The compact SUV scene has become very crowded, very quickly. Standing out from your neighbour is critical - as the popular Nissan Juke proves - and that is exactly what Hyundai hopes to achieve with the Kona. Meet one of the most polarising cars on sale today, which must take on competition not only from the Juke, but also from the Kia Stonic, VW T-Roc, Seat Arona, Citroen C3 Aircross and more.
|Bodystyle: Compact SUV||Seats: 5||Price: From £16,445-£26,230|
Did you know? The Hyundai Kona is designed by the same man behind the handsome Kia Stinger and the already-iconic Mk1 Audi TT, Peter Schreyer.
It’s a brave move from Hyundai to make the Kona so unique-looking when compared with the rather anonymous shapes of its rivals — we’re looking at you Honda HR-V. Love it or hate it, the Korean brand deserves some recognition for daring to be different. The same goes for the car’s colour pallet and customisation options.
At this point in time the Kona is hindered by a choice of just two engines, one of which is too costly to justify. However, this SUV has the ingredients to do very well with the addition of diesel and electric power in the near future.
It might not be the most refined or practical SUV, but in a segment that’s all about making a statement, some might see it as a worthwhile sacrifice for the Kona’s individuality.
Daring to be different
Good standard equipment
We Don't Like
Limited range of engines
Boot is on the small side
The automotive landscape is littered with Marmite cars such as the challenging Honda Civic — the Kona joins that list. It’s unconventional design will split opinion, but that’s exactly what Hyundai was going for. Better to offer something that people will talk about than forget.
The Kona’s compact proportions are packed with design elements to give this small SUV a more dynamic and rugged look. An excess of plastic cladding, faux air intake, roof rails and distinctive daytime running lights will grab people’s attention. It looks very different from everything else in the Hyundai lineup, signifying the brands desire to appeal to a younger audience.
Something else that makes the Kona stand out from the crowd is its vibrant colour pallet and two-tone paint options. Fancy an Acid Yellow car with a contrasting roof? Here you go.
Regardless of what you think of the Kona’s looks, it’s certainly more attention grabbing than a Seat Arona. Its key rival in this department is the funky Citron C3 Aircross.
The interior, dependent on options, pulls in some of the vivid colours from the exterior. You can have red, orange or green seatbelts and dashboard trim to inject some character into the cabin. Glossy plastics and textured materials add a bit more intrigue, but there are some less desirable hard plastics to be found too.
All but entry-level cars get a touchscreen infotainment display that’ll be familiar to anyone who’s driven a recent Hyundai or Kia. There’s still plenty of switchgear on the centre console for things like air-conditioning, a blessing for those who aren’t a fan of using touchscreen controls while driving. You’ll also find a cluster of logically placed buttons on the steering wheel, which give you control over most things without needing to take your hands from the wheel.
The Kona’s seats are supportive enough and have plenty of adjustment for all shapes and sizes, and are comfortable on long journeys thanks to adjustable lumbar support on every trim except the most basic S grade cars.
Despite being a small car – actually about the same size as a Ford Focus - families will still demand plenty of practicality from a compact SUV. Hyundai addresses this with lots of cubby-holes and storage areas dotted around the Kona’s cabin. Decent sized door bins in the front are great for filling with day-to-day gubbins, although the rear doorbins are considerably smaller.
The rear bench offers seating for three, although three would indeed be a crowd in a Kona. The outermost seats are fine for those of average height, but taller occupants will likely want more leg room and the middle passenger will have to straddle a hump in the floor. For children, the rear quarters are perfectly fine but rivals such as the Seat Arona and Citroen C3 Aircross are more practical.
It’s a similar story with the boot’s 334-litres being adequate, but smaller than a Kia Stonic, C3 Aircross and Arona. Folding the rear seats flat presents a flat load area for sliding cargo in. While the boot lip can be a pain when loading heavy bags, the Kona is redeemed by four good lashing rings to stop things from rolling about.
The Hyundai Kona comes with good levels of tech, even in its most basic form. All cars receive USB ports, DAB radio and cruise control without you having to spend a penny.
SE trim and up gets a 7-inch touchscreen which is pretty easy to use thanks to simple menus and large icons. The graphics on this system look a bit dated, but it’s certainly more ergonomically sound than many rivals. In this trim the screen also includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but lacks satellite navigation. For that you’ll need mid-spec Premium which also features a larger 8-inch display, automatic wipers and an eight speaker audio system.
Higher in the range there's luxuries such as a heated steering wheel and a heads-up display.
At this point in time your engine choices are limited to a pair of petrol units, although a diesel and even an all-electric Kona are on the way.
A punchy turbocharged 1.0-litre leads the charge proving to be the ideal choice for those who spend most of their time in town. After an initial moment of lag, the turbo delivers enough torque to take advantage of gaps in the traffic and enthusiastically thrums away under load. It will happily do the occasional motorway run, but those who regularly trawl the M25 might want to wait for the diesel.
You can only have this engine with a manual transmission and front wheel-drive, which is all that most people want or need. If you do want your Kona to power all four of its wheels, or feature an automatic gearbox, you’ll need to step-up to the larger 1.6 petrol engine.
The 1.6-litre churns out 175bhp and noticeably more torque than the 1.0-litre. Its increase in performance means that it will do 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds, some four seconds faster than the base engine. While the smaller engine can hold its own on the motorway, this model is more confident when overtaking and feels at ease when cruising.
A dual clutch automatic gearbox delivers smooth transitions with changes only really noticeable at low speeds, but the big drivetrain news on this model is all-wheel drive. Kona is one of very few compact SUVs to offer AWD, and while it’s no Land Rover Defender, hill descent control and a locking differential does give it some off roading credentials. The catch? This 1.6 can only be had on the top trim levels starting at over £25k. That’s a lot of money for a small car like this.
Handling and comfort
SUVs don’t usually lend themselves to being thrown about due to their increased ride height, but the Kona bucks that trend. It doesn’t lurch though corners and remains composed even through quick changes of direction.
Unlike many rivals that have overly light steering, Hyundai has given the Kona’s steering a bit of heft. The added weight allows you to be more precise with initial turn-in and teamed with good body control, it actually feels pretty nimble. However, a lack of feel through the wheel disconnects you from the road leading to a slightly uninspiring drive overall. A Seat Arona does a better job in this department.
The Kona’s ride comfort is very spec-dependent as larger alloy wheels make an already firm ride brittle — this is the trade for a lack of body roll. The mid-range17-inch alloys are your best compromise for style vs refinement, but still tend to thump into road imperfections.
All-wheel drive cars benefit from added traction delivering a sure-footed drive, so you’ll be able to get the kids to school even in harsh weather.
Engine choice: 1.0T GDi
The Hyundai Kona scored the full five stars in Euro NCAP crash testing and is amongst the best in its class for child occupant protection.
Standard safety equipment is good, with all models receiving a host of airbags including curtains for side impacts, although there’s no driver’s knee airbag. driver attention alert and lane keep assist to prevent you from drifting out of your lane. Automatic Emergency Braking with pedestrian recognition comes standard on Premium GT models, but is available as a £235 option for the rest of the range – a shame, since some rivals have AEB as standard across the range. There’s also two pairs of Isofix points in the back for child seats.
Premium SE cars and up benefit from added safety tech including cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring.
You can have a Kona in nine different colours that vary between Lake Silver and Acid Yellow. Odds are that someone buying a Kona doesn’t mind the attention that comes with such an eye-catching design, so the “vivid” paint options might be of more interest. All paint except for standard Galactic Grey and Velvet Dune cost £565, however, if you want a contrasting roof and interior trim it’s £985 and only available on Premium models and up.
The Hyundai Kona is available in five different trims, but comes with good equipment levels even in the most basic S cars. 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, automatic lights, DAB radio and cruise control are yours at no cost.
SE adds some style and technology with 17-inch alloy wheels as well as a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In addition to rear parking sensors, SE also gets a reversing camera. This trim is arguable the best value, even if it does lack navigation. You could always take advantage of CarPlay or Android Auto to get to your destination.
Premium upgrades the touchscreen infotainment system to 8-inches, but more importantly adds satellite navigation. Climate control, rain sensing wipers, keyless entry, premium sound system and 18-inch alloy wheels makes it a worthwhile upgrade over SE.
Premium SE delivers some added safety equipment like blind spot monitoring, a heads up display, or the particularly useful cross traffic alert system.
Premium GT is the only way to get all-wheel drive and the 1.6-litre engine. It does include the safety pack with automatic emergency braking and LED lights.
Overall, the Kona packs plenty of toys for the cash, but the Seat Arona is very close, and trades blows in terms of value for money.
Size and Dimensions
Until the diesel and all-electric Kona arrive, buyers can pick from a pair of petrol engines, a 1.0-litre front-wheel drive car or 1.6-litre with all-wheel drive.
Looking at fuel economy, the smaller three cylinder 1.0-litre wins out claiming just over 52mpg vs the 42mpg of its larger sibling. Although those are manufacturer figures, in the real world we averaged around 39mpg in the 1.0-litre. Much of that difference comes down to the 1.6 weighing up to 170kg more thanks to its all-wheel drive system.
Kona’s 1.0-litre engine is competitive on combined economy, just off the Citroen C3 Aicross’ 55mpg and chasing the Seat Arona’s 57mpg.
The Seat Arona, Citroen C3 Aircross and Kia Stonic aren’t offered with all-wheel drive and so their larger capacity engines produce better fuel economy — especially when looking at diesel engines of which the Kona currently lacks. A C3 Aircross claims over 70mpg combined with its BlueHDi diesel for example.
Reliability and servicing
Hyundai did pretty well in recent J.D. Power reliability surveys and bests competitors such as Citroen, but sits just below Seat and Kia.
Warranty cover from Hyundai is impressive and only bettered by Kia. Every Kona comes with a five-year unlimited mileage warranty to give you peace of mind.
Servicing is available as a plan via Hyundai Sense. Two years of servicing comes in a £249 with three years costing £499 for petrol models. You can go all the way up to five years plus MOTs and spread the cost monthly.
The Kona is competitively priced amongst most of its rivals except for the £1k cheaper, and unfathomably popular Nissan Juke. Pricing for the Konda starts at less than £17k which makes it virtually on a par with the Seat Arona and Kia Stonic.
The Hyundai’s Achilles heel is the all-wheel drive 1.6-litre engine as it starts at over £25k. While most rivals don’t offer all-wheel drive, the price hike is very hard to justify.
Using Hyundai’s online ordering service Rockar you can get a Kona SE for just over £190 a month with a £2k deposit. That undercuts the equivalent Arona by about £35 or a Stonic by £65 a month.
Company car buyers looking at a Hyundai Kona will find a 2018/19 BIK rate of 24% for the 1.0-litre and 31% for the all-wheel drive 1.6-litre model. On 20% tax that’s about £67 or £128 a month respectively. The reason for the huge disparity is because you can only have the larger engine in the most costly trim level.
Premium SE comes with plenty of toys including a head up display.
SE trim is good value and well equipped for its price. A touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto substitutes a lack of sat-nav.
Premium GT comes with heat and cooled, leather and all of the tech from lesser models. However, your only engine choice is a 1.6-litre petrol.
Good value and arguably the best compact SUV out there at the moment.
Funky SUV with plenty of customisation options. Spacious too.
Exceptional 7 year warranty, but not particularly engaging to drive.
Challenging looks and not the best to drive in this class. It’s popularity suggests people don’t really care what we think.