Hyundai's smallest SUV bristles with appeal, especially with electric power
- Bold styling with personalisation options
- Top models have tonnes of kit
- Electric versions have a long range
- Comfortable and satisfying to drive
- High-quality, well-built interior
- Prices high if you want sat-nav
- Coarse and thirsty 1.6-litre petrol
- Love-it-or-hate-it styling
- Tight rear seats and boot
For the time being the Kona slots alongside the similar size ix20 compact MPV, though it boasts far more modern styling and a bolder SUV-style stance.
It also offers customers a much broader choice of powertrains with diesel- and electrically powered Konas joining the range in mid-2018 to complement the existing petrol versions.
Hyundai Kona crossover takes aim at Nissan Juke
It’s a fast-growing crossover sector that the Kona joins. Sized to compete with Nissan’s Juke and the Vauxhall Crossland X, along with the Peugeot 2008 and Renault Captur and the Mazda CX-3, the Kona faces stiff competition.
Another competitor comes in the form of the Kona’s sister model, the Kia Stonic, which shares its petrol engines and lots of other technology under the skin.
Majoring on style, the Kona features controversial styling that some drivers will love and others will hate – like the Nissan Juke, which spearheaded the small crossover sector – in a deliberate move to draw new buyers to the brand. The smoother nose design of the Kona Electric is less polarising.
This is an important car for Hyundai, as it continues a number of new visual themes, introduced in the latest-generation i30 hatchback, albeit with a radical Citroen-esque vibe. It rides on a modified version of the i20 hatchback’s platform which is shared with the closely related Stonic.
Wide range of petrol and diesel engines, plus a dual-clutch automatic option
The Kona comes with a range of turbocharged engines – consisting of 1.0-litre and 1.6-litre petrols plus, as of summer 2018, a 1.6-litre diesel in two power outputs. Cheapest is the 1.0-litre 120hp petrol, while the most economical is 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 comes as standard with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
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.
Channelling 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 a little 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.
Long-range for Hyundai Kona Electric
Closely following the diesel-engined Konas onto the market in mid-2018, the Kona Electric is an entirely different proposition. Superficially, its styling is different inside and out, with a smoother nose and re-profiled bumpers, while the dashboard has been altered to accomodate a high-set centre console, with push-button controls for the transmission in place of a conventional automatic gearlever.
There are two different power and battery capacity versions of the Kona Electric. Entry-point is the 39kWh battery with a 136hp electric motor, with a claimed range of up to 194 miles. More headline-grabbing is the 64kWh Kona Electric paired with a 204hp electric motor - here the claimed range is 300 miles.
Kona gets serious outside and in
It looks striking 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 which come as standard on the top-spec models.
At the back, you get a set of LED lamps on range-topping models, 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 touchscreen media system display 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 allows 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 – although much of it is only available on top-spec models or as an optional extra. The top model receives Autonomous Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and High-Beam Assist (HBA).
Meanwhile Lane-Keeping Assist (LKA) and Driver-Attention Alert (DAA) feature across the range. You also get blindspot detection on the top models along with a head-up display (HUD) – which projects driving information onto the windscreen as you drive – to complement the 8.0-inch infotainment screen fitted to these versions.
Finally, you can cut down interior clutter further with wireless smartphone charging – although that’s only on the priciest trim levels (just as well if your mobile doesn’t support it). And audiophiles should appreciate the eight-speaker Krell sound system fitted to the top half of the range for better music quality.
Other luxury kit comes in the form of a heated steering wheel and electric front seat adjustment plus heated and ventilated seats for greater comfort in extreme temperatures – though again you’ll have to choose one of the range-topping models to get these.
The Parkers Verdict
The Kona is a neatly designed car that looks great on the road – or horrifically ugly depending on your taste – drives well, and comes packed with kit, provided you choose one of the higher specs. This should be an easy car to live with in the long term.
It’s roomy up front, packed with thoughtful features, is kitted well, and is actually impressive to drive.
Impressing us the most is the Kona Electric, particularly in 64kWh guise with its claimed 300-mile range. This car, more than the Nissan Leaf, could be the one that really persuades people to switch to electric power.