11 April 2018

Review: Hyundai Kona

Hyundai's Kona completes a style transition for the brand, writes Brian Byrne. From the swoopy look of most of the last decade through the softer theme of the current 120 and now to putting the design of that last on steroids.

Style stuff is stacked on the front. High-placed and slim indicators and DRLs, their lines linked by a thin dummy grille. Underneath is a cheese-grater grille flanked by chunky main lights. Underneath is a pair of fogs on what would be a vulnerable apron if the car was taken to rugged places. Nobody can say it's bland.

The striking side view includes chunky wheel guards and deep character line sculpts giving the whole profile a tough edge. Never mind that the urban warrior Kona will never be asked to rough it … it has the image. And a pleasing one.

With the inside style smooth curves on the dashboard carry well a pleasing simplicity in the traditional analogue main dials, and a centre infotainment screen — which does clutter a little by standing high. But that fussy comment from me is not reflected in what is clear and easy management of the touch-screen.

To the designer's credit the climate control management is by rotary knobs and proper mode buttons. I will keep highlighting this until other makes stop putting this function distractingly on screens … which probably means I'll be doing it until I give up this business.

The Kona has rear leg and head room that doesn't leave the back seat only for the smaller person. Which is where I think the crossover trend has really scored … the popularity is really because it offers more space and comfort in its nominal segment.

All Konas at the moment are petrol, most powered by a 1.0 turbo 3-pot of which I am fond from experience of it in companion brand Kia. But the review car had a 1.6 GDI petrol four, because that's what they provide with the automatic dual-clutch transmission. With 175hp on tap, it made for a very punchy drive, especially given the swift and seamless gearbox changes. There's a cost to this — the road tax is €390 as against the €200 of the entry level Kona. And it costs €4,000 extra in its grade to have the auto, because you're also paying for a more expensive engine.

The drive was good. Road noise was evident, but I always feel if you can hear the tyres they are sticking better than more silent ones in similar cars and conditions.

Kona's key competitors are Renault's excellent Captur and similar, and not least its own cousin Kia's Stonic. This Hyundai is well capable, and I'd say we'll be seeing a lot of it.

A caveat. The car they gave me to drive is €10,000 more than the base Kona. With a lot of extra safety tech as well as the convenience and comfort bits. Which has to be factored into how I felt about it. But basic stuff is constant, and I'm pretty sure that the main seller version will satisfy its buyers.

PRICE: From €20,995, review car €30,595; WHAT I LIKED: Strong style, comfort and space; RATING: 4/5.