Car Review: New Hyundai Kona

The expressive Kona offers decent performance and expressive design, but will it manage to stand out in a crowded segment?

As the middle-child of the Creta and Tucson, Hyundai’s latest small SUV has officially launched in South Africa and last week we headed to Stellenbosch to see if it is as bold as it’s claimed to be…

At its local launch, Hyundai noted that the Kona is here to fill an important slot as an ‘eye-catching’, confident and unique crossover in Hyundai’s range. Its quirky exterior design is aimed at the young-at-heart, those who dare to stand out and turn heads on the road, while its cabin is geared to offer practical (but still stylish) features.

While I do love its refreshing and perky exterior design, I suppose the question is: will the Kona make its mark in the Hyundai range, or will it get lost in an already crowded segment?

The Range

The Kona’s engine range is simple, in that there are just two to choose from: a 2-litre (automatic) naturally aspirated engine and a punchy new 1-litre (manual) 3-cylinder turbo engine. Hyundai also opted to stick to one (Executive) trim level for the Kona, which offers a fair amount of spec for your spendings. Both models are front-wheel driven and are priced at R379 900 for the 1.0 T-GDI Executive (manual) model. Its automatic version is priced at R399 900.

What’s the Kona like to be in?

I was pleasantly surprised at its launch when I found the Kona’s interior and ride quality (particularly in its 1-litre 3-cylinder manual version) to be a lot more energetic and appealing than I thought it would be. The plastics that surround some of the cabin didn’t feel cheap and tacky, and the dashboard wasn’t disappointing either with attractive styling and eye-catching features. “Expressive” is probably a good word to describe the Kona’s interior design, with bold, colour-coded accents around the air vents and gear lever, to name a few. It also comes with a host of convenience features from a rear passengers’ arm rest with cup holders, to its 7-inch infotainment system that links to CarPlay on Apple iPhones or Android Auto on Android phones – so you can connect to your preferred traffic apps – who actually uses a car’s build-in nav these days anyway?

The interior of the Kona comes with two distinctive colour themes: Lime, for the Acid Yellow exterior colour; and Red, for the other four exterior colours. The interior colour accents are featured on the air vent surrounds, around the gearshift, the engine start button ring, the stitching on the seats and the steering wheel.

The engine most will recommend is the Kona’s 1-litre manual petrol engine. You might think that it’s a very small engine to power a larger car, but it gets up to highway speeds with no trouble, and we found it far more efficient when it came to overtaking slow moving vehicles. It provides 88kW of power and 172 Nm of torque, and reaches a maximum speed of 181 km/h. Hyundai claims that its fuel consumption ‘can be as low as 6.8 litres/100km’ but you’d probably need to be doing less demanding drives to achieve this. It’s not particularly agile, especially around corners, however it does change direction surprisingly well.  Overall, myself and colleagues were in agreement that the Kona’s manual 1.0-litre engine is the preferred choice.

Also read: 5 things women will love about the new Hyundai i20 

The Atkinson 2-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine employed in the Kona 2.0 NU Executive delivers 110 kW and maximum torque of 180 Nm. The four-cylinder engine is coupled with a six-speed automatic gearbox, also delivering its power to the front wheels. Although it is easier and more relaxing to drive, it’s just not quite as punchy and efficient to drive, particularly if you’re driving with a a full cabin or uphill. The 2-liter Kona can reach a maximum speed of 194 km/h, and recorded fuel consumption of 7,2 litres/100 km on a combined urban/open road test cycle. In the Kona 2.0 Executive a button on the centre gearshift console offers a choice between Comfort, Eco or Sport driving modes.


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Sampling Hyundai’s refreshing Kona in the Cape! Pricing starts at R379 900. @hyundai_sa #HyundaiKona

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What about safety?

The Hyundai Kona achieved a five-star safety rating in the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP).

The active safety features include an Anti-skid Braking System (ABS), Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), Downhill Brake Control, Blind-Spot Collision Warning and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning.

Passive safety features include driver and front passenger airbags, complemented by curtain and side-impact airbags.


Now that Hyundai has included its vibrant and free-spirited Kona SUV to the local range to fill the gap between the Creta and the Tucson, there’s an SUV for everyone. But will the Kona be able to live up to expectations? I suppose time will tell

Pricing for the Kona includes a 7 years/200 000 km manufacturers’ warranty (comprising the 5 years/150 000 km warranty with a 2 years/50 000 km drivetrain warranty); a 5 year/90 000 km service plan; and 5 years/150 000 km roadside assistance.