Hyundai Kona Review
The Hyundai Kona is well equipped and looks quite smart, but it’s not comfortable to drive and boot space is only average.
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What's not so good
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The Hyundai Kona is the company’s bid to muscle in on the ‘cool small SUV’ market, but while it’s available in a range of colours that can make your eyes water, it still can’t quite match the feel-good factor you get in the funky-looking Citroen C3 Aircross.
That’s because the Hyundai’s interior design is a little ordinary compared with the Citroen’s, although you can specify some bright coloured trims on more expensive models to add a hint of wow factor. Unfortunately, that’s like adding a few drops of orange food colouring to a glass of water – it might look like a glass of Irn Bru but it’s still going to taste pretty dull.
If you’re considering a Kona, as well as the Citroen C3 Aircross, you might also want to check out a Kia Stonic, Nissan Juke, Renault Captur or SEAT Arona.
No matter how you jazz things up, though, more of a problem is the Kona’s practicality: it has a relatively small boot, and rear-seat knee room, while good, isn’t as generous as you’ll find in the C3. The Hyundai also misses out on the sliding and reclining rear seat that you get in the Citroen.
There are fewer complaints when it comes to the Hyundai’s infotainment. So long as you avoid entry-level S models you get a relatively large infotainment screen that can mirror the display of your phone – for satellite navigation – and a handy reversing camera. The latter makes up for the slight blind spot you get out the back of the car, but aside from that you get a good view out and the controls are light – making it a good car for town driving.
The Kona has relatively firm suspension for a small SUV. This means it feels a touch on the sporty side for this type of car. The flip side is you feel the bumps in the road a lot more than in a SEAT Arona which focuses more on comfort, which is really far more important to most people buying one.
The Kona’s exterior looks a bit like a granny wearing a multicoloured shell suit and hiking boots – it’s eye-catching and rugged but not hugely stylish
The range-topping 1.6-litre petrol model is the best to drive thanks to its more advanced suspension, but you’re better off with the 1.0-litre petrol version that’s easier on fuel and doesn’t sound so strained when you rev it. That said, it’s still noisy for a petrol engine.
Hyundai’s automatic gearbox is also slow to change down gears. It’s best to stick with the slick manual.
Top-of-the-range cars come with automatic emergency braking that can sense people and other cars – it will slam the brakes on hard if it detects an imminent collision.
Arguably the Hyundai’s biggest selling point – if you want years of hassle-free motoring – is its unlimited-mileage/five-year warranty. But the Hyundai Kona is hard to recommend when the Kia Stonic is basically the same car, is more stylish and has a longer seven-year warranty. There’s also a Hyundai Kona Electric and as an electric car, it’s a much better proposition. It is reviewed separately.
Still, have a look at the latest Hyundai Kona deals to see how much you could save.
Common Hyundai Kona questions
Is the Hyundai Kona four-wheel-drive?
Only one model of Kona is available with four-wheel-drive: the top of the range 1.6 T-GDi Premium GT. Its 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine produces 177hp and 265Nm of torque, connected to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Performance is pretty strong, with a 0-60mph time of 7.9s and a top speed of 127mph. But you pay a fairly hefty penalty at the pumps, with fuel economy of just 34mpg. It’s not exactly cheap, either, but least it comes loaded to the gunwales with gadgets.
Hyundai Kona Design
The Hyundai Kona is distinctive in some ways, but very conventional at the same time. It follows the typical small SUV design textbook with a jacked-up supermini look, and shares design features such as the plastic cladding and roof rails with many alternative models. It tried to stand out with a range of vibrant paint colours and an unusual front-end that uses two smaller grilles above and below the main one, plus two sets of lights.
Hyundai Kona S
The Kona S is the entry-level model, and while all versions have body-coloured bumpers and door mirrors, this version is easy to spot by its 16-inch alloy wheels. There are also no roof rails on this model and the grille at the front is plain black.
Hyundai Kona SE design
The Kona SE has larger 17-inch alloy wheels and comes with roof rails, but has the same plain black grille as the S and the PLAY.
Hyundai Kona Play
The Kona PLAY has 18-inch alloy wheels and comes with metallic paint as standard but it’s otherwise the same as the SE model to look at – though you also get tinted windows on the back.
Hyundai Kona Premium, Premium SE and Premium GT
The Premium model is where there are a few noticeable changes. There’s painted Anthracite trim on the outside plus 18-inch alloys, roof rails and a rear skid plate in silver. There’s also a chrome surround for the grille at the front. All of the ‘Premium’ models including the Premium SE and Premium GT look the same on the outside, unless you can spot the GT’s LED rear lights.
The Hyundai Kona’s interior has enough space for a young family, but alternatives have even more rear space, more rear-seat adjustment and bigger boots
The Hyundai Kona has passable practicality, but other cars this size are better
Even basic versions of the Hyundai Kona get a wide range of driver seat and steering wheel adjustment. Even if you’re small you can get the steering wheel exactly where you want it, and the seat can be cranked up high to make full use of the Hyundai’s generous headroom.
Trade up from an S to an SE model and you get the added comfort of electrically adjustable lumbar support to reduce back ache on long drives. Top-of-the-range models (Premium SE and above) get electrically adjustable seats that are heated and also (very effectively) cooled to help you feel comfortable on swelteringly hot days.
The news isn’t so good when you investigate the back seats. They have just enough room for tall passengers (even if you and your front seat passengers are big) and impressive amounts of headroom, but lack the adjustability you get in a Citroen C3 Aircross. The Citroen’s rear seats can slide backward for more rear legroom and recline to stretch out on longer journeys.
The Kona has enough interior storage to keep the cabin tidy even if you have two children and the vast array of accessories that come with them.
The glovebox is large enough to swallow a 1.5-litre bottle of water and there’s space for a can of juice underneath the front centre armrest, although it is a shame that the lids on both feel flimsy.
On the centre console you get a tray for your smartphone – complete with a USB and Aux connection (and wireless charging on Premium models and above) – and you also get a couple of cupholders and a cardholder.
Add to that large front door pockets, slightly smaller rear ones, a sunglasses holder in the roof and a clip on the back of the sun visors for parking tickets, and the Hyundai’s interior storage is unlikely to leave you feeling hard done by.
The Hyundai doesn’t get the impressively large boot that you might expect from a small SUV.
Kona S models have a 361-litre capacity, but all other versions have a loading bay of 334 litres thanks to a spare wheel under the boot floor. Not brilliant considering the Citroen C3 Aircross’ boot can stretch to 520 litres with the rear seats slid forward.
The Kona’s boot has a reasonable number of features, both the adjustable boot floor – that has space underneath for a soft bag – and the hooks for your shopping are very handy.
The variable floor is also a big help when you’re loading – in its highest setting there’s no load lip to worry about so luggage can simply be slid into place.
The Kona’s rear seats split 60:40 – so you can carry up to two passengers and have something longer poking through from the boot – and with them both folded away you get a maximum capacity of 1,143 litres (S models) or a 1,116 litres (everything else).
It’s not the biggest boot compared to other small SUVs, but the seats do fold almost completely flat which makes it easier to load something awkward such as a bicycle.
The Kona feels agile on country roads and quiet at a cruise, but the larger petrol sounds strained. Unfortunately, it’s the only model available with the comfier rear suspension
The Kona handles corners like a rat up a drain pipe that’s been coated in lard, but only if you go for the top-of-the-range model with independent rear suspension
Choose a Hyundai Kona and you’ll be limited to a choice of three – a 1.0 or 1.6-litre petrol, or a 1.6 petrol hybrid.
Your best bet is the 120hp 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol. You wouldn’t call it quick, but it summons up a turn of speed that feels faster than its 0-62mph time of 12 seconds suggests, although it can feel wanting when the car is loaded to the brim with people and stuff or when you’re tackling a very steep hill.
The benefit of choosing the smaller engine is the official fuel economy of 44.1mpg that translates to about 40mpg in the real world.
Compared with the thrum of the smaller three-cylinder engine, the 177hp 1.6-litre sounds painfully strained when you work it hard and it only comes in expensive Premium GT specification.
It gets from 0-62mph in a quick 7.9 seconds, but the slow reactions of the seven-speed automatic gearbox (standard with this engine) mean spaces in traffic have often gone before you’ve had a chance to nip into them.
Factor in an official fuel economy figure of 42.2mpg (more realistically around 30mpg) and it’s clear if you want a quick small SUV you’ll be better off with a cheaper DiG-T Nissan Juke.
Around town, the Hyundai Kona feels in its element. Its raised driving position, coupled with the fact you can set the driver’s seat pretty high, means you get a brilliant view out the front of the car. The only real blind spot is noticeable when you take a glancing look over your shoulder – the large pillars and small rear side windows at the back of the car do restrict your view a bit.
This blind spot makes reverse parking a little tricky on S models, but every other version of the Hyundai Kona comes with a reversing camera, so it isn’t really an issue in the rest of the range. Premium SE and Premium GT models add fairly unnecessary front parking sensors, but if you really hate parking you’ll be annoyed to hear there’s no self-park option.
The Kona’s sharp steering helps you nip through city streets but it really comes into its own on country roads where the Hyundai Kona is actually quite a lot of fun – enthusiastically bounding into corners with very little body lean. The trade-off of this good body control is a firm ride that starts to frustrate on particularly poor roads. For a more comfortable journey, you’ll be better off in a Renault Captur or Seat Arona.
Choose the 1.6-litre petrol engine and you also get four-wheel drive as standard, but it isn’t really needed unless you actually plan to do off-roading, and it only raises the SUV’s maximum towing weight by 50kg to 1,250kgs.
More often than not you’ll be cruising on the motorway where the Hyundai Kona is reasonably quiet with little wind noise and precious little engine noise once you have settled down to a cruise.
Bear in mind, though, that Premium models and above – that have large 18-inch wheels – suffer from more tyre roar than lower-spec Konas with 16 and 17-inch wheels.
Top-of-the-range Premium GT cars are the safest – they come with automatic emergency braking that detects people as well as cars and full LED headlights that dip automatically. All that helped the Kona score a maximum five stars in its Euro NCAP crash test.
The Hyundai’s interior dashboard is easy to use and its interior plastics feel durable, but there’s not much to get excited about even in top-of-the-range models’ colourful cabins