Hyundai Kona: All that glitters . . .

2023 Hyundai Kona 8

What is it?

There’s nothing new about ‘influencers’, that cohort of ‘pretty’ girls and boys who lead youngsters by their credit cards to so-called desirable dressing.

For years automobile manufacturers have used ‘futurists’ to try to predict what car buyers will want in four years’ time – the average development period for a new vehicle. 

With EVs and hybrids rapidly accelerating up the sales charts the new Hyundai Kona, including petrol powered-only models, has been designed to look like an electric vehicle – with no radiator grille.

The maker claims this is to make the whole range of the small SUV blend in with traffic better in the future.  

This Hyundai hype was recently reinforced with the new all-electric Kona landing in Australia in three versions – Kona standard and extended ranges, plus Kona Electric Premium. 

More of those at a later date.

The ‘petrols’ on offer at present are a 2.0-litre four-cylinder with a CVT automatic and front-wheel drive, and a turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder with an eight-speed torque converter automatic and all-wheel drive.

I took the former on extended test.

2023 Hyundai Kona 1

What’s it cost?

Prices for the second-generation SUV ‘petrols’ start at $32,000 and rise to $46,500, plus on-road costs.

The N-Line pack adds an extra $4000. Considerably more kit does come with the price premium.

The EVs come in at $54.000 for the standard range, topping off at $68,000 for the Premium.

With the aforementioned nod to electric vehicles, the ICE car’s looks make Hyundai literally a leading light in automotive design.

The absence of a grille apart, up front the full width of the compact sports utility vehicle  is emphasised by an LED strip light on the leading edge of the bonnet, from wing to wing — similar to one which debuted on the Staria van.

Not far behind is a similar single bar across the rear, highlighting the futuristic (EV) view from behind.

Outboard lighting matches the front triangular set-up.

Inside and out the new Kona is bigger than its predecessor.

In profile, apart from muscular wheel arch covers, the rest is very much de rigueur for the class.

A high-resolution 12.3-inch widescreen digital infotainment display sits above the centre stack, which incorporates climate control air-con buttons.

Directly in front of the driver is a digital instrument screen inside a 12.3-inch panel.

Wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto are standard low down the model range, while Premium variants with satellite navigation have only wired systems.

This is due to change later this year with wireless becoming available to all.

Hyundai’s Bluelink connection enables remote access from a paired smartphone with vehicle location, remote lock and start services, plus the ability to contact emergency services in the event of an accident. 

In an uncharacteristic faux-pas, Kona scored only four stars when crash tested.

But it scores Hyundai’s SmartSense safety system, which includes front and rear autonomous emergency braking (with car, ‘powered two-wheeler’, pedestrian and cyclist detection), blind spot view and collision avoidance, lane-following and lane keeping assist.

There’s also rear cross-traffic alert, active cruise control, safe exit warning, surround view monitor, driver attention warning and tyre pressure monitoring.

A multi-collision brake is designed to minimise the chance of additional impacts after an initial crash and an emergency stop signal function are also standard.

There are seven airbags, including a front centre bag to minimise front occupant injuries in a side impact, as well as three top tether anchors and two Isofix positions across the rear seat.

New Kona is covered by a five-year $100,000km warranty and attracts Hyundai’s  Premium Roadside Support Plan free for the first 12 months and renewed annually for up to 10 years so long as the vehicle is serviced by Hyundai.

2023 Hyundai Kona 5

What’s it go like?

At a tad over 4.3m long, 1.8m wide and almost 1.6m tall, the ‘small’ SUV is more spacious on the inside too thanks to a 60mm increase in wheelbase front to back. 

This translates to much more legroom in the back compared with before.

Head room is more than adequate for the average adult.

Absent in the 2.0 is a shift-by-wire transmission stalk to the right behind the steering wheel found in Premium and turbo grades.

In its place here is a conventional centre-console gearshift.

Storage abounds, with bins in the front doors big enough for large bottles and two retractable cup holders in the centre console, plus a generous glove box, as well as wireless charging, USB-C jacks and a 12V socket.

Rear doors can take small bottles and there are two cup holders in the fold-down centre armrest and pockets on the front seat backs.

Adjustable ventilation outlets and a pair of USB-C power sockets are in situ.

The boot will hold 407 litres with the rear seat backs raised, or up to 1241 litres with them folded flat.

A space-saver spare is carried.

The Kona and Kona Premium come with either a naturally aspirated  Atkinson cycle 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine sending 110kW and 180Nm (at 6200 rpm and 4500 rpm respectively) to the front wheels through a CVT automatic transmission.

Hyundai claims a combined urban/highway fuel consumption figure of 6.6L/100km, while the test car came up with 6.1L over  two weeks of varied driving conditions.

On a second (and longer) stint with a Kona N, over two weeks, we covered close to 2000km, which presented a first for this driver, with the tyre pressure monitor proving its worth.

With all four tyres at recommended maker’s pressure of 33 psi a drop to nine in the rear near-side tyre pressure showed up on the instrument screen.

Dropping in to the closest tyre shop came up with the result that the tyre in question had picked up a 5cm nail where the wall met the running surface.

Too dodgy to plug, the whole tyre was replaced and on we drove.  

Riding on the standard 18-inch wheels the Kona kept up a steady, if not always smooth, march over some neglected city road surfaces and held cabin noise intrusion to an acceptable level on concrete motorway surfaces.

Steering followed suit with positive feedback from the road, while disc brakes, ventilated at the front, had little trouble stopping the 1.4 tonne-plus vehicle in the dry-only conditions encountered.  

Speed presented only one problem and that was purely electronic.

The test car speed-sign recognition indicator suffered from a form of dyslexia: the 10km/h speed limit registered in a shopping centre car park remained unchanged through several streets before the instrument display switched to the correct legal limit.

Other speed limits were slow to catch up and slip roads constantly over-rode the legal motorway limit.

On the other hand, audible constant legal speed limit warnings turned out to be handy over the long run with constant changing of limits, while lane change alarms at times were annoying and unnecessary with driver concentration levels high.

2023 Hyundai Kona 6

What we like?

  • Futuristic EV look
  • Bigger inside and out
  • Remote access from a paired smartphone
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto standard

2023 Hyundai Kona 9

What we don’t like?

  • Four-star crash rating
  • Misses out on shift-by-wire
  • Dyslexic speed sign recognition
  • Space-saver spare carried

2023 Hyundai Kona 4

The bottom line?

In typical Hyundai fashion the new Kona 2.0 stands apart in its class from a design point of view.

It will be interesting to see what the new EV take-up is like.

2023 Hyundai Kona 3


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Hyundai Kona 2.0, priced from $32,000
  • Looks - 8/10
  • Performance - 6/10
  • Safety - 7/10
  • Thirst - 7/10
  • Practicality - 8/10
  • Comfort - 6/10
  • Tech - 8/10
  • Value - 7/10

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