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First drive: Hyundai Kona. Image by Hyundai.

First drive: Hyundai Kona
Hyundai joins the rapidly expanding compact crossover class with the distinctive new Kona.


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Hyundai Kona

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Hyundai plans to roll out several new SUVs over the coming years to complement its existing success stories, the Santa Fe and Tucson. First up is the new Kona tested here, competing in the quickly growing 'B-SUV' (or simply, 'compact crossover' to most) segment. It'll go up against the likes of established rivals such as the Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur and Nissan Juke and also have to contend with a pack of new contenders, such as the Citroen C3 Aircross, SEAT Arona and the Hyundai's Kia cousin, the Stonic. Here we test the two initial launch models, powered by turbocharged petrol engines.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Hyundai Kona Premium GT 1.6 T-GDi DCT 4WD
Price: 24,995 on-the-road (Kona starts at 16,195)
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol
Transmission: seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: five-door, five-seat crossover
CO2 emissions: 153g/km (500 first year, 140 for next five years)
Combined economy: 42.2mpg
Top speed: 127mph
0-62mph: 7.9 seconds
Power: 177hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 265Nm at 2,000- to 1,500- to 4,500rpm
Luggage capacity: 334- to 1,116 litres

What's this?

This is the new Hyundai Kona crossover, on sale in the UK on November 2. At launch, buyers can choose from just two powertrain options, both featuring turbocharged petrol engines. The vast majority will go for the 1.0-litre T-GDi model, using a six-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive. This three-cylinder engine produces 120hp and 172Nm of torque and emits 117- or 125g/km, depending on wheel size.

Prices for the 1.0-litre Kona start at 16,195 on-the-road and customers can choose from S, SE, Premium and Premium SE trim levels. The Kona S comes with electric windows all-round, cruise control with speed limiter, DAB radio, Bluetooth telephony, USB and aux-in ports, steering wheel controls, 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning (with rear vents), auto lights with LED tech for the headlights and daytime running lamps. There's a comprehensive suite of safety equipment, too, including Driver Attention Alert, Lane Keeping Assist, Hill Start Assist Control and Downhill Brake Control. The SE, starting at 17,495, is worth upgrading to as it brings 17-inch alloys, roof rails, leather for the steering wheel and gear knob, a seven-inch touchscreen with reversing camera and more.

Reflecting likely low demand for the 1.6-litre model, it will be available in one everything-including-the-kitchen-sink Premium GT specification, for 24,995. This is powered by a four-cylinder turbocharged engine producing 177hp and 265Nm of torque, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and featuring four-wheel drive. It's an on-demand system that can send up to 50 per cent of engine output to the rear axle as needs be. The driver can also lock the system at 50 per cent split at low speeds for really low-grip situations. It's worth noting that cars with this four-wheel-drive system also get a more sophisticated multilink rear axle.

In the UK, there will be nine paint colours to choose from and, depending on trim level, body colour, Phantom Black or Dark Knight for the roof. Again, depending on specification, but also paint hue, the black leather seats contrast with colour highlights (red, silver, orange or lime green) for the stitching, seatbelts and air vents.

Next year, Hyundai will launch diesel and fully-electric versions of the Kona. There will be a new 1.6-litre diesel produced in 115hp and 136hp outputs, but it is not yet known if both will be sold in the UK. The former has a manual gearbox and front-wheel drive, while the latter uses the DCT and 4WD set-up.

How does it drive?

It's such a shame that the four-wheel-drive setup with its multilink rear suspension isn't standard, as it gives the Kona far more impressive driving manners, tackling a particularly challenging and twisty section of mountain road with more relish than you'd expect of a compact crossover. The DCT works well in most situations too and the driver can choose from Eco, Comfort and Sport driving modes. The latter noticeably sharpens up response when you want to use all available performance. And the 1.6-litre engine is a pleasingly powerful thing, although you'll rely on its healthy low-rev torque rather than string it out to the redline, where it can be a little coarse.

Thankfully, some of that brio can be found in the 1.0-litre version, too. Its headline figures may be considerably lower, but its maximum torque is available from just 1,500rpm, which means you don't need to change down too often in reality. The six-speed manual gearbox is fine and the higher gears mean the car cruises in silence on the motorway. If you do extend it beyond 3,000rpm then the characteristic three-cylinder engine note makes itself heard, but not in a particularly intrusive manner.

In general, the Kona is quite refined, with little wind noise. Our test cars did roll on tasty looking 18-inch alloy wheels, which would have added to road noise and reduced comfort, but even so we found it perfectly acceptable at higher speed and over some rougher surfaces. It should be great on smaller wheels. The steering seems to have a little less assistance than a typical city car, for example, but it's well-judged, offering up something to lean against when out on the open road and clean, linear response as you turn into, through and out of a corner.


Don't judge the Hyundai Kona based on photographs - make sure you go and see it for yourself, as it looks far more appealing in real life than most pictures can convey. Saying that, it still has the capacity to strongly divide opinion. The rest of the package is more conventional and, given the glut of new compact crossovers on the market now, there's little to give it a real USP. It's a shame that only the faster version is really good to drive, but the 1.0-litre model is a decent enough all-rounder that'll really suit those based in and around a town or city.

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Exterior Design

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

3 3 3 3 3 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain

Shane O'Donoghue - 17 Oct 2017    - Hyundai road tests
- Hyundai news
- Kona images

2017 Hyundai Kona drive. Image by Hyundai.2017 Hyundai Kona drive. Image by Hyundai.2017 Hyundai Kona drive. Image by Hyundai.2017 Hyundai Kona drive. Image by Hyundai.2017 Hyundai Kona drive. Image by Hyundai.

2017 Hyundai Kona drive. Image by Hyundai.2017 Hyundai Kona drive. Image by Hyundai.2017 Hyundai Kona drive. Image by Hyundai.2017 Hyundai Kona drive. Image by Hyundai.2017 Hyundai Kona drive. Image by Hyundai.


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