Small SUVs such as the Nissan Qashqai have been increasingly popular in the new car market, but Hyundai, normally a company eager to exploit new niches, has been slow to switch on to the segment. But now it’s time for the Kona, a small SUV named after a location in Hawaii.
The Kona is based on the Hyundai i30, which means the chassis, engines, gearboxes and suspension are all shared between the i30 and the Kona. That means the entry level Kona has front wheel drive, a 2.0 litre engine developing 110kW and 180Nm of torque, six-speed automatic gearbox, and rear torsion beam suspension.
The car tested here is the 2.0 litre Elite model, priced at NZ$36,990.
As with many cars today, Hyundai has gone with an ‘edgy’ styling, but the Korean car maker has taken detail styling to an almost absurd level. There’s a grand total of six lights and three grilles on the front of the Kona, seemingly applied via shotgun and pretty much the same treatment has been applied to the rear. Despite that, the Kona does look rather like a high tech chunky running shoe, which does fit the SUV image.
I just feel sorry for whoever has to wash the car. There are so many nooks and crannies around the car that you will forever be noticing bits the sponge has missed. This is something that many designers and new owners don’t seem to appreciate, as many new cars today have complicated vents, slats and design features. They may look good, but making sure all the corners, dips and creases are clean will be a nightmare.
With 110kW and 180Nm of torque the entry level Kona has sufficient, rather than appreciable performance but the six-speed auto is smooth and changes gear quickly enough that you never feel there’s a hole in the performance. Handling and ride is again sufficient for the market, with solid, predictable handling that slowly degrades into gentle understeer, while the car can feel a little jittery over sharp bumps in the road.
There’s been another appreciable leap in interior quality with the latest Hyundai’s but while the new i30 has Volkswagen interior designers worried, the Kona is more the sort of car that would concern Toyota. The inside of the Kona is still pretty good, although I’m not a fan of infotainment screens that stick up from the dashboard rather than being integrated into it. The infotainment system itself is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, and if you want sat nav you’ll need a proper smartphone to use it.
The Kona fills a gap in the Hyundai range, while offering a lower priced entry point into the Hyundai SUV family. It’s got good quality, a decent driving experience and chunky looks. Just make sure you get someone else to wash the car.