The Hyundai Kona stands out in the crowded compact SUV market
Hyundai is putting a lot of faith behind its new Kona compact SUV, which it hopes will be a real money-spinner. Jack Evans heads to South Korea to give it a go.
In truth, quite a lot. The Kona is Hyundai’s offering into the ever-flourishing compact SUV market and, though relatively late to the party, is offering funky looks alongside plenty of practicality.
Designed to take on the likes of the Renault Captur and Nissan Juke, the Kona comes with a choice of two petrol engines – though these could be accompanied by a diesel later on in the car’s life – as well as four-wheel drive. It’s certainly a refreshing take on the small SUV, and one that will appeal to those who want to stand out from the crowd.
Looks and image
There’s little chance that people will call the Kona boring to look at. With its sharp, angular looks and equally stylised headlights, it’s a good-looking car – though one that is heavily colour-dependent. Whereas brighter colours complement the Kona’s appearance, subdued ones tend to wash it out. It’s also a car that is far better to look at in the metal than in pictures – which is something we’d advise you to do as the Kona is well worth paying attention to.
The Kona marks the beginning of a new styling movement for Hyundai and sparks the start of a full suite of new cars, including a far more compact SUV as well as a much larger, premium four-wheel-drive.
Space and practicality
The Kona has been designed to appeal to active families, and because of this has a good degree of practicality on offer. There’s 361 litres of boot space to play with, but despite the load lip being quite flat it’s actually quite high – which could make loading larger items into the rear of the car a little more difficult. The rear seats can be folded flat too, extending the load area should you need it.
Most families should be well catered for in terms of interior space. There’s a good degree of legroom and headroom for those sat in the back, while those up front have plenty of shoulder room too. The interior also feels far less oppressive than that of the Juke, with large windows and light interior colours giving a better impression of spaciousness.
Behind the wheel
There are two chassis configurations available with the Kona. Lower-powered models get a standard torsion-beam rear suspension set-up, while higher-output models – such as the 1.6-litre model we’re testing here – receive a higher-specification multi-link system instead.
Our test car was still set to Korean specification while testing it at Hyundai’s research facility in Namyang, which meant that its suspension set-up was softer than that destined to be found on European-grade cars. Despite being potentially softer than the cars we’ll see in the UK, it still felt quite firm and would certainly struggle to cope with British roads.
Elsewhere, however, things are positive. The steering has a good degree of weight to it – though lacks any real feel – and there’s very little body roll through faster corners. The six-speed dual-clutch automatic fitted to our test car shifted smoothly and worked well with the surprisingly punchy engine.
At motorway speeds there’s quite a lot of noticeable road noise, as well as a fair amount of wind noise generated from the large wing mirrors. In contrast, the engine settles down nicely and there’s not too much noise from it either.
Value for money
Hyundai hasn’t released any official prices for the Kona, but to be competitive it’ll likely cost around £18,000. The cabin certainly feels reflective of this price. Despite the Kona’s exciting exterior looks, this isn’t really reflected inside – and we would have preferred an equal amount of flair applied to the cabin as has been done to the outside.
That said, everything has a good degree of solidity to it, and all the buttons and controls have plenty of weight to them. There are a few harder plastics used lower down the cabin, but for the most part it’s a good place to be. The main event is a large eight-inch infotainment screen, and this ‘floats’ in the centre of the cabin.
Who would buy one?
The Hyundai Kona is ideal for those looking for a well-rounded and good-looking small SUV. Though just two engines are available from launch, this really shouldn’t put potential buyers off, as the Kona feels almost perfect for smaller families who are more style conscious. Yes, the ride may be a touch firm, but the benefit of this is a car that deals well with corners – something you don’t tend to find in this segment. Hyundai may have been late to the B-segment, but it’s likely to make a huge impact with the Kona.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Hyundai Kona
Engine tested: 1.6-litre turbo petrol
Max speed: 127mph
0-60mph: 7.7 seconds
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