Endowed with dashing looks and generous standard spec, the new Hyundai Kona enters a crowded compact family car/crossover segment with a different set of talents to its popular Creta and Tucson siblings. Can it forge its own path among a horde of established rivals? We recently put the 1.0T Executive to the test to find some answers.
We Like: Bold styling, performance, ride and handling, standard features
We Don’t Like: Rear legroom could be better, a bit pricey
Price: R379 900 (December 2018)
Engine: Turbocharged 1.0-litre 3-cylinder petrol
Power/Torque: 88 kW/172 Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Fuel Economy: 6.8 L/100 km
SERIOUS ABOUT BUYING?
What is it?
Armed with quirky styling and a perky turbocharged engine, the Kona 1.0T Executive has much to offer.
Who says a compact family car with a Hyundai badge on its nose has to favour practicality and value for money over standout style and sheer cool factor? Enter the Kona, a new compact crossover that sits snugly between the popular and practical Creta and the larger Tucson family car.
It’s not as spacious, nor as practical as its siblings, but it makes up for that with kerb appeal. Just look at it! Its quirky design will attract more youthful buyers who are in the market for a stylish urban runabout, which is not to say the Kona is not big enough for a couple to load up their luggage and head out of town on weekends. It’s a "busy" design, but in a segment where it’s easy to get lost in the crowd, the Kona stands out. While some of our testers found the Kona a bit awkward-looking, it has a distinct personality and that has to be appreciated. Decide for yourself if you like it...
The derivative on test here is the Kona 1.0T Executive manual in Pulse Red. Let’s see how it performs…
How does it fare in terms of…
The Kona offers up decent performance in both city and highway driving situations.
The Kona is the first Hyundai model in South Africa to feature a turbocharged 1.0-litre 3-cylinder petrol engine and despite our initial reservations about this downsized motor, its performance was pleasantly surprising. The powerplant delivers peak outputs of 88 kW and 172 Nm of torque, which compares favourably with similarly-sized engines. Propulsion is directed to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission.
This 3-pot is punchy enough for the Kona to keep up with urban traffic with ease. It's not tinny-sounding, more refined than we expected and the minimal intrusion of engine noise in the cabin leads us to proclaim this one of the better 3-cylinder turbo engines we've sampled of late.
The manual 'box shifts positively and directly, plus the gear ratios are well-spaced. The Kona also coped well in highway conditions with good tractability, even in 6th gear. Maximum punch can be achieved by gearing down, but the motor’s sweet spot is fortunately never far away.
In terms of fuel consumption, Hyundai claims that Kona owners should see average returns of 6.8 L/100 km (or thereabouts), but based on our experience (of course, it all depends on your driving style) you are likely to see returns figures closer to 8.5 L/100 km.
Ride and handling?
The Kona feels agile and nimble through the bends and its ride quality is comfortable and forgiving.
This particular Hyundai has an element of dynamism to it, believe it or not. The steering is slightly firmer than the norm for a product from the Seoul-based manufacturer, which gives the Kona driver a greater sense of driving engagement. Feedback is good and not only can the newcomer be whipped into a corner with confidence, but it also feels sprightly and light on its, um, 17-wheels and tyres. It’s nimble and enjoyable to drive.
Apart from marginal wind noise entering the cabin at highway speeds, the on-road refinement is good; the suspension does a commendable job of soaking up road imperfections and, as we found, remains well-composed on gravel too. It’s slightly more firmly-sprung than the Creta, but the ride quality is by no means skittish or bouncy. For its class, the Kona offers an admirable blend of ride comfort and handling.
The interior is neatly designed and comes with a host of useful features as standard.
Although perceived interior quality is good, dark and hard plastic trim dominates, which makes the interior durable, but a bit sombre. Red air vent- and gear lever boot surrounds (and similarly-coloured piping on the seats) break the monotony and add some verve to an otherwise dark cabin.
The seats (finished in artificial leather and cloth) are suitably comfortable; the fronts are manually adjustable, including height (for the driver). The rake-and-reach adjustable multifunction steering, meanwhile, has toggles for the audio system, Bluetooth, cruise control and multi-info display.
The 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system is easy to use and is both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible.
A neat 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system stands proud of the fascia and not only is it easy to use, but features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Satellite navigation, however, is an extra-cost option (contact your local dealer for a quote). Rear park distance control and a reverse-view camera is standard fare, as are electric windows, air conditioning, and electrically folding mirrors.
In terms of safety features, the Kona comes well-equipped with 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, Brake Assist and importantly, Electronic Stability Control (ESC). ISOfix child seat mounts on the outer rear seats are also standard.
The load bay offers decent space which increases substantially with the rear seats folded flat.
While the Kona may not be as spacious as the Creta, it still offers a reasonable amount of space to store luggage. The load bay is said to offer 361 litres of capacity, which is larger than that of the Ford EcoSport and Mazda CX-3, for example.
The rear seatback splits 60:40 and can be folded down to create a flat floor, which aids the loading and transportation of unusually long or bulky objects. Additional storage space for smaller items can be found under the load bay floor, which is ideal to keep valuable items out of sight.
Taller rear passengers may find legroom a bit of a squeeze, but children and average-sized adults should be comfortably accommodated. A central armrest with 2 cupholders, bottle holders in the door mouldings and storage nets (on the plastic front seatbacks) provide extra storage space.
Up front, there are 2 cupholders, a small centre bin (to store oddments) and a dedicated smartphone storage space ahead of the gear lever, where a USB and auxiliary audio ports, a fast charging port and 12V socket are availed. Additional storage is provided in the glovebox and door mouldings.
Pricing and warranty
The Hyundai Kona 1.0T Executive is priced at R379 900 (December 2018) and is sold with a 5-year/150 000 km vehicle warranty, 7-year/200 000 km drivetrain warranty and a 5-year/90 000 km service plan.
The Kona is stylish, well equipped and it satisfying to drive, well, if you can afford it.
The Kona is perhaps the oddball in Hyundai’s crossover/SUV line-up and whereas traditional family car buyers will either turn to the Creta or the larger Tucson to fulfil their transportation needs, the Kona will appeal to a more discerning buyer who's looking for something refreshing that makes much more of a style statement. Yes, it’s not the most spacious crossover, but it’s not too compromised either – a young family might find the Kona to be the perfect fit. It may also suit a young couple looking for a stylish urban runabout that offers more space than an average hatchback.
The Kona 1.0T Executive is well-equipped with features and its performance is more than adequate for running errands around town, or the daily commute, while still being capable enough to cope with average gravel roads. In terms of pricing, the Kona is on the pricey end of the scale (if you match it up with cars such as the Ford EcoSport, Opel Crossland X and Renault Captur) but none of those is as stylish as the Hyundai.
What's more, the Kona makes a strong case for itself with a comprehensive warranty and a fair service plan. We think it’s definitely worth considering if you are in the market for a crossover with a bit of flair... there aren't that many of them!
Alternatives (click on the names for specification details)
The top-spec Ford EcoSport represents good value at its price point of R334 500. Its load bay is not as big as the Kona’s, but its turbocharged 1.0-litre engine offers similar outputs of 92 kW an 170 Nm of torque. The EcoSport is also well-equipped with standard features.
The Crossland X is not only more spacious than the Kona, but its turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol engine (81 kW/205 Nm) is punchier. It too is generously equipped with standard features and is priced at R370 867. The Crossland X’s styling is not as flamboyant as the Kona's, however.
If style matters to you, then the Mazda CX-3 is a good bet. It has a bigger, more powerful naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre engine that offers 115 kW and 206 Nm of torque with the convenience of an automatic transmission. Standard specification is good too and it is similarly priced to the Kona at R389 400. Its load bay, however, is comparatively tiny, at 264 litres.