2018 Hyundai Kona Review

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2018 Hyundai Kona Review

Overall Rating

0

4 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
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Safety, value & features

4 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

5 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

4 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

4 out of 5 stars

Technology

4 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProBold styling; interior space; zippy 1.6-litre turbo engine

  2. ConNo 2.0-litre AWD, unadventurous interior

  3. The Pick: 2017 Hyundai Kona Elite (AWD) 4D Wagon

What stands out?

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The Hyundai Kona is the Korean-brand’s belated entry into the compact SUV market. It has bold-looking, excellent standard and optional equipment levels and a roomy cabin that seats five. A powerful 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine with all-wheel-drive is optional. It is covered by Hyundai’s five-year warranty.

What might bug me?

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Getting lost, because you can’t get satellite navigation directions without syncing to your smartphone. In-built sat-nav isn’t available in Kona, even as an option.

If you choose a Tucson Elite or Highlander AWD, possibly driving in heavy traffic. That turbocharged 1.6-litre is available only with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox, which will not quite match the fluid take-up from rest that you get with a conventional or CVT auto, and therefore requires a little more care in stop-start conditions.

What body styles are there?

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Five-door SUV-style wagon only.

Some Konas drive only their front wheels, while others drive all four wheels. The Kona is classed as a small SUV, lower priced.

What features do all Konas have?

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Cruise control, air conditioning, a reversing camera, and rear parking sensors (these help you judge how far the rear bumper is from obstacles).

Headlights that turn on automatically when it’s getting dark, and bright, long-lived LED daytime running lights.

A 7.0-inch touchscreen, from which you can control the six-speaker audio system. Sound sources include an AM/FM radio, aux and USB inputs, and Bluetooth phone calls and audio streaming.

Controls on the steering wheel for the audio system.

Support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which lets you display apps from your smartphone on the car’s touchscreen and operate them from there.

Roof rails, which make it easier to fit rooftop luggage systems.

Hill-start assist, which operates the brakes automatically to make take-offs on steep hills easier, and downhill brake control.

Aluminium alloy wheels (which don’t need plastic trim), a temporary space-saving spare tyre and a tyre pressure monitor warns you if a tyre has lost air (this can give you extra time to get a slow-leaking puncture seen to).

Six airbags. Electronic stability control, which can help you control a skidding car. (For the placement of airbags, and more on Tucson safety features, please open the Safety section below.)

Every Hyundai Kona carries a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

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There are two petrol engines in the Kona range.

The 1.6-litre turbo-petrol is the smaller of the two but is more powerful. It uses the least fuel, consuming as little as 6.7 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined). Each 1.6-litre turbo version drives all four wheels.

The 2.0-litre petrol engine consumes 7.2-litres/100km according to the official test

The main reason you might not choose the 1.6-litre turbo is if you want to pay less for your Kona: at any equipment level, its costs around $4000 than its 2.0-litre alternative, though the price includes all-wheel-drive and a more advanced seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.

A dual-clutch automatic works like a manual gearbox that’s controlled robotically. It reduces fuel use and offers very smooth shifts on the highway. But it cannot match the very fluid, elastic starts from rest that you get with a conventional automatic, which is noticeable in stop-start traffic.

(Power outputs and all other Tucson specifications are available from the Cars Covered menu, under the main image on this page.)

What key features do I get if I spend more?

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The Kona comes in three equipment levels; Active, Active with Safety Pack, Elite and Highlander. Each has a choice of the 2.0-litre engine and front-wheel-drive powertrain, or the more costly 1.6-litre turbo all-wheel-drive.

The least costly Active specification includes 16-inch wheels, cloth seat trim, leather appointed steering wheel and gear knob, and the features available in all Konas.

Paying around $1500 more for an Active with Safety Pack brings these features along with Hyundai SmartSense driver assistance technology. SmartSense's key feature is Forward Collision Avoidance Assist (FCA), which provides visual and audible warnings if detects a potential collision with a car or pedestrian and automatically stops the vehicle if the driver doesn’t respond in time. Other active safety features include: blind spot collision warning; rear cross traffic alert; lane keeping assist; driver attention warning, which detects erratic driving behaviour.


The Elite comes with Hyundai SmartSense as standard and gains you leather on the seats (there is a mix of real and fake leather).

Dual-zone climate control allows you to set different temperatures for each side of the cabin.

Wheel diameter grows an inch to 17 inches, and the correspondingly lower profile tyres look sportier and sharpen the steering slightly. You also get keyless entry and push-button start, front fog lights, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, a luggage net and power folding, heated side mirrors.

The Elite also differs externally with carbon grey side skirts and wheel arches, and a rear metallic skid plate.

Going for a Kona Highlander brings high beam assist, which automatically dims when sensing vehicles ahead, to the Hyundai SmartSense package.

The Highlander also gains power adjustment for the front seats, heating and ventilation to both front seats, a heated steering wheel, and a head-up display that lets you see your speed and other driving information on the windscreen.

Other extras include longer lasting LED headlights, front indicators and tail lights, auto-dimming mirror, a wireless charging pad for your phone and sportier 18-inch wheels.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

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The Kona Active models ride more comfortably on their 16-inch wheels than the Elite and Highlander ride on their 17s and 18s, because the lower profile tyres on the bigger wheels have less rubber and air cushioning the wheels from the road. The difference is most pronounced at city speeds.

How comfortable is the Kona?

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The Hyundai Kona is surprisingly big inside. Space in the rear is very good for a car of this size, with two six-footers easily accommodated. Front headroom is excellent.

The cabin is similar to the Hyundai i30 and, aside from the inconveniently-situated starter button on upper-spec models, the ergonomics are sound especially the layout of the steering wheel-mounted controls.

Ride quality on the Australian-tuned suspension is on the firm side, but you’ll only feel significant jolts over sharper road imperfections.

What about safety in the Kona?

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Anti-lock brakes, stability control, a strong body, six airbags, a reversing camera, and seatbelt reminders for all positions, are solid safety fundamentals in all Hyundai Konas.

The airbags are in the usual places: two directly in front of the driver and front passenger; one alongside each front occupant at chest level to protect from side impacts; and a curtain airbag down each side protecting the heads of front and rear occupants.

All Konas, except the cheapest Active model, have active safety as part of the Hyundai SmartSense package, including automatic emergency braking, which warns you of obstacles in front of the car, such as a slower vehicle, and applies the brakes automatically if you do not react. The Kona’s aito-braking system will bring it to to a stop from speeds up to 75km/h.

Hyundai SmartSense also includes blind-spot detection, which warns when a vehicle is alongside out of view. Blind Spot Warning alerts you if a vehicle in an adjacent lane is approaching quickly from behind. Lane departure warning lets you know that you are drifting distractedly out of your lane (a sign of fatigue), and lane keeping assist acts on the steering to help you bring the car back. A rear cross-traffic alert warns when reversing that something is crossing your path, which could save you from car-park bingles.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) is to assess the Hyundai Kona.

I like driving - will I enjoy the Kona?

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Yes. If you’re after a spirited drive, the 1.6-litre turbo engine, which is similar to the one in the bigger Tucson, rarely feels short of power. And it has a Sport driving mode that gives it even more oomph.

The 2.0-litre engine, which is expected to be the biggest seller, takes a bit longer to get up to speed, but it feels much more in sync with its six-speed automatic transmission.

The 1.6 has all-wheel-drive traction and a more advanced suspension set up than the 2.0-litre, however there isn’t too much difference between them in terms of ride quality; which is on the firm side, but absorbs all but the sharpest bumps and ridges well.

Ride and handling is OK, but not as polished as some of it's competitors, such as the Mazda CX-3, which feels like a sporty hatch.

The brakes are impressive, with real bite and great pedal feel.

How is life in the rear seats?

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The Kona is surprisingly big inside for a small SUV. The rear seats have more than adequate leg and headroom and accommodate two adults comfortably. The middle seat is tight, but will easily accommodate a child.

The rising door line hampers side vision a little, but the cabin otherwise feels quite airy.

Rear seat passengers have their own rear air vents, though there are no dedicated USB or 12v sockets to charge mobile devices.

Rear seat storage includes door bins with bottle holders, seat pockets behind the front seats and two cupholders in the fold down centre armrest.

How is Kona for carrying stuff?

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With the second row seats upright, the Kona’s cargo bay holds 361-litres with cover in place, which is about the average size for a small SUV. With the second-row seats folded down capacity is 1143 litres. The rear opening is nice and wide to help with loading bulky objects.

Where is it the Kona made?

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The Hyundai Kona is built in South Korea.

Are there any rivals I should consider?

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If you like the Kona you may also want to consider other stylish small-SUVs including the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Peugeot 2008, Subaru XV and Toyota CH-R.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

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We like the mid-level Kona Elite with the turbo petrol 1.6 engine and all-wheel drive. The Elite brings a big boost in equipment, but is still reasonably priced for a well-equipped small SUV.

If performance isn’t too important you can get all the same features in the Elite with the 2.0-litre engine for around $4000 less.

Are there plans to update this model soon?

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The Hyundai Kona went on sale in Australia in October 2017, for the 2018 model year. Apart from minor equipment upgrades it’s unlikely we’ll see any significant changes before 2020.