Hyundai Kona: Clever design fits right in

2023 Hyundai Kona 8

What is it?

In a display, which can only be described as a case of automotive smoke and mirrors, the new Hyundai Kona is designed to look like an electric vehicle.

It has no radiator grille – whether it’s the EV, hybrid or petrol-powered version of the compact SUV.  

Hyundai says this is to make the whole range, including petrol variants — blend in with traffic better in future  (EV and hybrids are due here by year’s end).  

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

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

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

New Kona is covered by a five-year $100,000 kilometre warranty and attracts Hyundai’s  Premium Roadside Support Plan free for the first 12 months.

It can be renewed annually for up to 10 years so long as the vehicle is serviced by Hyundai.

2023 Hyundai Kona 1

What’s it cost?

If there were a patron saint of electric lighting, say St Osram, the new Kona would pay him or her homage, for the car’s design literally makes Hyundai 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 in the Staria.

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 at this end of the range, while Premium variants with satellite navigation are restricted to wired only 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. 

Kona is on board with 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.

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.

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, found to the right behind the steering wheel 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.

There’s also 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.

Kona and Kona Premium come with either a naturally aspirated,  Atkinson-cycle 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that delivers 110kW of power and 180Nm of torque at 6200 rpm and 4500 rpm respectively, powering 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 a week of varied driving conditions.

Riding on the standard 18-inch wheels the Kona kept up a steady march over some rough country roads and reduced 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 conditions encountered.  

Speed presented only one problem and that was purely electronic.

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

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

Constant speed limit and lane keeping audible warnings turned out to be overzealous.

While they are made to be turned off, they were not easy to silence. 

2023 Hyundai Kona 6

What we like?

  • Storage abounds
  • Styled to blend with EV
  • Bigger inside and out than predecessor
  • Much more legroom in the back
  • Remote access from paired smartphone

2023 Hyundai Kona 4

What we don’t like?

  • Speed-sign recognition slow to change
  • Lane keeping warnings difficult to silence

2023 Hyundai Kona 3

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 hybrid and full electric models can come up with under the skin later this year.

2023 Hyundai Kona 7


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Hyundai Kona 2.0, priced from $32,000
  • Looks - 9/10
  • Performance - 7/10
  • Safety - 8/10
  • Thirst - 7/10
  • Practicality - 8/10
  • Comfort - 6/10
  • Tech - 8/10
  • Value - 8/10

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