What is it?
In the space of four short years, Kona has become the second biggest seller in the Hyundai range — second only to the i30 hatch and now sedan.
A small, five-seat SUV, Kona has pioneered the company’s new look design, with a face that features reverse, over and under placement for the lights that are located below thin daytime LEDs.
It’s a polarising look, one that you’re going to love or hate, and in lower grades it’s not helped by an over abundance of grey, plastic cladding, presumably designed to emphasis its off road prowess — it’s got none.
Updated at the beginning of this year, it’s a slicker offering this time around and at least the cladding gets a lick of paint in the latest, sporty N Line variant.
What’s it cost?
Prices for Kona start at $26,600 before on-roads and that includes an auto.
They’re all front-wheel drive, apart from N Line and N Line Premium this time around, with two electric models sitting at the top of the range priced from $62,000.
In keeping with its sporty premise, N Line scores a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine and seven-speed twin clutch auto, and a more sophisticated, sports-tuned, multi-link rear suspension.
Standard kit includes leather and single climate control air conditioning, keyless entry with engine start/stop button, adaptive cruise control, auto lights and wipers, rear park sensors, 10.25-inch touchscreen satellite navigation with standard Android Auto and Apple Car Play connectivity — plus eight-speaker Harman-Kardon audio system.
Inside, there are N Line sports front seats, and a unique cabin treatment featuring red stitching, piping and trim inserts, as well as alloy pedals.
Pay extra for the Premium — $6000 more in fact — and you get a configurable 10.25-inch digital instrument panel, pop up head-up display, front parking sensors, plus power adjust seats, with heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats and a heated steering wheel.
There’s also auto high beam, auto dimming rear view mirror, LED headlights, front indicators and tail lights — and you get to toss up between a sunroof or two-tone paint treatment (but you can’t have both).
Safety equipment comprises six airbags, a rear view camera, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), Blind-Spot Collision Warning (BCW), Driver Attention Warning (DAW), High Beam Assist (HBA), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA) and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning (RCCW).
What’s it go like?
This time around the 1.6 turbo boasts increased output, with 146kW of power (up from 130kW) and 265Nm of torque available, the latter slightly higher in the rev range — from 1600 to 4500 rpm.
Transmission is via a 7-speed dual clutch auto, with power to all four wheels in a torque on demand system — otherwise it remains front-wheel drive most of the time.
N Line reponds eagerly to the throttle, with Comfort, Sport, Eco and Smart drive modes to choose from, but we were disappointed by the lack of gear change paddles.
You can, however, change gears sequentially (manually) using the centre console transmission lever.
Smart mode in case you’re wondering adapts to the driver’s style of driving.
I always find my wife’s opinion grounding and I thought she might enjoy driving Kona.
Always the kiss of death for a car. Unfortunately, it made her car sick, so I suggested she try sport mode (it must have worked because she made no further comment).
The seats are supportive and comfortable, with high sides and trimmed in leather.
The aircon offers only one temperature control and no rear outlets for passengers, while the cabin looks decidedly plastic on closer inspection, evidenced by the front door speaker grilles which could use some adornment.
Although the touchscreen is quite large, the instrument cluster features two, old-style analogue dials, with a regulation info panel between them.
Exploring the menu system, we discovered the Sounds of Nature, cabin ambience taken to a new level with the noise of waves rolling on to a beach to calm nerves.
LOL. Nice idea, but be warned because it could send you on an urgent quest looking for the nearest public toilet if you forgot to go before departing.
Adjustments for audio are also difficult to locate.
Kona is a small SUV, and as such rear legroom is tight and the luggage area is quite small — so remember to check these out for size.
The robotised 7-speed twin-clutch style auto rips through the gears in rapid succession, but comes with the usual quirks associated with these units.
Plonking the accelerator, slowing down then speeding up or changing quickly between forward and reverse tends to confuse the system.
As such, a steady approach seems to produce smoother results.
Suspension is Mac strut at the front and a multi-link setup at the back, with 18-inch alloys and expensive 235/45 Continental rubber, with a space saver spare.
The homegrown Kumho tyres, once fitted to all Hyundais — have gone bye-bye.
A beefed up sports brake package for N Line provides stopping power to match engine performance.
Despite local suspension tuning, the ride can be brittle at times and although it can be pushed reasonably hard with confidence, it gets out of shape too easily.
With a 50-litre tank, N Line takes regular 91 unleaded and uses a claimed 6.9L/100km (We were getting a longterm 7.8L).
Bear in mind, however, service intervals for the turbo are 10,000km, adding to the expense and frequency of servicing of the car.
What we like?
- Paint for cladding
- Sports enhancements
- Willing performer
- Strong safety story
What we don’t like?
- Small boot
- Interior too plastic
- No gear change paddles
- Rear legroom tight
- Speaker grilles look cheap
- Silly floor mat fasteners
The bottom line?
Kona sells on size and price, probably at the expense of Tucson which used to be the smaller offering.
At the same time, they’ve installed the smaller Venue at one end and larger Palisade at the other end of the range.
Now, with a comprehensive range of five SUVs, there’s plenty to choose from, so it’s unlikely you’re going to walk away without one of them.
If it’s a Kona you’re interested in, N Line is definitely the pick. Note, however, they recently added a full on, full bore N edition — if that’s your thing.
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Hyundai Kona N-Line 1.6T DCT AWD, priced from $36,300
- Looks - 7.5/107.5/10
- Performance - 7.5/107.5/10
- Safety - 8/108/10
- Thirst - 7.5/107.5/10
- Practicality - 7/107/10
- Comfort - 7.5/107.5/10
- Tech - 7.5/107.5/10
- Value - 7.5/107.5/10