Mercury (Hobart) - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - JOSHUA DOWL­ING

A nother week, another soft-roader for the city. This time it’s Hyundai late to the party, with its first pint-sized SUV called the Kona.

As it turns out the tim­ing is im­pec­ca­ble, ar­riv­ing in Aus­tralia as SUVs over­take pas­sen­ger car sales for the first time. It may look un­usual, but the for­mula is fa­mil­iar.

The Kona is ef­fec­tively a high-rid­ing ver­sion of the Hyundai i30 hatch­back, with a more rugged-look­ing body and a new in­te­rior.

Not ev­ery­one will be a fan of the Star Trek-style de­sign but at least it’s func­tional.

The “eye­brows” are bright LED day­time run­ning lights, while the head­lights are re­lo­cated in the bumper.

The $27,000 drive-away start­ing price means Hyundai is no longer in the bar­gain base­ment busi­ness — it’s dearer than the top two sellers in the class and not nec­es­sar­ily bet­ter equipped.

The Mit­subishi ASX has been at $25,000 drive-away for an eter­nity and the Mazda CX-3 with auto starts at $26,000 drive-away.

The Kona range stretches to an eye­wa­ter­ing $40,600 drive-away be­fore op­tions are added.

As we’ve re­ported ad nau­seam, as long as buy­ers are happy to pay, car companies will keep tak­ing their money — even if, on pa­per at least, city SUVs may not make fi­nan­cial sense.

As with its peers the Kona is smaller and has less stan­dard equip­ment than the hatch­back on which it is based, and yet car­ries a price pre­mium of $2000 — or more, de­pend­ing on the model.

Com­pared to the i30 hatch, the Kona has a smaller foot­print, a smaller boot, lacks a full­size spare tyre, and misses out on built-in nav­i­ga­tion.

This is de­spite Hyundai’s claim that the Kona is de­signed for peo­ple who want to es­cape the city lim­its on week­ends and get lost on moun­tain bike trails.

To make sure the Kona cov­ers as much ground as pos­si­ble in the fastest grow­ing seg­ment of the mar­ket, there are six com­bi­na­tions from which to choose — not in­clud­ing the myr­iad colour and trim al­ter­na­tives.

There are three model grades — Active, Elite and High­lander — but each is avail­able with a choice of two four-cylin­der en­gines.

The 2.0-litre is matched ex­clu­sively to a sixspeed auto and front-wheel drive while the 1.6-litre turbo is paired with all-wheel drive and a seven-speed twin-clutch auto.

All mod­els run on reg­u­lar un­leaded, none get au­to­matic stop-start fuel sav­ing in traf­fic.

Stan­dard fare in­cludes six airbags, rear-view cam­era with guid­ing lines that turn with the steer­ing, rear park­ing sen­sors, Ap­ple Car Play and An­droid Auto, dig­i­tal speed dis­play, cruise con­trol, in­di­vid­ual tyre pres­sure mon­i­tors, re­mote cen­tral lock­ing and ex­tend­able sun vi­sor arms, which mean you can eas­ily block side glare when the sun gets low.

An op­tional $1500 safety pack on the Active in­cludes au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing up to 80km/h, crash mit­i­ga­tion up to 160km/h, lane keep­ing, blind-zone warn­ing and rear crosstraf­fic alert. The Elite and flag­ship High­lander get these ex­tra safety aids as stan­dard.

The Elite starts from $32,300 drive-away and gains leather seats, sen­sor key and push­but­ton start, rain-sens­ing wipers, front fog lights, tinted rear glass and 17-inch al­loy wheels (up from 16s on the Active).

The High­lander picks up 18-inch wheels, front park­ing sen­sors, LED head­lights and tail­lights, auto-dip­ping high-beam, pow­er­ad­justable front seats with heat­ing and ven­ti­la­tion and a dash-top head-up dis­play.

Con­spic­u­ously ab­sent on even the dear­est ver­sions are dual zone air­con, rear air vents, sun­roof, radar cruise con­trol and full-size spare.

On the plus side, ser­vice in­ter­vals are a con­ve­nient 12 months or 15,000km. And the rou­tine main­te­nance is among the cheap­est in the busi­ness: $777-$807 over three years (2.0 and 1.6 re­spec­tively).


As with many cars in this cat­e­gory the seat­ing po­si­tion is tall enough to give you a bet­ter view of the road ahead but not so high you’ll risk rolling an an­kle when get­ting out.

The vast grey dash­board may look as if it’s made of re­cy­cled out­door fur­ni­ture plas­tic but sec­tions of tech­ni­cal grain make a de­cent at­tempt at boost­ing the over­all ap­pear­ance.

Vi­sion all around is sur­pris­ingly good, de­spite the ta­pered rear win­dows.

The seat­ing and steer­ing po­si­tions are com­fort­able and all but­tons and dials are well placed and easy to use. The lane keep­ing tech works rel­a­tively well, how­ever it’s bet­ter when trav­el­ling in the mid­dle lane, mak­ing it is eas­ier to de­tect mark­ings. Near cen­tre di­viders, the sys­tem goes on the blink.

An un­usual ob­ser­va­tion, but one that’s rel­e­vant to one in 10 males, it’s next to im­pos­si­ble for those who are colour blind to dis­tin­guish when the lane keep­ing sym­bol switches from red to green once it’s de­tected a lane. A tick or a cross would solve the prob­lem and po­ten­tially pre­vent some near misses.

That said, the Kona will only al­low hands to be off the wheel for a max­i­mum of 15 se­conds be­fore warn­ing the driver to pay at­ten­tion.

The 2.0-litre petrol with a con­ven­tional sixspeed auto will suit the needs of most buy­ers and is much more re­spon­sive than ri­vals with con­stantly vari­able trans­mis­sions.

Ride com­fort on the base model’s 16s is su­perb, and yet it still cor­ners with con­fi­dence. All Kona mod­els have elec­tric power steer­ing but the base model has been tuned to be slightly heav­ier and give more feed­back. It was my pref­er­ence on the pre­view drive.

Konas equipped with 17 or 18-inch wheels have a slightly lighter steer­ing feel.

The ride com­fort across all mod­els was im­pres­sive; cus­tom­ar­ily, low-pro­file tyres con­trib­ute to more jit­ter over bumps. Tyre noise was more ap­par­ent on the 17-inch Con­ti­nen­tals. The base and high-grade cars run Hankooks.

The turbo 1.6 has no­tice­ably more zip — for not much ex­tra fuel — and the seven-speed twin-clutch auto slips through the gears smoothly and al­most seam­lessly.

The only down­side to the twin-clutch is when do­ing a U-turn and switch­ing from drive to re­verse and back to drive quickly. There’s a no­tice­able de­lay com­pared to the reg­u­lar sixspeed auto in the 2.0-litre.

Pic­tures: Mark Bram­ley

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