Armed with a fuel card an an iphone, we grab a Hyundai Kona 1.6T Elite for a drive from Mt Welling­ton, Auck­land, to the Welling­ton cap­i­tal. Two days and 1200km awaits…

New Zealand LCV - - CONTENTS - Story & pho­tos: Dean Evans

Mt Welling­ton to Welling­ton: sounds like a plan. But in a Hyundai Kona?...

OF ALL THE CARS TO DRIVE LONG dis­tances, the Hyundai Kona doesn’t rate on a top ten list. But an­other list it’s sit­ting proudly on is the top 10 NZ SUV sales, with the Kona re­cently en­ter­ing and claim­ing its im­por­tant spot.

Kona joins its slightly larger sib­ling in the top 10, which is im­pres­sive given the Tuc­son badge has been on sale for more than a decade. The rel­a­tive new­comer Kona launched just last year, and it shows there’s an ap­petite for the quirky, stylish and dis­tinc­tive lit­tle SUV.

What bet­ter way to get fa­mil­iar with some­one’s traits – both good and bad – than a long drive? So we stepped through the Hyundai New Zealand glass doors in Mt Welling­ton, south Auck­land, grabbed the re­mote key­fob to a Pulse Red Kona 1.6T Elite AWD, and typed in the ‘other’ Welling­ton as our des­ti­na­tion. Around 635km and just un­der eight hours via Taupo and Palmer­ston North, we opted to head south via Whanganui, which

re­duced a few kays, but added a few min­utes.

Not that we’d rec­om­mended – or did – that trip all in one, with overnight stops planned for Palmy North and Welling­ton.

The cross­over SUV’S styling is quite unique, with squinty head­lights, vents, lights and sculpts ap­par­ently all over the place, but work­ing nicely, along with the con­trast­ing grey plas­tic trim, draped over 18-inch wheels – large for Kona’s size.

Min­utes from Mt Welling­ton, we are south­bound on SH1, and get­ting to know each other. The in­te­rior is a lit­tle more con­ven­tional than the ex­te­rior, but it’s well equipped, re­mem­ber­ing Hyundai likes to pack in the value-for-money with equip­ment.

Priced at $42k, it’s on the high side of the cross­over com­pacts, but there’s a big list of fea­tures: the ex­pected stuff like key­less en­try and start, Carplay/ Auto, re­verse cam­era and sen­sors, cruise con­trol, auto lights and wipers, heated elec­tric leather seats, USB and 12v sock­ets. There’s also wire­less smart­phone charg­ing, op­tional pop-up Head-up Dis­play, Au­to­matic Emer­gency Brak­ing and se­lectable AWD with de­scent con­trol – though like most Konas, it won’t see any dirt this trip. There’s also a sweet sev­en­speed dual clutch gear­box mated to the 1.6-litre turbo en­gine, makin­git ea­ger and able at al­most any speed, from as low as 1500rpm. Though, like most most du­al­clutch boxes, it some­times gets caught off-guard at low speeds with a mod­u­lat­ing throt­tle.

No­tice­able by their ab­sence, given the price, are shift pad­dles and radar cruise.

Af­ter 10 min­utes at a fuel-friendly 90km/h cruise, we’re at 5.7l/100km, though as traf­fic clears to the 100km/h limit, this quickly rises to 8.6l/100km. Lane as­sist of­fers a re­minder if we stray, or are slow to in­di­cate, but the 90s pulse phone beeper gets a bit too much and by Hamil­ton, it’s turned off.

Turn­ing left at Whanganui, the fuel light comes on and as we pass Bulls and halfa-dozen po­lice cars, we start driv­ing with mild range anx­i­ety, thank­fully still driv­ing as we ar­rive into Palmer­ston North for a much needed top-up: an im­pres­sive 49 litres drop­ping into the 50-litre tank.

Af­ter an overnight stop, park­ing and din­ner in The Square, we re­turn to the Kona to find the spring birds have done their best to paint parked cars white,

Though 130kw and a 1.6 turbo four sounds mod­est, the Kona is quick: try 0-100km/h in 7.6 sec­onds.

Like many tourists driv­ing this amaz­ing coun­try, all these pics were taken on an iphone.

man­dat­ing a visit to a lo­cal car wash be­fore an overnight rest.

Welling­ton-bound the next morn­ing, it’s al­most a di­rect route, with a slight di­ver­sion to the South­ward Car Mu­seum, my first visit, and a 90 minute speed tour. The 60 minute fi­nal leg into Welling­ton is a breeze.

As the dirty and bug-splat­tered Kona pulls up to the Bee­hive par­lia­ment build­ing; fuel use is show­ing 8.8l/100km, not too sur­pris­ing given the ma­jor­ity of the drive was off cruise con­trol. We have just one spare hour to tour the sights, in­clud­ing West­pac Sta­dium, Te Papa, Mt Vic­to­ria look­out and the Welling­ton Ca­ble Car sta­tion.

Around the tight streets, the Kona’s quick and nim­ble and with just 2.6 turns lock to lock and a tight 10.6m turn­ing cir­cle, it’s proves just at home in the tight

and wind­ing windy city streets as it was on the mo­tor­way.

An overnight stop and some work du­ties ticked off, an early(ish) start has us back on the road for what is ba­si­cally a one-stop trip back home, this time via Taupo and the scenic Desert Road – re­plete with po­lice radar right in the mid­dle of it.

We cruise past, ab­sorb­ing all the sights of the drive while play­ing with the dif­fer­ent drive modes, Sport, Com­fort and Eco, to see if we can get closer to the Hyundai claim of 6.7l/100km. Up the eastern side of Lake Taupo, be­fore a quick re­fuel, blad­der drain and lunch stop, the in­fre­quent over­tak­ing lanes of­fer a chance for the 1.6 turbo en­gine to show it has plenty up its sleeve when it needs to; its tested 0-100km/h time of 7.6 sec­onds puts it at the quicker end against its com­peti­tors.

As we roll back into Hyundai’s Mt Welling­ton carpark, the north­bound drive re­sults in 8.0l/100km for 95 per­cent mo­tor­way driv­ing, still short of Hyundai’s ‘com­bined’ claim, from an all-up drive time of just un­der 16 hours.

And like most rov­ing tourists, we took all these shots not on a $1000 SLR cam­era, but an iphone 6, prov­ing the ver­sa­til­ity of smart­phones (and a de­cent pho­tog­ra­pher, ahem…).

Af­ter two days and 1200+km, it’s easy to see why the Kona is so pop­u­lar. It has looks, per­for­mance, equip­ment and com­fort at a rea­son­able price. A great drive, and a very im­pres­sive car: it’s Kona – with a Cap­i­tal.

In­te­rior is al­most as stand-out as the ex­te­rior, if not in looks, then fea­tures, with all the mod-cons ex­cept radar cruise con­trol and shift pad­dles. Night park­ing in The Square: not rec­om­mended with­out a scan of the birds in trees. Nasty. De­part­ing Mt Welling­ton, bound for Welling­ton, in our Pulse Red Hyundai Kona 1.6T Elite. Kona’s boot is ca­pa­ble with­out be­ing huge – very use­able for a cross­over com­pact SUV.

Palmer­ston North’s Square, the first overnight stop, with the Kona eat­ing up the kays.

Clos­ing in on Welling­ton, South­ward Car Mu­seum is a must-do, with two floors of eclec­tic car and bike dis­plays.

To the top of Mt Vic­to­ria, and a panoramic iphone photo. All pics in this fea­ture were taken on an iphone.

Welling­ton! The bee­hive marks our ‘ar­rival’ in the Cap­i­tal. West­pac Sta­dium is quiet enough on a week­day for some tourist pho­tos. Tram sta­tion also a good place for tourists to spend time, with near the Space mu­seum.

Top: Pop-up Head Up Dis­play makes speed mon­i­tor­ing easy, though the Kona is lack­ing au­to­matic speed sign recog­ni­tion.Above: At the end of the trip, 1280km and a fuel use (north­bound) of 8.0l/100km. Mt Welling­ton to Welling­ton and back in three days.

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