The Hyundai Kona seems to be growing into something of an ‘all things to all people’ kind of car.
There are outlandish style statements like the Kona Iron Man Edition, advanced alternative powertrain tech on offer in the Kona Electric – or, should you not need to pull out all the stops, there’s also sensible, mild-mannered urban crossover fare to be had in the Kona Go.
As the price-leader of the Hyundai Kona range, the Go doesn’t go overboard with fancy bits and bobs, but it does keep the price down as a result. It’s not exactly bare bones either, striking a comfortable balance between price and equipment.
From a starting price of $23,500 plus on-road costs (special offers and promotional deals aside), the Kona Go kicks off with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 110kW of power at 6200rpm and 180Nm of torque at 4800rpm.
This pairs with a six-speed torque converter automatic driving the front wheels only. A more powerful 1.6-litre turbo engine is also available, bundled with all-wheel drive via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Just two equipment options are available: Prestige paint for $595 and a $1500 SmartSense safety pack (more on that later), otherwise you get the same bold Kona styling as other members of the range, including a range of brash colours to stand out from the crowd.
With underpinnings (mostly) donated from the similarly sized i30 hatch, the Kona comes in shorter in length (-175mm), though is taller (+110mm) and wider (+5mm), and rides on a slightly shorter wheelbase (-50mm). It’s also a little less powerful (-10kW and -23Nm) despite running a closely related engine.
With only the front wheels driven, it’s clear that the Kona is more about appearance than ability, which is fine. The Kona’s a perfectly suitable urban crossover with a seating position that gives a good view of the world around, and a higher hip point that makes getting in and out a whole lot easier.
It’s the i30 you have if you want easier entry and egress. It’s the one to pick if you don’t want something that looks like a conventional hatchback. It exists because it can and makes no apologies for that, nor should it. SUVs are a pretty regular part of life, be it urban or rural.
Anyway, priced as it is, the Kona Go is $1210 more than an i30 Go automatic and comes with LED running lights, rear-view camera, dusk-sensing headlights, tyre-pressure monitoring system, and 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps.
Inside, you’ll find a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment (one inch down on other Konas) with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, cruise control, cloth seat trim, height-adjustable driver’s seat, cruise control, and power-adjustable mirrors.
Ventilation and air-conditioning controls are of the manual variety, central locking is via buttons on the remote, ignition requires inserting a key rather than push-button, and there’s no integrated navigation – nothing out of place for the price, really.
The interior isn’t as bright or daring as other models in the range can be. Inside, it’s mostly black-on-black with none of the loud colour highlights of higher-grade models. Plastics go without soft-touch elements and you face a urethane steering wheel. It works well, looks inoffensive, and should be robust in the long term.
The Go also gets six airbags, electronic stability control, and hill-start assist. Active safety technologies remain an optional extra on both the Go and next step up Active grades.
The $1500 SmartSense pack adds autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, and a driver-fatigue monitor along with power folding and heating functions for the exterior mirrors.
As a reasonably compact package, the Kona is a comfortable size for the confines of city life. Inside, the driver and front passenger are treated to fairly spacious dimensions, though a pair of flat seats don’t offer full support.
In the rear, width and headroom are good for the class, though legroom isn’t as generous and the fold-out armrest of other Kona variants is missing from the Go. The long-legged may wish for a touch more space, but kids probably won’t mind either shortcoming.
Outward visibility through big side glass gets a tick, but rear seat ventilation is via outlets under the rear seats instead of proper vents on the back of the console. It’s not unusual for the segment, but would be worth serious brownie points on a sweltering Aussie summer’s day.
Handy storage up front includes a lidded console, deep door bins, and a handy phone- and wallet-sized receptacle at the base of the centre stack. The boot provides 361L of storage to the rear seats, more than a Subaru XV (at 310L) but less than the rather cavernous Honda HR-V (with a 437L claim). The boot also hides a slim segmented underfloor storage tray, which comes in handy for preventing small items from sliding about.
On the road, the Kona comports itself well. There are no surprises to how it drives, and at the same time no glaring lowlights or highlights, which is far from a criticism in a car that’s designed as a simple but effective mass transport device.
The engine delivers power smoothly. It won’t excite with its performance potential, but it is smooth and mostly unobtrusive. It can feel a touch sluggish if you’re timid with the accelerator, and become vocal if you’re too keen, but rely on its mid-range and it does everything it needs to in rolling city traffic.
In a similar vein, handling neither excites nor disappoints. Suspension is tuned to Australian conditions, and allows the Kona Go to sit comfortably on the highway while shrugging off the lumps and bumps of local roads without upsetting occupants.
Steering is light and easy, making tight confines a breeze, in conjunction with the 10.6m turning circle. There’s not a lot of feel or feedback through the wheel, but that numbness works for drivers who don’t desire to be connected to everything their car encounters.
Road noise is a weak point. There’s really not too much else to hear, and it varies depending on the surface, but on longer trips tyre roar is a noticeable companion.
The tyres also cop criticism for their low grip. As a low-rolling-resistance ‘eco’ tyre choice, the Hankook Kinergy is fine, but it’s very easy to elicit a squeal from the front wheels without driving hard.
Understeer and moderate lateral slip are also easy to induce at speeds well and truly within the limits of the road code, which is a little unnerving and perhaps not ideal for a car that may often be in the hands of younger, less experienced drivers.
Otherwise, the Kona is just right for doing what needs to be done. The transmission is unobtrusive and the ride, via MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension, is ideal for daily use.
Hyundai cars come with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty (in fact, Hyundai was one of the first to offer a five-year term) and capped-price servicing at $1420 for the first five visits at 12-month or 15,000km intervals (whichever comes first) or the option to pre-purchase services (with a range of plans available) at a reduced rate.
Fuel consumption is rated at 7.2L/100km officially, with on-test consumption coming in remarkably close at 7.4L/100km after a week of mixed driving, including plenty of time in Melbourne’s peak-hour crush.
Ultimately, the Kona isn’t a car that will set the world alight, and given the segment and the buyers it’s aimed at, it doesn’t need to. In standard form, it’s perfectly competent for a life of busy commuting with an odd regional trip here and there.
The included equipment list is decent, and while we’d like to see autonomous emergency braking included as a minimum, the $1500 upgrade for a SmartSense-equipped car is strong value given the long list of added driver-assist features.
Although the styling may not suggest as much, there’s a solid, easy to live with, mild-mannered city hatchback under the Kona’s daring skin – which is perhaps not the most flattering of compliments.