inches in diameter for a rugged look. Reasonably high ground clearance of 170mm for the Kona means that you should be less likely to scrape the underside of this Hyundai when negotiating steep, bumpy driveways or heading down rutted campsite roads than with a conventional hatchback.
Kona gets serious outside and in
It looks good on the outside. The slim day-running lights (DRLs) are a new Hyundai feature, neatly house incorporated turn signals and are positioned in a stack, separate to the full-LED headlamps.
At the back, you get a set of LED lamps, with the slim tail lights being supplemented by separate clusters housing the brake lights, indicators and reversing lamps. It’s a similar arrangement to that employed on the Kia Sportage.
It’s de-cluttered inside, with a split-level dashboard that leaves the display monitor appearing to float above it.
It’s a set-up that debuted in the i10 and i30, and which simplifies the way the heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls work. Hyundai has been working hard to perfect the ergonomic experience of its mainstream cars.
What personalisation options are there?
Like the Nissan Juke, the Hyundai Kona will allow you to personalise your car with bright paint colours, contrasting roof tones and zingy interior trim. Buyers can choose from a wide range of hues including lime green and bright orange to help make their car stand out.
On the inside coloured stitching and similarly saturated accents on the steering wheel, around the gearlever and on the seat belts should help you to tailor the Kona to your tastes.
What tech do you get in the Hyundai Kona?
There’s all the safety equipment you’d expect to find in an all-new family SUV. The Kona receives Autonomous Emergency Braking (called Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist here) with pedestrial detection Lane-Keeping Assist (LKA), High-Beam Assist (HBA), and Driver-Attention Warning (DAW).
You also get blindspot assist, cross-traffic alert, and you can fit it with a head-up display – which projects driving information onto the windscreen as you drive – to complement its 5.0-, 7.0- or 8.0-inch infotainment screen, all of which Hyundai says are perfectly visible, no matter how bright things are outside. The 7.0-inch and 8.0-inch units also support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Finally, you can cut down interior clutter further with wireless smartphone charging – although that’s an option (just as well if your mobile doesn’t support it). And audiophiles should appreciate the option of an eight-speaker Krell sound system for better music quality.
Other luxury kit comes in the form of an optional heated steering wheel and electric front seat adjustement plus ventilated seats for greater comfort in hotter temperatures.
How does the Hyundai Kona drive?
We've driven a pre-production car at Hyundai's top-secret test track in Korea, and from the brief run we had, can confirm that for an SUV of this size, it's very good.
So far, we've driven the 1.6-litre petrol in automatic form, which promises a fine combination of speed and economy. Both the engine and transmission are smooth, and there's little sign of the turbo lag at low revs some rival engines experience.
Engine refinement is good but not class-leading, though it settles down well to the legal-limit cruise, ticking over at a long-legged 2,200rpm at 70mph. The gearbox works well, and is smooth in its changes, but if you want to get more life out of it, you’ll have to use the paddle-shifters behind the steering wheel. It’ll be interesting to see how many buyers do, though.
The car we drove was in Korean-spec, which means it's softer than a UK car. But despite that, there's plenty of grip and a comfortable ride. The steering is direct, weighty and although not fizzing with feel, it’s communicative enough to allow you to play in the bends with some confidence.
Of the three driving modes (Sports, Normal and Eco), the latter two don’t appear to do too much, but put it in the former, and the transmission becomes a lot more responsive.
The Parkers Verdict
It's early days but the signs are looking good for the Kona. It’s a neatly designed car that looks great on the road, drives well, and should come packed with kit. It feels like it will be easy to live with in the long term.
It’s roomy inside, packed with thoughtful features, is kitted well, and is actually impressive to drive. Just how good is it? We'll know for sure when we test it more thoroughly, but it does look like it's going to give the established small SUVs a run for their money.