THE KONA COMBO
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.
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).
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.