Flam­boy­ance pairs up with prac­ti­cal­ity

LO­CAL LAUNCH/ The new Kona cross­over is high on style and gets a de­cent ride height too, writes De­nis Droppa

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

The hatch­back and SUV/cross­over seg­ments are where all the ac­tion is, and they’re the only two SA ve­hi­cle seg­ments to have grown in 2018.

Into this ever-grow­ing play­ground comes Hyundai’s new Kona, a front-wheel drive cross­over with a 170mm ground clear­ance that will spar against the likes of the Mazda CX3, Honda HR-V, Toy­ota C-HR and Nis­san Juke. And that won’t be an end to the Korean car maker’s on­slaught into this highly com­pet­i­tive seg­ment, which now rep­re­sents 22.1% of the new-ve­hi­cle mar­ket (be­hind hatch­backs at 32.9% and light com­mer­cials at 26.4%).

In the third quar­ter of 2019 Hyundai SA will launch the higher-rid­ing Styx SUV, which has just been un­veiled over­seas, as a di­rect ri­val to the mar­ketlead­ing Ford Ecosport.

The Kona is sim­i­larly priced to Hyundai’s slightly larger Creta SUV, but is aimed at buy­ers more con­cerned with im­age than prac­ti­cal­ity. Not that the Kona is de­fi­cient in the space de­part­ment; it’s roomy enough for four adults and the boot’s a prac­ti­cal size at 361l, which can be in­creased by re­mov­ing the hid­den stor­age tray. It’s just that the Kona’s styling ra­di­ates more flam­boy­ance with its sleek curves and slit-shaped LED head­lamps. The vi­brant in­te­rior re­flects the funky ex­te­rior theme, fea­tur­ing smooth, con­toured sur­faces and pre­mi­um­feel­ing soft-touch plas­tics on the bot­tom part of the dash­board.

The cabin is perked up with colour­ful in­te­rior ac­cents: in red for four of the ex­te­rior colours, and in lime for the strik­ing acid yel­low ex­te­rior colour.

For now the Kona is launched with a choice of two petrol en­gines: a nor­mally as­pi­rated four-cylin­der 2.0l or a three-cylin­der 1.0l turbo, while Hyundai may con­sider bring­ing in a more pow­er­ful 1.6l turbo petrol later.

The Kona is the first Hyundai to of­fer the 1.0l turbo en­gine in SA, and it’s an im­pres­sively punchy lit­tle pow­er­plant with a lot more zing than its mod­est cu­bic ca­pac­ity sug­gests.

Paired with a six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion, the 1.0 Kona felt peppy be­ing driven around the ur­ban jun­gle and com­fort­ably main­tained the na­tional speed limit (and more) on the open road, with a fac­to­ryclaimed top speed of 181km/h. It’s a re­fined en­gine that doesn’t sound buzzy or strained, though it does make a dis­tinc­tive three­cylin­der sound.

At sea level it’s down on grunt com­pared to the 2.0l ver­sion, which is rated for 194km/h, but at Gaut­eng alti­tude, where nor­mally as­pi­rated en­gines lose about 17% of their power, the two en­gines are closely matched. I couldn’t feel any sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence be­tween them at the Gaut­eng me­dia launch. The two Kona de­riv­a­tives are iden­ti­cally specced, so the choice (at alti­tude) will es­sen­tially come down to whether you pre­fer an auto or a man­ual. The smaller en­gine is also cred­ited with slightly bet­ter fuel econ­omy, at 6.8l/100km ver­sus 7.2.

Both ver­sions come stan­dard with high safety lev­els com­pris­ing six airbags, ABS brakes, and sta­bil­ity con­trol. Equip­ment is quite com­pre­hen­sive with air­con, height- and reachad­justable steer­ing, on­board com­puter, elec­tric win­dows and mir­rors, nav­i­ga­tion, cloth and leather seats, and re­mote cen­tral lock­ing. The in­fo­tain­ment con­sists of a seven-inch touch­screen with Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity and Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto ca­pa­bil­ity.

The com­pact Kona de­liv­ers taut and pre­dictable han­dling, with mo­tor-driven power steer­ing that de­liv­ers some feel and isn’t ex­ces­sively light. Kona 1.0 TGDI Ex­ec­u­tive man­ual — R379,900 Kona 2.0 NU Ex­ec­u­tive au­to­matic — R399,900

In­cludes five-year/ 150,000km war­ranty with road­side as­sis­tance, and fiveyear/90,000km ser­vice plan.

Above and left: The Kona cer­tainly grabs at­ten­tion, with dis­tinct hints of Alfa Romeo in its styling.

In­te­rior colour ac­cents liven up the cabin.

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