One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to SUVs and car makers are quick to expand into relatively new territory. But some are slower than others, like Hyundai with its compact Kona, that joins a hodgepodge of established and new players designed around lifestyle ideals that are never short of ways to attract a little attention.
A surging market compared to traditional hatchbacks and small sedans, small-size SUVs offer similar proportions but on a ‘high riding’ platform. Hyundai's first effort brings yet another option into the mix and the South Korean brand is putting its best foot forward to win new customers.
Vehicle Style: Small SUV
Price: $28,500 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 110kW/180Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol | 6spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.2 l/100km As tested: 8.8 l/100km
The compact crossover market is busting with options and beyond any sort of proper off-road capability nearly all models opt for bright colours and funky designs to stand out from the crowd. The Kona is no different.
Available in three variants - Active, Elite and Highlander - the Elite on test is fitted with a naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre petrol engine connected to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission that’s priced from $28,500 (plus on-road costs). A sportier 1.6-litre turbo petrol adds $3500 but brings all-wheel drive and a seven-speed dual-clutch auto.
For intents and purposes this is a point A to B car with little more space inside than the equivalent hatch most are based on, but the higher ride height makes getting in and out of it easier and things like a baby seat are easier to fiddle with. And in most cases small SUVs don’t deviate too far away from the dynamic ability of smaller step siblings, such as the i30 hatchback the Kona is based on.
It’s also as up-to-date in terms of styling as you’ll find on any car in the South Korean maker’s SUV line-up, at least until the new large-size Santa Fe arrives with the same squinting face.
- Standard equipment: Leather seat trim, single-zone climate control, rain sensing wipers, keyless entry and start, rear privacy tint, 17-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen, AM/FM radio, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple Carplay and Android Auto compatibility, USB and Aux input, six-speaker audio
- Cargo Volume: 361 litres to rear seats, 1143 litres to front seats
The Kona copies some of the design and elements found in the new i30 but the floating central infotainment with its flanked sides isn’t quite as elegant as it is in the small hatchback.
Opting for the Elite over the $24,500 entry-spec Active sees the addition of leather trim that adds a more premium feel to the interior along with the option to add piano black finishes and acid yellow coloured stitching, seatbelts and inserts. The latter is as bright as it sounds and if anything it can cheapen the feel of an otherwise well laid-out cabin with some nice finishes – but it is optional.
The 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system is shared across all models but misses out on satellite navigation, relying on a connected smartphone via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for turn-by-turn guidance. Bluetooth connectivity is also offered and the system is easy to navigate, with steering wheel controls adding convenience.
Space upfront is good for a short car – it’s even shorter than the Mazda CX-3 – and the driver’s seat has enough adjustment for tall drivers. Width is also spacious so there’s a surprising amount of room upfront and in the rear, with the rear pew easily accommodating two adults or fitting a baby seat.
Around back, the boot offers 361 litres that sits between the CX-3 (264 litres) and Honda HR-V (437 litres) in terms of space and expands to 1143 litres with the 60:40 split fold seats out of the way.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 110kW/180Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol, 130kW/265Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: Macpherson strut front, torsion beam rear (2.0-litre) or multilink independent rear (1.6-litre turbo)
- Brakes: 280mm ventilated front discs, 262mm solid rear discs
- Steering: Electric power steering, 10.6m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 1300kg braked, 600kg unbraked, 130kg towball load
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol produces relatively moderate power and torque outputs and is more at home on the flats of suburbia than on faster roads and hills, but it operates smoothly through the conventional six-speed automatic and isn’t lazy in traffic, even if it needs some prodding with the right foot.
Outside of town the 2.0-litre doesn’t offer enough zip to make the most of good driving roads and its simpler torsion beam rear-end suspension compared to the 1.6-litre turbo’s multilink setup isn’t as well composed for dynamic movements, but it’s comfortable to cruise in and returns a reasonable fuel economy with cruise control engaged – though no adaptive radar cruise is offered on any model.
Coarse chip roads introduce slightly unpleasant road noise too but on smoother surfaces it rides well and the suspension soaks up most bumps and corrugations that can be attributed to Hyundai’s dedication to local suspension tuning which helps put the Kona ahead of some other imports.
ANCAP Rating: The Hyundai Kona has been awarded a five-star ANCAP rating.
Safety Features: All Kona variants are equipped with six airbags (dual front, front seat side, full-length curtain), electronic stability and traction control, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, tyre pressure monitoring, rear park sensors, and a rear view camera.
The Kona Elite also comes standard with autonomous emergency braking with forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist and driver attention warning.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
It might be old but the Mitsubishi ASX is Australia’s best-selling small SUV and its latest design tweak and packaging is a safe bet at a sharp price that's hard to overlook.
Toyota’s C-HR has arguably the more (if not most) ostentatious exterior design that doesn’t require pops of colour to standout yet is instantly recognisable. It’s also a dynamically capable car with the option for a manual transmission if the auto-only Kona doesn’t tick the right box.
The Mazda CX-3 is a mini-me clone of its larger CX-5 sibling and offers the Japanese brand’s consistent quality and design both inside and out, but it suffers for room in nearly every aspect compared to the competition.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Entering the compact SUV segment for the first time is no easy task but Hyundai has delivered a car that will ruffle rival’s feathers and offers a well-rounded package.
In terms of styling it seems daring for now – even among a jumble of compact SUV designs - but it will soon be consistent with most of the brand’s SUV offerings that are not far away.
The 2.0-litre petrol lacks enough spirit to be a good all-rounder but the all-wheel drive 1.6-litre turbo turns up the wick for not much extra, and gains a smarter multilink rear-end for a more dynamic ride – though the 2.0-litre is fine for everyday duties.
MORE: Hyundai News and Reviews
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