Hyundai's Kona sets its sights on small supermini-based SUVs in the Juke and Captur segment. Jonathan Crouch reports
Ten Second Review
Hyundai fills a conspicuous gap in its model range with this Kona, a little SUV aimed at the many supermini-based models now populating the smaller part of the quickly-growing Crossover segment. It's more extrovertly styled than you might expect a Hyundai to be and ticks all the right boxes in terms of safety and media connectivity.
There are advantages to turning up late to any party. The 'event' in question in this case is the quickly growing market for small supermini-based SUVs, a segment that manufacturers like Nissan and Renault have been enjoying vast sales in for most of the last decade. Other volume brands were left on the back foot and it's taken them some time to catch up. That's changing now and the model we're going to look at here, Hyundai's Kona, is just one of a whole series of models being launched into this potentially profitable segment.
Hyundai had inserted a makeshift stop-gap model, a dressed-up 'Active' version of its i20 supermini, into this class to represent it while Kona development was completed but buyers largely ignored that car. They're unlikely to overlook this one quite as easily. Let's find out why.
Kona buyers initially get a choice between two petrol engines. The entry-level 1.0-litre T-GDI three-cylinder turbo is borrowed from the i30 and puts out 120PS and 175Nm of torque. It's manual only, using a six-speed box, and drives through its front wheels only. The other unit on offer is a 1.6-litre four-cylinder variant with 175PSbhp, available only with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto box and four-wheel drive. This top petrol model can make 62mph from rest in just 7.9 seconds on the way to 127mph flat out. For the 1.0 T-GDI, the figures are 12.0s and 112mph.
Small Crossovers in this class need to be able to offer fun, agile handling, something Hyundai says is delivered in the Kona thanks in large part to an advanced multilink rear suspension system - though this is only fitted to the 1.6-litre petrol model. Lesser-powered versions get the kind of cheaper torsion beam rear set-up that features on less advanced rivals. There's also an 'Advanced Traction Cornering Control' package to improve traction and damping in bends.
Design and Build
Aware that it was late launching a model into the smallest sector of the SUV segment, Hyundai felt the need to make a bold statement with the design of this car. Hence the aggressive body styling with its two-tone roof, unusual twin headlamps and distinctive 'Cascading' front grille. Short rear overhangs and a low roofline add to the purposeful silhouette, plus contrasting exterior accents and standard-fit roof bars inject a bit of all-important SUV flavour.
Inside, there's a cabin you can colour co-ordinate in a choice of different shades and lots of the switchgear is borrowed from the company's i30 family hatch. Plusher models get a floating 8-inch screen at the top of the dash. Lesser models get a 7-inch set-up. Either way, the infotainment package is compatible with the 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' systems. A head-up display is being offered for the first time in a Hyundai and audiophiles can opt for a thumping Krell stereo system. As for practicalities, well the Kona is a little longer than a rival Nissan Juke, something that really tells in terms of back seat space. Plus there's a 361-litre boot that you can extend in size to 1,143-litres when the 60:40 split-folding rear backrest is flattened.
Market and Model
Hyundai knows it has to price the Kona tightly to its main rivals in the Juke and Captur-dominated small Crossover segment, so it's no surprise to find this car's pricing starting from just over £16,000. That base sum will get you the entry-level 'S'-spec 1.0-litre T-GDI petrol variant. Inevitably, you have to pay a fair bit more than that to get the kind of model you're likely to see dressed up in the brochure pictures - but then that's the case elsewhere too. 'SE', 'Premium' and 'Premium SE' trim grades provide that. A top 'Premium GT' model comes with a pokier 1.6 T-GDI unit and costs around £24,500.
As for equipment levels across the range, well Hyundai isn't holding back. Plusher versions get dual-zone climate control to ensure a comfortable environment for all occupants during long journeys. Plus niceties like a panoramic sunroof and a heated steering wheel are optional, as is a Navigation system you operate via an 8-inch touchscreen on the dash.
Safety has been a particular feature of the development of this car. A 'Lane Keeping Assist System' is standard, as is a 'Driver Attention Alert' system, and all variants can be fitted with Autonomous Emergency Braking, a system that scans the road ahead as you drive, the set-up looking for potential collision hazards. If one is detected, you'll be warned. If you don't respond - or aren't able to - the brakes will automatically be applied to decrease the severity of any resulting accident. Other key Kona safety features include 'Smart Cruise Control', a 'Blind Spot Detector, 'Rear-Cross Traffic Alert', a 'Speed Limit Information Function' and 'High Beam Assist'.
Cost of Ownership
The introduction of new engine technology has kept Hyundai right on the pace of the class best when it comes to efficiency and carbon dioxide emissions. The 1.0-litre T-GDI petrol unit puts out 125g/km of CO2 and manages 52.3mpg. And the 1.6-litre T-GDI variant delivers 169g/km and 38.7mpg.
Fuel saving technologies include Integrated Stop & Go (ISG), low rolling-resistance tyres, an alternator management system (AMS) and a drag-reducing 'active air flap' in the front grille. All of this is aided by a slippery drag coefficient and in the top petrol variant, the 7DCT auto gearbox provides an improvement in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of up to 20% compared to a conventional six-gear automated transmission.
As for servicing, well your Kona will need a garage visit once a year or every 10,000 miles, whichever comes sooner. If you want to budget ahead for routine maintenance, there are various 'Hyundai Sense' packages that offer fixed-price servicing over two, three or five-year periods. You can pay for your plan monthly and add MoTs into the three or five year plans for an extra fee.
With the Kona, Hyundai has clearly benchmarked what buyers want in this class, then ruthlessly set about providing it. Aggressive styling: tick. Trendy media connectivity: tick. Class-competitive safety: tick. Potential for fun handling: tick. It's hard to argue with the finished result. Surprise, surprise, it ticks a lot of boxes.
You can't always create a great product through this kind of process. We'd argue, for example, that the class-leading Nissan Juke has an extra dash of emotive spirit that doesn't come from working through a spread sheet. If you don't care about that though, the Kona makes a strong case for itself. We think it's a car the segment will like.