What is it?
It’s a wonderfully styled small SUV from Hyundai that’s set to compete against the SEAT Arona, Nissan Juke, Kia Stonic, Mazda CX-3 and so on. I say ‘wonderfully styled’ and of course that’s just my opinion, though I’m sure others will disagree. You see, it could argue that because Hyundai are a little late to the game in this hugely popular segment, that they had to stand out with a bold design, which they have.
On the road
The 1.6ltr turbo petrol comes with a different rear suspension set up than the rest of the range, others get a torsion beam whilst this has multi link. Sadly I haven’t driven any of the others so I can’t offer a comparison, but I will say that this model handles great on twisty roads, through towns and on long motorway hauls. Of course on the twisty bits the AWD helps, especially when things are a tad damp. As I’ll get to later when I look at spec’s, it’s only the top of the range Kona that gets AWD, the rest are FWD.
Glancing through the spec sheet, Hyundai have something called Traction Cornering Control for the AWD T-GDi. This prevents understeer and improves its agility and stability by controlling both traction and damping while accelerating through a corner, apparently.
With 175bhp on tap, bung it into ‘sport’ mode and it’s quite a feisty car that’ll do 0-60mph 7.9 seconds. Fuel consumption was a little disappointing mind, around town it was achieving 25mpg, and on a 200 mile motorway trek during which I averaged between 50-70mph, the best it achieved was 31.5mpg, according to its onboard computer.
Ok, it isn’t an off-roader in the traditional sense, though, apart from its lowish front bib, departure and ground clearances aren’t too bad, and it handled some mild green lanes easily enough.
The AWD system works like most others in that it transfers up to 50% of torque to the rear wheels when necessary increasing traction on snow and gravel. and also increases mechanical grip to enhance cornering performance on asphalt. For trickier bits, to enhance grip on challenging road surfaces, you can manually lock the centre differential for a torque distribution of 50/50 up to a speed of 25mph.
Whilst down in Banbury for another event I found a lovely green-lane, it was quite wide in places, and grassy. We’d had a downpour the night before, so I had every 4x4’s nemesis - wet grass. On the incline the Kona struggled a little bit to find grip, but after pressing the ‘4x4 lock’ button that sits beside the gearstick, the Kona proved capable and even found enough grip to claw itself out of a set 10” deep muddy ruts, which I thought was impressive.
Other lanes and obstacles proved just another day in the office for the Kona, a few technical rocky lanes proved insignificant, as did my usual 3-wheel balancing act.
It’s a shame that the interior doesn’t match its external funky looks as I found the cabin of the Kona a little dull, a bit of colour here ’n’ there would’ve been nice. Having said that, you can specify contrasting trim pieces for around the air vents, gear lever and so on which would lighten things up a little, but the press car was ordered with a grey trim, so it was dull and uninspiring. At night all the buttons, switches and dials are illuminated with blue highlights which liven things up a little, quite funky really.
Like a lot of cars these days, the Kona has what looks like a stuck on infotainment screen which bugs me a little. It always makes me think that the designers are lazy and can’t be bothered to design a proper dash, maybe it’s just me. Anyway, as is the fashion nowadays, the infotainment screen comes in either 5, 7 or 8”, depending on spec.
Another little bug-bear is that it only has only has one USB slot up front, not very practical, is it Hyundai? Though you do get a wireless charging pad, which is no good if everyone has iPhone 6s’.
The front seats are very comfortable, and after an monotonous 3 hour drive I felt great. To sing their praises, they’re not only heated, like the steering wheel, but they’re cooling too, and worked really well, especially on my lower back. If I was giving out stars for seats they’d receive 5 out of 5!
Although the rear seats are comfy enough, if you and your passengers are over 6 feet tall, rear leg room is lacking, so prepare for them to moan.
The boot is a good size and swallowed up a load of BBQ’s, camping chairs and a table without the need to fold the back seats down. Dimensionally you get 334ltrs with the seats up, and 1,116ltrs with them folded flat.
Amongst other niceties, the Premium GT has Autonomous Emergency Braking with pedestrian recognition, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera and a head-up display.
Engines ’n’ transmissions
You have a choice of three power plants, 2 petrol and a diesel.
Petrol (manual) 2WD
1.0ltr; 120ps - 51.4mpg combined - 112mph - 0-60mph in 12 seconds - C02 = 124 g/km
Petrol (7-speed DCT) AWD
1.6ltr; 120ps - 40.4mpg combined - 127mph - 0-60mph in 7.9 seconds - C02 = 158 g/km
Diesel (manual) 2WD
1.6ltr; 115ps - 67.3mpg combined - 115mph - 0-60mph in 10.7 seconds - C02 = 111 g/km
Diesel (7-speed DCT) 2WD
1.0ltr; 136ps - 64.2mpg combined - 119mph - 0-60mph in 10.2 seconds - C02 = 114 g/km
Any dislikes? Not many, apart from the poor fuel consumption, the other bit that narks me isn’t necessarily Hyundai specific. For example, like a lot of other makes, the Stop/Start system is pretty useless as it doesn’t really work that well. Pull up to a set of traffic lights and the engines dies, that’s cool, but put the handbrake on, and take your foot off the brake, and it starts again! Unless you’re ‘one of those’ drivers who sits quite happily at lights with your foot on the brake pedal blinding everyone behind you, then I guess it works fine.
Other than that, I really enjoyed the Kona, it was fun and funky with heaps of practicality thrown in. The AWD system worked a treat, though it’s a shame that it’s only available on the premium model and surprising it’s not on the diesel.
Price: from £16,900 - £25,445