Of the 3 compact family cars that Hyundai offers in South Africa, the Kona is probably the most niche model. The Korean manufacturer has released details of its updated crossover, including a new performance-inspired N Line derivative, which sets the scene for the introduction of a fully-fledged Kona N.
The Kona, which is based on the i30 compact car's platform, is quite popular in Europe and although it was only introduced in Mzansi relatively recently (in late 2018), it's been in production since 2017, which means the facelift is just about on cue.
To bring the model's looks up to date, Hyundai has introduced a significantly revised front end, replete with a longer bonnet, a fresh grille design and widened LED daytime-running lights. A silver-grey skid plate cups the lower air intake, while vertical aerodynamic inlets feature on the outside edges of the black bumper. The two-tone execution, with black mirror housings, looks particularly fetching.
Hyundai has added a number of silver-grey accents to the Kona's cladding; the crossover now looks quite a bit sleeker.
At the rear, revised tail-light clusters feature horizontally-stretched graphics. The shapelier rear bumper, meanwhile, features a large skid plate that ties in neatly with the front-bumper execution and additional side-skirt garnishes. Overall, the updated Kona is 40 mm longer than its predecessor and comes with 16-inch alloy wheels; redesigned 17- and 18-inch rims are optional.
Inside, the Kona gains an electronic handbrake, ambient LED lighting (for the centre cup holder as well as the driver and front passenger's footwells), updated speaker- and vent surrounds, as well as a selection of new colour and material options. In Europe, the car's infotainment system has increased to an 8-inch touchscreen with wireless Android Auto and Apple Car Play compatibility as standard.
As expected, the Kona interior in the press material features the digital instrument cluster and the upgraded infotainment system.
The emergence of the all-new i20, of which we recently drove a pre-production unit, sees the compact hatchback's 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster being transplanted in the Kona. The infotainment system can be upgraded to a 10.25-inch unit, which supports a split-screen function, multiple Bluetooth connections and the extended features of Hyundai’s cloud-based navigation system.
Although the new N-Line derivative probably won't be of much consequence to the South African market, it does offer clues to what the upcoming Kona N will might look like (...only wilder). Compared with its standard sibling, the N-Line eschews black cladding in favour of a sportier bodykit and features an (ostensibly Audi A1-inspired) trio of mesh-covered mini air intakes above the front grille.
There's a lot more in the way of air inlets in the N Line version's frontal aspect.
Apart from bespoke alloys, the N Line features a rear diffuser and a dual-outlet sports exhaust, while the black leather interior trim is accented with red contrast stitching, metal pedals and N logos.
Meanwhile, Hyundai has upgraded its 1.6-litre turbopetrol derivative's peak power output to 145 kW, which is available in either 2- or 4-wheel-drive guise in conjunction with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic overseas. On the South African market, Hyundai offers a 1.0-litre turbopetrol derivative with a 6-speed manual and a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol version with a 6-speed automatic 'box.
The N Line's rear bumper features an elaborate diffuser inset, which is complemented with dual exhaust pipes.
As for the driving experience, the refreshed Kona features a recalibrated steering system (for more linear responses to 'wheel inputs), plus a more comfort-oriented suspension setup. The firm says: "Next to springs and dampers, the stabiliser bars have been modified for better isolation. The rear bump stop was also modified, bringing benefits for primary ride and lateral body control."
Hyundai South Africa's product pitch for the Kona is quite different to its counterparts in Europe; local derivatives are much more soberly specced for optimal value for money. Although the local subsidiary has yet to confirm the arrival date of the updated Kona, we expect local versions to carry over at least the cosmetic updates next year, probably during the 1st quarter (or half) of 2021.