THE KONA COMBO

The Northern Star - - NEWS -

Per­son­al­ity is de­signed to set the Hyundai Kona apart from the crowd.

It’s another soft-roader de­signed for the streets rather than the rough and tum­ble. Hyundai is late to the party with its first pint-sized SUV. 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.

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 – again look­ing to gain ad­mi­ra­tion through qual­ity of prod­uct.

“Kona will ap­peal to cus­tomers with ac­tive lifestyles, a sense of ad­ven­ture and a keen eye for value,” Hyundai Mo­tor Com­pany Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer JW Lee said.

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

As with its peers, the Kona is smaller 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 full-size spare tyre and misses out on built-in nav­i­ga­tion. But buy­ers will be spoilt for choice. There are nine colours (black, white, dark grey, red, tan­ger­ine, yel­low, and two shades of blue), while Elite and High­lander mod­els can have op­tional two-tone roof choices of black or dark grey — 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 six-speed 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.

VALUE

Stan­dard equip­ment in­cludes six airbags, rear-view cam­era with guid­ing lines that turn with the steer­ing, rear park­ing sen­sors, smart­phone mir­ror­ing apps Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto, dig­i­tal speed dis­play, cruise con­trol, in­di­vid­ual tyre pres­sure mon­i­tors, re­mote cen­tral lock­ing and ex­tendible 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 80kmh, crash mit­i­ga­tion up to 160kmh, lane keep­ing, blind-zone warn­ing and rear cross-traf­fic 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 push-but­ton 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 tail-lights, auto-dip­ping high-beam, power-ad­justable front seats with heat­ing and ven­ti­la­tion and a dash-top head-up dis­play.

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).

DRIV­ING

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 dash­board is pri­mar­ily grey 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 can strug­gle.

The 2.0-litre petrol with a con­ven­tional six-speed 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 gives more feed­back.

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 can some­times con­trib­ute to more jit­ters over bumps. Tyre noise was slightly 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.

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