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First drive: Hyundai Kona. Image by Hyundai.

First drive: Hyundai Kona
Hyundai brings us a second-gen Kona that looks like a robot from a sci-fi epic. Itís also brilliantly refined to drive, too.

   



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Hyundai Kona Electric and 1.0 T-GDi

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Hyundai has cooked up its new, second-generation Kona, which was initially developed as an electric vehicle (EV), and then blessed with petrol and hybrid drivetrains after. The Korean company is clearly placing the emphasis on the Electric model, therefore, as the standard-bearer of the Mk2 Kona range, but we've driven both that car and the version at the other end of the line-up to see how this compact crossover shapes up in a marketplace awash with a host of talented rivals.

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 Hyundai Kona Electric Ultimate + Lux Pack
Price: Kona range from £25,725, Kona Electric Ultimate £44,595 as test (inc. £1,500 Lux Pack)
Motor: 160kW front-mounted electric motor
Battery: 65.4kWh lithium-ion
Transmission: single-speed reduction-gear automatic, front-wheel drive
Power: 218hp
Torque: 255Nm
Emissions: 0g/km
Economy: 4.3 miles/kWh
Range: 282 miles (19-inch wheels)
0-62mph: 7.8 seconds
Top speed: 107mph
Boot space: 466 litres rear seats up, 1,300 litres rear seats down, 27 litres front boot

Model: 2024 Hyundai Kona 1.0 T-GDi Advance manual
Price: Kona range from £25,725 for 1.0 T-GDi Advance as tested
Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power: 120hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 172Nm at 1,500-4,000rpm
Emissions: 131g/km
Economy: 48.7mpg
0-62mph: 11.8 seconds
Top speed: 112mph
Boot space: 466 litres rear seats up, 1,300 litres rear seats down

Styling

The previous Hyundai Kona was, shall we say, aesthetically idiosyncratic? In that many people liked it for being unconventional in design, yet others thought it was something of a stylistic mess. The new one is probably going to split opinion in just the same way, but to these eyes it's magnificent, and bold, and daring, and unlike any of the other bar-of-soap designs in this class.

The defining feature of the Kona Mk2 is its 'seamless horizon lamps', thin strips of illumination running coast-to-coast on both the front and back of the car. This alone would give the Kona a strong 'futurism' vibe, were it not for detailed flanks sporting a big diagonal crease on them, and other neat details like the way the upper and lower window lines cross over one another on the C-pillar, also echoing the cut of the rear windscreen into the boot. Many will also prefer the cleaner appearance of the Electric Kona, which does away with much of the black lower-body plastic cladding you get on the petrol models, but either way we think the Kona is a real winner for kerb appeal.

Beyond the car's basic form, Sporty N Line and N Line S specifications are also available, for more of a racy vibe, while every base Advance-spec Kona is fitted with 17-inch alloys. All the other grades of petrol and hybrid versions gain 18s, while the Electric cars have 19s on N Line, N Line S and Ultimate. That detail will become relevant later...

Interior

If you're fearing all the development budget for the Kona went on the exterior, think again. We'll start with the minor negative: some of the plastics can, in places, feel carefully built down to a cost. We're talking specifically on the lower expanses of the dashboard and centre console, as well as for the tops of the door cards, but otherwise Hyundai has been quite canny in ensuring the main touchpoints all feel, and operate in the case of switchgear, with a high-quality flourish.

Also, you're probably eyeing up the twin 12.3-inch digital displays in the cabin and thinking they'll be reserved for the highest-spec, most expensive models - but that's not the case either. Every version gets this widescreen human-machine interface, and it not only looks super-high-tech but it works rather brilliantly too. There are then an array of physical buttons below the central infotainment display, as well as an actual climate control panel that's easy to use, while the design of the dash is interesting with strips housing the air vents. On the steering wheel is the same four-dot Morse code for the letter 'H', like you'd find in an Ioniq 5 or 6, and the general ambience inside the Kona Electric is in advance of pretty much any other B-segment crossover you could mention.

So presumably the petrol's cabin feels cut-price in comparison? Well, no, because - as we said above - you still get the twin screens and the attractive architecture. Sure, there are a few more blanking buttons in places, while the big change is clearly the with the gearlever. In the Electric, it's the same column-mounted 'rotate-to-select' shifter you'd find in the latest Ioniqs, whereas the 1.0-litre T-GDi makes do with a trad H-pattern six-speeder precisely where you'd expect to find it, and that necessitates a different layout of the area at the bottom of the centre stack. Apart from that, and perhaps a plainer cloth upholstery for the seats (which is by no means disagreeable), the interior of the petrol Kona is just as impressive as the one found in the high-end zero-emissions model.

Practicality

The good news doesn't stop inside with just the visual and tactile delights, because the Hyundai Kona has grown in size on the outside in every dimension, and that means the cabin is far more capacious than it was on the Mk1. This is possible because the Bayon now exists, allowing the Kona to physically expand, if maybe not doing the same too much when it comes to price (more on that later). Anyway, the most eye-catching stat is that there's 77mm more legroom in the back of the Kona than there was before, which translates into rear-row seating which is genuinely capable of carrying two tall adults in comfort for long distances. There's also a boot which has increased by 40 per cent in stark capacity terms, from 332 litres previously to a relatively whopping (for the class) 466 litres. The best news is, you get the same boot space in all the models of the Kona, whether they're petrol, hybrid or electric - there's no loss of practicality if you decide you want a more eco-conscious drivetrain here.

Performance

Hyundai is kicking off the Kona Mk2's life with two turbocharged petrols, one petrol-electric hybrid and then the full electric vehicle (EV). Both the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder T-GDi and its bigger 1.6-litre, four-pot brother are available with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT), with the former delivering 120hp/172Nm and the latter a more robust 198hp/265Nm. The Kona Hybrid (HEV) teams a normally-aspirated 1.6 petrol to a 32kW electric motor and a six-speed DCT for overall stats of 141hp/265Nm, while the Kona Electric is sold in two forms - a 115kW (156hp) Standard Range with a 48.4kWh battery pack and a maximum driving capability of up to 234 miles on a single charge, and then the 160kW (218hp) Long Range, that'll go up to 319 miles depending on which wheels are fitted. Either EV model has a peak 255Nm of torque, and every Kona - petrol, hybrid or electric - is front-wheel drive.

We drove the bookends of the range, starting with the Electric Long Range. In terms of straight-line performance, we think the Kona EV is judged rather well. Weighing in at between 1.7 and 1.8 tonnes, depending on trim grade, even with 218hp on tap the 65.4kWh Kona's power-to-weight isn't anything spectacular, but a 7.8-second 0-62mph is brisk enough and the linearity of the acceleration is superb. While this is not an EV that's ever going to thrust you back in its seat with a startling pick-up in pace, it's more than quick enough for scooting about town and getting up to A-road speeds in short order, while the quiet humming of the drivetrain has its own appeal. Just be aware, though, that you mustn't fixate on the 319-mile range figure if you want any spec of the EV other than the basic Advance - all of the N Line, N Line S and this Ultimate model roll on 19s, which reduces the headline figure to 282 miles. Certainly, having driven the Kona Electric on a varied semi-urban and rural test route, with a bit of motorway travel thrown in, it returned an indicated 3.6 miles/kWh, which is good electric efficiency and means 200-plus miles of between-charges motoring ought to regularly be a given for the Kona.

Switching to the 1.0-litre petrol, there's obviously a drop-off in performance as a result of its lower headline outputs, yet weirdly the expected gulf in speed between the two Konas never really materialised. If anything, the appealing muted snarl of the three-pot, a signature sound of this type of engine configuration, and a beautifully slick-shifting six-speed manual made driving the petrol Kona that little bit more enjoyable out of town - if not quite as relaxing and fuss-free as the 'stick-it-in-D-and-forget-about-it' nature of the EV for town-based work.

In terms of fuel economy, any version of the Kona fitted with a combustion engine is said to do between 43.5- (1.6 T-GDi N Line S) and 60.1mpg (any version of the HEV), while our little 1.0-litre returned almost 40mpg while being reasonably hard-driven on an up-and-down semi-rural route. So the non-EV Konas look to be acceptably efficient in reality, it would seem.

Ride & Handling

The absolute strength of the Kona, whether it's the petrol or the electric model, is its ride comfort and imperious refinement. Compared to the old car, the sheer quality feel of the way the new Hyundai rolls along is several levels above and beyond. The Kona has excellent suspension, which is on the softer side but which maintains an impressive level of control over the body at all times. This means the car is just as good as dealing with the aftermath of speed bumps as it is at staying level during cornering, so when we say the Hyundai has good body control, we mean that as a blessing on the ride comfort, more than how you can hoon it about the place.

It is also, especially as the Electric, stupendously quiet within the passenger compartment at all speeds this side of 60mph, with the workings of the suspension and the noises of the tyres rolling over even the worst tarmac both suppressed to the lowest levels imaginable for a car of this class. And then that striking bodywork hides an aerodynamic figure of just 0.275Cd, which means the Kona cuts cleanly through the air - something which not only aids its efficiency, but also keeps blustering about the glasshouse down to a bare minimum. OK, the petrol model adds more drivetrain noises to the mix, but again the 1.0-litre set-up is subdued unless you're absolutely revving it right out. In short, for ride and refinement, the Hyundai Kona is arguably class-leading.

Something which kind of makes up for its so-so handling. The Kona is very assured and capable in terms of its cornering manners, while praise is deserved for both the steering, which is pleasant and accurate enough if not possessing much in the way of feel, and the modulation of the brakes - especially so on the Electric, where they need to perform the jobs of both retardation and energy recuperation, something which typically leads to fuzzy pedal feel. You don't get that with the Kona, thankfully, but overall the dynamics on the Hyundai are just a little soft-focus. It'll grip and go round bends fairly quickly if you want it to, yet you're not going to be having much fun while it does it. Still, two plus points to end on here: one, as we've already said, this car majors on refinement, so revel in that rather than its road-holding capabilities; and two, there's always headroom at the top of the range for a replacement model for the surprisingly brilliant old Kona N.

Oh, one last minor note. Every Kona has a healthy roster of advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) fitted, but - and this is by no means specific to just the Hyundai, it's the case on a lot of the latest cars being launched - some of this safety gear is a bit intrusive. Like the driver-monitor camera on the steering column, which beeps at you often and flashes up a Big Brother-esque eye icon in the dash if you take your eyes off the road for even a few seconds. There are also a lot of bongs and beeps relating to speed limits, and the transgression thereof. Yes, you can turn these features off, and yes, you can configure the star button on the steering wheel to take you straight to the ADAS sub-menu in the central infotainment touchscreen to deactivate all these electronic nannies at your whim, yet you'll have to do this every time you get in the Kona as they reset themselves after each drive. Mildly annoying, but as we said, not something that is unique to Hyundai.

Value

There are four specifications for the new Hyundai Kona line-up, which run Advance, N Line, N Line S and Ultimate. Three of the five drivetrain choices are available at all grades, these being the 1.0-litre T-GDi, the 1.6 HEV and the 65.4kWh Long Range EV. The Standard Range EV is only offered in the lowest Advance specification, while the 1.6 T-GDi is reserved for the top two grades of N Line S and Ultimate.

Determining how good value the Kona is comes largely down to the choice of motive power. If you pick the 1.0-litre T-GDi manual in Advance spec, for less than £26,000 you get a well-equipped, ultra-smooth and super-futuristic-looking crossover-SUV that's one of the best things in its class. However, if you fancy a Long Range EV in Ultimate trim and with the Lux Pack fitted, as with our test car, then you're instead looking down the barrel of £45,000, which is a breathtaking figure (for all the wrong reasons) in isolation, but not completely out of the ordinary when it comes to prestige B-segment electric crossovers these days.

Every single model comes with at least 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, auto lights and wipers, keyless entry and go, LED lighting, adaptive cruise control, that showy twin-screen digital dashboard, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, among much more. Going up the Hyundai specification tree only reveals more juicy fruits of equipment, so that generosity of kit somewhat mitigates the spiralling list prices of the Electric model.

Verdict

Inert handling and the sheer expense of the Long Range Electric model aside, the new Hyundai Kona is a deeply talented newcomer to the compact crossover market. Little else out there looks anything like it - be that a good or a bad thing - and the interior design, if not the last word in out-and-out quality, is nevertheless interesting and highly intuitive to use. The Kona then throws in class-leading refinement and ride comfort to help sweeten the deal, making for one of the most appealing vehicles of its type on the market right now. It's a big, big improvement on the Mk1 model, that's for sure.



Matt Robinson - 20 Oct 2023



  www.hyundai.co.uk    - Hyundai road tests
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2023 Hyundai Kona Electric. Image by Hyundai.2023 Hyundai Kona Electric. Image by Hyundai.2023 Hyundai Kona Electric. Image by Hyundai.2023 Hyundai Kona Electric. Image by Hyundai.2023 Hyundai Kona Electric. Image by Hyundai.

2023 Hyundai Kona Electric. Image by Hyundai.2023 Hyundai Kona Electric. Image by Hyundai.2023 Hyundai Kona Electric. Image by Hyundai.2023 Hyundai Kona Electric. Image by Hyundai.2023 Hyundai Kona Electric. Image by Hyundai.








 

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