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First drive: Hyundai Kona diesel. Image by Hyundai.

First drive: Hyundai Kona diesel
Hyundai adds diesel power to the Kona family - but is it really necessary?

   



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Hyundai Kona diesel

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For devoted acolytes of the zero-emissions revolution, Hyundai will offer its previously all-petrol Kona crossover as an Electric variant. For all the people who just want a version with some better economy numbers, without having to plug into the mains, this new diesel variant should do the trick.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Hyundai Kona Premium SE 1.6 CRDi 136 DCT
Pricing: from 24,750 as tested; Kona CRDi starts at 19,750
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: seven-speed DCT dual-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door crossover-SUV
CO2 emissions: 114g/km (VED Band 111-130: 165 in year one, 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 64.2mpg
Top speed: 119mph
0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
Power: 136hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 320Nm at 1,750-2,250rpm
Boot space: 334-1,116 litres

What's this?

A Hyundai Kona with a 'CRDi' epithet. That means it's a diesel, arriving into the contentiously-styled crossover's line-up barely a month or so ahead of the true green saint of the family, the Kona Electric. Nevertheless, while there's a backlash against diesel as a fuel, due to increased public awareness and fears of NOx emissions, it's still strange that the Korean company has not offered a derv-drinking Kona before this point; every other notable B-segment crossover going has a diesel model, for instance.

Thankfully, rather than Hyundai simply using that fine-but-a-bit-old-fashioned 1.7-litre CRDi that's been knocking around for years as the motive power for the Kona diesel, instead it has a brand-new compression-combustion unit on hand. Its codename is 'U3' and it's an up-to-date four-pot common-rail turbodiesel of 1.6 litres in capacity. It comes in two power trims, which are 115- and 136hp, and which one you choose determines your gearbox. Go for the former and you are given a six-speed manual transmission; the high-power CRDi instead benefits from a seven-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT).

With three trim levels (SE, Premium and then Premium SE), that means you've got a choice of six Hyundai Kona CRDi models in all, with the 115hp SE kicking things off at 19,750 and this fully-loaded 136hp DCT Premium SE topping out at 24,750. In context, the cheapest Kona you can buy is 16,450, so the CRDi is midway up the overall product hierarchy - but the diesel is exclusively front-wheel drive, leaving AWD to the 177hp petrol T-GDi model. Other than that, there's no change for the Kona CRDi; it looks exactly like all its stablemates, inside and out. Whether you like the exterior aesthetic or not will probably therefore be the main sticking point (or otherwise) as to whether you select the Hyundai from among the sea of rivals in this hotly-contested class...

How does it drive?

The Kona CRDi drives much like the petrol models, only it's a little more likeable in all respects. Sure, it's not as fast as the 177hp petrol variant, but the 136hp/320Nm diesel is a perfectly muscular motor for this sort of B-segment machine, and it's actually a very refined new powerplant. It's the best diesel Hyundai has served up yet, smooth and free from vibrations, and even keen enough to go spinning right around the rev counter once or twice, with little in the way of acoustic penalties. It also teams up with Hyundai's decent DCT to provide plenty of urge for the crossover, while its eco-stats place it a long way above anything else in the Kona line-up, save for the advanced and expensive Kona Electric.

Better than the performance and smoothness of the 136hp drivetrain, though, was the overall refinement of the car. Maybe it was just our imagination playing tricks on us, or maybe it was those fabled pristine roads of Europe we've heard so much about that were selected for the launch (hint: the routes chosen were actually not that nicely finished...), or maybe - and this is more likely - it was a smaller set of alloy wheels with larger-sidewall tyres on the CRDi than the last Kona we drove, but the ride quality was definitely better on the U3 diesel model. That then allowed us to concentrate on the wind and tyre noise suppression, both of which were admirable (for this class). Thus, overall, it seems the Kona CRDi - while never looking like it was strictly necessary beforehand - has turned out to be a rather useful addition to the crossover's line-up.

Verdict

Diesel may be a fuel that UK buyers are turning their backs on, but the Kona CRDi is probably the best all-rounder of the striking Hyundai's range. In this 136hp DCT guise, it's a polished performer and it's also going to turn in lower running costs than anything else with a combustion engine in the Korean's line-up. It becomes our preferred Kona of the moment, then.

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Exterior Design

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 9 Jul 2018



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