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Hyundai shows its playful side with a new small crossover that’s (not so squarely) aimed at the young at heart...

Throughout the past decade (or so), Hyundai South Africa has steadily grown its local market share – and consolidated its brand reputation – in the local market. These feats can be attributed to a combination of factors, not least the consistent quality of its products and ever-improving levels of after-sales service. However, the local distributor of the Korean brand has also demonstrated its innate ability to anticipate the trends of the prevailing market and adapt accordingly. While the strategies behind the locally developed limited-edition Tucson Sport and the introduction of the neatly packaged Creta small SUV have proved sound, the arrival of the Kona small crossover in a fiercely contested, if not over-traded segment, represents a bold change on Hyundai’s part.

For a carmaker renowned for clever packaging and well-considered levels of standard specification, whose products are aimed at predominantly rational-thinking customers, the quirky Kona (named after a district in Hawaii) and widely lauded new i30 N hot hatch represent a loosening of the corporate tie.

Introduced with a bold new colour palette (including Pulse Red, in which the test unit was finished), the Kona targets an altogether more expressive and image-conscious buyer: one that’s ostensibly less concerned with practical packaging and prudent specification, and more interested in making a statement of their decidedly individualistic taste. It’s a marketing strategy often employed by French brands in this segment (and not always with much success in a predominantly conservative market). Incidentally, some members of the test team recognised hints of Citroën in the Kona’s fresh and distinctive styling, in particular the newcomer’s slim LED daytime-running lights, which are located above a fresh interpretation of Hyundai’s signature grille. The latter is flanked by headlamps quirkily positioned within chunky plastic cladding.

Built on an all-new B-SUV platform, which was designed to accommodate both all-wheel drive and all-electric powertrain configurations in other markets, the Kona may be shorter (by 105 mm) than the Creta but is nevertheless wider and lower slung than its Indian-built stablemate. The combination of standard 17-inch alloy wheels and more cladding both front and rear contribute to a distinctly sporty stance, which is offset by 170 mm of ground clearance.

Compared with its exterior, the Kona’s interior is a somewhat more subdued affair and we think it is better for it. While the aforementioned French brands still try to bend the rules in terms of cabin design and functionality (Peugeot’s i-Cockpit, for example, either enthrals or frustrates depending on who you ask), Hyundai has thankfully kept things relatively simple and familiar inside its exuberantly packaged newcomer. While faux leather trim adds a touch of sophistication and subtly placed luminescent trim bits (matched with the seatbelt colour) add character, highlights of the Kona’s interior include a suitably sporty-looking multifunction steering wheel and a seven-inch example of the brand’s latest (in terms of our market) touchscreen infotainment system, which includes smartphone integration. Other standard specifications listed throughout the two-model (both Executive spec) range include air-conditioning, cruise control, auto headlamps and a comprehensive array of charging and docking points.

Despite boasting a slightly longer wheelbase than the Creta, the Kona’s rear passenger comfort is compromised which, to be fair, is understandable in a vehicle favouring boutique appeal over school-run practicality. That said, rear legroom remains fair and, by our measurements, the Kona boasts a slightly larger luggage compartment than the Creta (224 litres compared with 208). A 60:40-split rear backrest allows for the accommodation of bulky cargo.

The Kona was launched with a choice of the brand’s familiar naturally aspirated 2,0-litre petrol engine – mated exclusively with a six-speed automatic – or a new 1,0-litre three-cylinder turbopetrol, replete with a six-speed manual ‘box. It’s the latter powertrain that offers the most intrigue and arguably suits the excitable character of the Kona package best. The gearbox has a pleasingly precise action (although it’s not that keen on being rushed) and the 88 kW/172 N.m motor feels sprightly round town while delivering a welcome level of calm sophistication on the open road, which is the reserve of a tall sixth gear. Impressively refined even at idle, it’s an engine that should easily replicate our 6,80 L/100 km fuel route consumption in most driving conditions, including at altitude.

In contrast with its relatively softly sprung, practically minded SUV siblings, the Kona exhibits a somewhat firmer default ride quality. That said, combined with those aforementioned 17-inch wheels and a lower ride height (20 mm lower than the Creta) there are welcome measures of sharpness and agility that can be enjoyed from behind its tiller. By virtue of an electrically assisted steering system that’s pleasingly weighted (compared with what we’ve come to expect from Korean products) – and despite the presence of an uncomplicated torsion-beam rear suspension – the Korean crossover offers an impressive ride quality. It can soak up most road imperfections while remaining relatively nimble both round town and on the odd arterial road.

Marginally away from recording an excellent rating in our braking tests (while bettering the Creta’s results, it must be noted), the new Kona is fitted as standard with stability control, a total of six airbags and Isofix child-seat mounting points. What’s more, the newcomer scored a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP.
STELLENBOSCH, Western Cape – A single glance at either of the exterior photographs above is all you need to realise the Hyundai Kona is one of the most boldly styled models the brand has yet offered in South Africa.

Slim LED daytime running lights – separated by a slit just above the latest interpretation of Hyundai’s signature grille – trace the front edge of the bonnet, while the main LED headlamps are positioned further down and integrated into the chunky plastic cladding that itself extends over the wheelarches. The foglamps, meanwhile are sited below the grille, unusually close together.

While not quite as quirky as the front, the Kona’s rump nevertheless sports a handful of eccentric styling elements, chief among them the C-shaped light clusters – like the headlamps, framed by black cladding and sited far lower than is traditional – comprising indicators and foglamps. The narrow taillamps, meanwhile, are separate units located just below the rear screen.

Of course, Hyundai already fields a contender – and a popular one, at that – in this segment. But where the Indian-built Creta is fairly restrained in its styling (even after its recent facelift), the slightly smaller Kona is downright wild. And that's part of the reason the local arm of the South Korean brand believes both models can excel here, despite competing in the same (crowded) section of the market … and despite somewhat of an overlap in pricing.

Engine options

Another key distinction between these two front-driven crossovers is found under their respective bonnets. While the Creta is offered with either a free-breathing 1,6-litre petrol unit or a turbodiesel engine of the same capacity, the Kona can be specified with a new turbocharged 1,0-litre, three-cylinder petrol mill (offered exclusively in conjunction with a six-speed manual) or an older naturally aspirated 2,0-litre four-banger (available only in six-speed automatic guise).

Hyundai Automotive South Africa says it has no immediate plans to import all-wheel-drive or diesel derivatives of the Kona, nor the all-electric variant, citing pricing concerns (these models would likely tread firmly on the larger Tucson’s toes). The 1,6-litre turbopetrol offered in some overseas markets is seemingly also not on the cards for SA.

The 2,0-litre engine has the edge over its forced-induction sibling on paper – boasting outputs of 110 kW and 180 N.m compared with 88 kW and 172 N.m – but it’s the turbo-triple that really impresses in practice. While the normally aspirated motor exhibits a certain gruffness under even moderate acceleration (regardless of which of the three driving modes is selected), the three-cylinder remains remarkably refined throughout the rev-range, all while delivering its punch across a far wider band.

Gearbox choices

Based on our brief drive, the manual is the better gearbox on the open road, too, with the self-shifter displaying a tendency to hunt (those who spend their daily commute in bumper-to-bumper traffic, though, would understandably prefer the latter cog-swapper). The weight savings that come with the smaller engine (and lighter gearbox) also seem to have a small effect through the bends, lending the 1,0-litre model a slightly more eager turn-in. Both models, though, benefit from particularly fast steering.

Running on 17-inch alloys as standard, both also employ MacPherson struts fore and a torsion-beam arrangement aft, and feel fairly stiffly sprung, with the secondary ride suffering somewhat as a result. The payoff, though, is a little more body control, with the lower-riding (by 20 mm) Kona cornering noticeably flatter than the Creta.

The Kona’s cabin, too, displays more flair than that of the Creta, featuring either red or yellow (the latter reserved for models finished in Acid Yellow exterior paint) seatbelts, seat stitching (on the faux-leather perches, for example) and air-vent surrounds, along with a floating 7,0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, shared with the Tucson.

Standard spec

The standard equipment tally (both models are offered in Executive trim) is more generous as well, with the Kona featuring various items – such as reach adjustment on the steering column, cruise control, traction control and tyre pressure monitoring – the Creta does without.

Priced at R399 900 (or R20 000 less for the more polished 1,0-litre), the Kona 2,0 Executive AT slots in just R10 000 below the base Tucson and flagship Creta, yet is some R30 000 more expensive than the mid-tier, self-shifting, petrol-powered Creta. The latter is, of course, far more practical, boasting a larger luggage compartment (Hyundai claims a figure of 361 litres for the Kona), plenty more rear legroom and a ground clearance better suited to gravel-road jaunts.

And that, together with its particularly brave design, lengthy features list and more enjoyable driving experience, means the new Kona will appeal to a distinctly different audience than the Creta (one that would otherwise consider the likes of the Mazda CX-3 and Toyota C-HR).

Still, it’ll be utterly intriguing to see whether Hyundai’s styling and range-positioning gambles pay off…

Latest Resutls for Hyundai Kona

Full Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Cloth upholstery: partial cloth + artificial leather
  • Leather upholstery: partial cloth + artificial leather
  • Seats quantity: 5
  • Split rear seat: Standard
  • Folding rear seat: Standard
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Cup bottle holders: front + rear
  • Front armrests: Standard
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Stability control: Standard
  • Hill descent control downhill brake control: Standard
  • Tyre pressure sensor monitor deflation detection system: Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Front side airbags: Standard
  • Curtain airbags: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 6
  • Lane change blindspot warning assist monitor: Standard
  • Automatic drive away locking: Standard
  • ISOFIX child seat mountings: outer rear
  • Approach home safe lighting time delay park headlights: Standard
  • Hillstart assist hillholder: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • On board computer multi information display: Standard
  • Navigation: Optional
  • Cruise control: Standard
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • Aux in auxiliary input: Standard
  • USB port: Standard
  • Powersocket 12V: front
  • Central locking: remote
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Electric windows: front + rear
  • Auto dim interior mirror: Standard
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Heated exterior mirrors: Standard
  • Daytime driving running lights: LED
  • Light sensor auto on off lights: Standard
  • Frontfog lamps lights: Standard
  • Highlevel 3rd brakelight: Standard
  • Rear fog lamps lights: Standard
  • Camera for park distance control: rear
  • Rear spoiler: Standard
  • Metallic pearl escent paint: Optional
  • Fuel Type: petrol
  • Fuel range average: 735 km
  • Driven wheels: front
  • Driven wheels quantity: 2
  • Gearratios quantity: 6
  • Gearshift: manual
  • Transmission type: manual
  • Front tyres: 215/55 R17
  • Reartyres: 215/55 R17
  • Length: 4165 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 1800 mm
  • Height: 1565 mm
  • Wheel base: 2600 mm
  • Ground clearance minimum maximum: 170 mm
  • Turning circle wheels body: 10.6 m
  • Approach angle: 17.5
  • Break over ramp angle: 16.7
  • Departure angle: 29.6
  • Load volume / capacity: 361 L
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 1233 kg
  • Load carrying capacity / payload: 542
  • Gross weight (GVM): 1775 kg
  • Towing capacity - unbraked: 750
  • Towing capacity - braked: 1100
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 50l
  • Fuel consumption average: 6.8 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 138g/km
  • Emission control phase Euro EU level: Euro 4
  • Power maximum: 88 kW
  • Power maximum total: 88 kW
  • Power peak revs: 6000 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 71.4 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 172 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 1500-4000 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 175 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 142 Nm/ton
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: 12.0s
  • Maximum top speed: 181 km/h
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 998 cc
  • Engine size: 1.0l
  • enginedetailshort: 1.0T
  • Engine + detail: 1.0 turbo
  • Cylinder layout: inline
  • Cylinders: 3
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: i3
  • Cam: dohc
  • Valves per cylinder: 4
  • Valves quantity: 12
  • Turbocharger: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 5 vehicle / 7 drivetrain
  • Warranty distance (km): 150000 vehicle / 200000 drivetrain km
  • Service plan: Standard
  • Service plan time (years): 5
  • Service plan time (distance): 90000 km
  • Roadside assistance time: 5
  • Service interval (distance): 15000 km
  • Brand: Hyundai
  • Status: c
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 26532150
  • MMintrodat: 2018-09-14
  • Introdate: 2018-10-09
  • DuoportarecordID: HyunKona1e1

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