Hyundai’s compact crossover – which has been a significant absentee from the brand's range – will now provide a direct alternative to the Vauxhall Mokka X, Renault Captur, Nissan Juke and plenty of other rivals in this fast-populating segment, not least the Stonic from sister brand Kia.
It rides on all-new platform architecture – unlike the Rio-based Stonic, curiously – provisioned for a full-time four-wheel-drive option and the underfloor space to accommodate a sizeable battery pack for an electric version.
Powering the Hyundai Kona’s assault
That motive force arrives next year, along with two brand new diesel units of 116bhp and 134bhp. The engine line-up for now consists of a 118bhp 1.0 turbo triple and a four-cylinder 175bhp 1.6 turbo, both petrol.
The 1.0 litre will account for the bulk of UK sales and comes with a six-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels. The 1.6 is limited to the higher trim levels and can be ordered with on-demand four-wheel drive, complete with differential lock and electronic hill-descent control; the 4x4 version comes with a seven-speed dual clutch automatic. This all-wheel-drive Kona also has a multi-link rear axle, the 1.0’s rear end suspended by a coil-sprung torsion-beam axle.
Electronics and connectivity feature heavily on the Kona menu. There are 5.0in, 7.0in and 8.0in infotainment displays according to trim level, the base option including Bluetooth. The larger touchscreens provide a reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while the 8.0in one has navigation and seven years' free subscription to real-time traffic, weather and speed camera location updates.
As for trims, there are five to choose from – S, SE, Premium, Premium SE and Premium GT. Entry-level models get 16in alloy wheels, electric windows, hill start assist and lane departure warning on the outside as standard on the outside. Inside, there is air conditioning, tinted rear windows, Bluetooth and USB connectivity.
Upgrade to SE and you gain 17in alloys, roof rails, rear parking sensors, rear view camera, and smartphone integration, while Premium trimmed Kona’s include 18in alloy wheels, a skid plate, climate control, auto wipers and lights, and keyless entry and start.
Premium SE models adds electrically adjustable and climate controlled front seats, a leather upholstery, folding mirrors, a heated steering wheel and front parking sensors, while the range-topping Premium GT Kona is equipped with a host of safety equipment and LED headlights.
More immediately obvious than these features is a colour palette far brighter than Hyundai’s usual offering, these shades set off by a contrast colour roof. Inside, the upholstery stitching and various decor elements complement the exterior hue, with this theme optionally – and a little startlingly – extending to the seatbelts.
Substance to go with the Kona’s style
More colourful to behold than most Hyundais and more sophisticated inside, too, were it not for the slightly cheapening effect of an interior that’s entirely black, headlining included. There’s relief in the contrast colour stitching and decor, but the all-black door trims look cheaper than they actually are. The sophistication stems from the presence of the large, tablet-style screen emerging from the centre console, the dashboard’s soft-feel insert and, if fitted, the head-up display screen emerging from the instrument binnacle.
Comfortable, high-mounted seats, plenty of space and a reasonably clear control layout make the Kona an easy thing to drive, and if you’re in any doubt at the adequacy of a 1.0 triple for the hauling job ahead, fear not – the well-managed turbocharger ensures decent lugging power.
Mid-range pull is good, too, and even though a 12.0sec 0-62mph sprint is hardly rapid, the Kona rarely feels slow. The three-cylinder’s beat isn’t obvious until it’s worked hard, and while not the creamiest of triples, it revs to its 6800rpm limiter with some enthusiasm. All of which reduces the need for repeated shifting in search of torque, the gearlever nevertheless a willing assistant.
The Kona tackles corners with an early burst of zeal, in that the steering response is initially quite quick. But in tighter turns, you need a little more lock than you might expect given that sharper turn-in.
Roll is fended off pretty effectively and the steering wheel turns cleanly to allow brisk progress, even if this feels quite a wide car for a vehicle classed as compact. The Kona is hardly a keen driver’s delight, but it’s hardly a chore either, and it’s certainly game for being hustled.
Spain’s well-graded roads revealed little of the Hyundai’s absorbency potential, but the odd intrusive bump and its limited roll suggest a ride that rounds off rather than soaking up. All the usual noise sources are well muffled, making light work of long distances. Those banished to the back will find a decent helping of space, the storage of any luggage eased by the boot’s sill-free flat floor, which stays that way when the split backrests are dropped to extend it.
The Kona is unquestionably a contender among this fast-expanding class of crossovers, and it’s more polished than many of them too. The black-only interior is disappointing and the ride will probably feel a little firm at times, but this is an attractively styled, pleasingly hued crossover that scores with well-sorted fundamentals and an unusually wide range of electronic accessories to inform, amuse and protect.
Expect it to become quite a regular sight.