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Does a larger engine and self-shifter make the halo Kona an automatic choice?

After our first taste of the Kona, it’s fair to say the CAR team was quite enamoured with Hyundai’s quirky little crossover, levelling particular praise at its bold styling and engaging road manners. The turbocharged 1,0-litre inline-three’s low-end peppiness and refinement was also a pleasant surprise but, with something as town-bound as the Kona, we were left hankering for a means to give the left loafer a rest in traffic.

Cue the range-topping model, replete with a more powerful 2,0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and six-speed automatic transmission. It’s got all the ingredients for an ideal Kona but, as ever, the proof is in the pudding and the end result isn’t quite to all tastes.

Barring a couple of transmission-dictated differences, there’s virtually nothing separating the 1,0-litre model from its higher-placed stablemate. You still get a very distinctive shell – here finished in retina-searing Acid Yellow – perched atop 17-inch rims, while Executive specification means there’s little to want for in terms of convenience and safety features.

Inside, echoes of that attention-grabbing paintwork are restricted to some dash and upholstery trim, plus the seatbelts. Like many of its ilk, the Kona’s interior packaging leans more towards rear occupant space than it does luggage capacity, with the 224-litre boot being sufficient for the weekly shop but hardly cavernous. In all, it’s a solidly constructed and reasonably roomy cabin with just enough visual pizzazz to keep things interesting.

The main change is nestled in the engine bay, in the guise of Hyundai’s long-serving 2,0-litre, four-cylinder Nu MPi (multipoint fuel injection) unit. This particular version doing service in the Kona is a more recent iteration adopting the Atkinson cycle in a bid to address the fuel thirst that sometimes afflicts Hyundai’s naturally aspirated powerplants, especially when coupled with a torque-converter auto ‘box. While this particular engine meets the efficiency proviso, clocking a respectable 6,7 L/100 km on our mixed-use fuel run, the Atkinson cycle sacrifices power density in the name of frugality, hence the rather modest 110 kW output.

Throw the six-speed torque shifter into the mix and the result is twofold. A leisurely approach is rewarded with smooth, scenario-matched shifts, making the Kona a doddle to drive round town and a pleasure to pilot on the open road. However, leaning on the throttle to overtake or build up a head of steam for a steeper section of road occasionally flummoxes the gearbox, making upshifts a bit of a lottery. Consequently, the engine sounds gruff and somewhat strained as the 180 N.m of peak torque only chimes in at 4 500 r/min.

Regular cut-and-thrust driving also sees much of that fuel efficiency go out of the window, with a couple of taxi-dodging, gap-stealing motorway stints sending the fuel consumption into the high eights and early nines. It’s a pity, as the transmission generally acquits itself well, only giving over to some recalcitrance when trying to provoke oomph from the engine. But if our experience with Hyundai’s naturally aspirated engines is anything to go by, this unit should prove mechanically robust to shoulder that strain without bursting.

Occasional transmission foibles aside, the 2,0-litre Kona remains a pleasurable car to pilot. With just 170 mm of daylight between axle and asphalt, not to mention a reasonably well-sorted chassis and steering that, although light, has some life to it, there’s certainly the means to have some fun behind the wheel. That little bit of extra weight in the 2,0-litre’s nose hasn’t eroded any of the directional dartiness we so enjoyed in the 1,0-litre model, but slightly more power and low-end torque to fully exploit the chassis wouldn’t have gone amiss.
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
  • Driving mode switch eg sport comfort: Eco, Comfort, Sport
  • 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: 694 km
  • Driven wheels: front
  • Driven wheels quantity: 2
  • Gearratios quantity: 6
  • Gearshift: automatic
  • Transmission type: automatic
  • 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: 1290 kg
  • Load carrying capacity / payload: 540
  • Gross weight (GVM): 1830 kg
  • Towing capacity - unbraked: 750
  • Towing capacity - braked: 1100
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 50l
  • Fuel consumption average: 7.2 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 166g/km
  • Emission control phase Euro EU level: Euro 4
  • Power maximum: 110 kW
  • Power maximum total: 110 kW
  • Power peak revs: 6200 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 85.3 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 180 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 4500 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 180 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 140 Nm/ton
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: 10.0s
  • Maximum top speed: 194 km/h
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 1999 cc
  • Engine size: 2.0l
  • enginedetailshort: 2.0
  • Engine + detail: 2.0
  • Cylinder layout: inline
  • Cylinders: 4
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: i4
  • Cam: dohc
  • Valves per cylinder: 4
  • Valves quantity: 16
  • 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: 26532310
  • MMVariant: KONA 2.0 EXECUTIVE A/T
  • MMintrodat: 2018-09-14
  • Introdate: 2018-10-09
  • DuoportarecordID: HyunKona1e2

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Used KONA 2.0 Executive availbale from the following auto dealer:
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