We sampled the Kona on a relatively short test loop at Hyundai’s Namyang R&D Center in South Korea. The course starts with a long up-and-back straight-line section, before moving onto a bumpy, winding handling course designed to simulate various surfaces and road types.
Initial acceleration is good, although the automatic 'box wanted a bit more urgency going up through the gears, with a resulting amount of excess engine revving. But once up to speed, the engine is smooth, quiet and compliant.
Of course, straight-line acceleration is unlikely to be a priority of Kona buyers: ride, handling and manoeuvrability, particularly on bumpy urban roads, certainly will be. On such surfaces, the Kona soaks up the bumps and dips well. It's occasionally a touch wobbly, although nothing more than you’d expect from a high-riding crossover, and it rarely feels unsettled.
The steering is light and easy, although it doesn't exactly offer the most involved feedback. Perhaps that’s something that will be dialled up when the ‘fun’ is put in for the European market.
The DCT transmission features two drive modes: Comfort and Sport. The latter mode holds the gears for longer, producing more revs but without much discernable improvement in performance – although on such a short test run it was impossible to perform a wholly accurate back-to-back of the two modes.
Generally, the Kona's ride is quiet and certainly comfortable; it was instantly reassuring.
The driving position is good, with decent all-round visibility. If anything, the plain interior is slightly disappointing, given the car’s bold external appearance, but the clutter-free controls and dials are easy to navigate, and it feels comfortable and spacious.
Passenger space is pretty decent, too; the Hyundai engineer sitting next to me offering implacably polite directions seemed comfortable enough.