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…
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.