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
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.
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
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.