Hyundai Kona Review
The Hyundai Kona handles tidily and is well equipped, but has uncomfortable suspension and an average boot
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
- Well equipped
- Rear space
- Handles well for a small SUV
What's not so good
- Plain interior design
- Boot space is average
- Firm suspension makes it uncomfortable
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The Hyundai Kona handles tidily and is well equipped, but has uncomfortable suspension and an average boot
The Hyundai Kona is a small SUV that’s available in eye-catching colours, but doesn’t have the same feel-good factor as the Citroen C3 Aircross. 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.
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.
However, one of the Hyundai Kona’s biggest issues is comfort while driving. The Kona isn’t as comfortable as alternative small SUVs such as the Renault Captur or Seat Arona, feeling too firm across UK roads. That said, it counters by at least being good to drive for a small SUV, with steering that’s nicely weighted and very little body lean in tight corners.
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 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, making more of a din than similar engines in other small SUVs.
There’s also a pair of diesels to choose from, but they feel more sluggish than the petrols and make even more noise when you accelerate. They are more frugal, however, and suit long-distance drivers much better as a result.
Hyundai’s automatic gearbox – that’s standard fit with the 1.6 petrol and higher-powered 1.6 diesel – is also slow to change down gears when you want a quick burst of acceleration and can be a little jerky at slow speeds. The manual fitted to all other models is light and easy to use.
Out on the motorway, the Hyundai Kona is a quiet cruiser and should also be pretty safe – Euro NCAP has given it the full five stars. 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.
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
Avoid the ugly LCD screen in S models and you get a 7.0-inch colour display that’s easy to use and can mirror the screen of your smartphone
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 passenger 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.
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 four – a 1.0 or 1.6-litre petrol, or two 1.6-litre diesels.
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 comes in the form of official fuel economy of 52.3mpg 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.
If you do lots of motorway journeys, however, you’ll want to consider one of the Kona’s 1.6-litre diesel engines. In 115hp guise, this unit feels even less perky than the petrol alternatives (accelerating from 0-62mph takes a sedate 10.7 seconds) but at least it compensates with pretty reasonably fuel economy. Hold off any hard acceleration and it’ll return around 48mpg in normal driving conditions – sadly, that’s still someway off Hyundai’s claimed 67.3mpg.
There’s a pokier 136hp version that comes with an automatic gearbox as standard, but it’s slightly thirstier and isn’t significantly faster than the 115hp model. Accelerating from 0-62mph takes more than 10 seconds and it’ll struggle to return more than 45mpg.
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 diesel models produce a distinct grumble when you accelerate and 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.