But it actually piqued our interest for a couple of reasons. One, it’s available with the i30 N-Line’s 1.6-litre turbo four-pot and seven-speed dual-clutch, so it gets a decent 265Nm and (detuned) 130kW. You can tick the box on this powertrain in any one of the range’s available trims – they start at $27,000 and stretch to $39,000. The alternative to the turbo donk? A 2.0-litre atmo two-wheel drive version with 110kW/180Nm. No thanks.
That’s because this punchy engine pairs exclusively with all-wheel drive, handling those outputs in either active or locked split. It also scores beefier brakes front and rear since it’s far tubbier than the 1290kg atmo version at 1414kg. Now, this might be a bit of stretch, but not too long ago a 2001 Subaru Impreza WRX hatch weighed near that and relied on only 30kW and 27Nm extra.
Okay, the Kona is hardly a getaway car, but its all-paw drivetrain makes decent work of a wet test road. Prod the centre diff button and the all-wheel drive locks distribution at 50 per cent front to rear. Accelerate hard out of corners with heaps of steering lock and instead of the front wheels scrabbling for traction, pushing its nose towards the bushes, you can feel it drive from the rear and tighten your line.
It’s an agile thing and uses its small spread of grip to its advantage. It could definitely give a couple MX-5s a hurry up on a Sunday morning’s drive. But there are some inevitable pitfalls, like its heavy steering weight in Sport mode and only giving feedback at its outer grip limits. The 17-inch wheels add a touch of bounce to its ride but overall it’s comfortable and well setup. And its looks? Erm, we’ll let you decide.
On this brief acquaintance we’d say the Kona is a pleasant surprise. And the only accident is Hyundai has built something you could relate to a Subaru WRX's character.
2019 HYUNDAI KONA 1.6T SPECS
Engine: 1.6-litre inline four, turbo
Power: 130kW @ 5500rpm
Torque: 265Nm @ 1500rpm