The Hyundai Kona city SUV received a midlife update earlier this year, after this generation went on sale locally in 2017.
The Hyundai Kona has always been among the top four sellers in a class that includes close to two-dozen choices. But it now has a new lease on life.
Its unconventional design may be polarising to some and, as with many city SUVs, the Kona has a touch less space than the hatchback on which it’s based.
For example, the Kona has a smaller boot than the Hyundai i30 hatchback, which thankfully has a full-size spare wheel and tyre under its boot floor, while the Hyundai Kona SUV only has a space-saver despite its off-road pretensions.
As with most cars in this class, the Hyundai Kona is front-wheel drive rather than all-wheel drive, so it’s more about surviving the urban jungle rather than appealing to those who want to embark on the great outback adventure. But buyers have embraced this type of vehicle with open wallets. City SUVs deliver a tall driving position and flexible cabin space.
Grey fender flares and bold bumpers are designed to protect the Hyundai Kona from car park scrapes rather than off-road obstacles. The thinking behind this, say car designers and industry marketing types, is that an SUV effectively says to the outside world 'I can escape this mess if I want to, even though I’m stuck in the same traffic jam as you'.
In essence, city SUVs are the active wear of the automotive world; a bit like wearing gym gear to go grocery shopping. If SUVs make people comfortable in the daily grind, who are we to argue?
There are six models in the 2021 Hyundai Kona range priced from $26,600 to $42,400 plus on-road costs. The Hyundai Australia website shows prices ranging from $28,990 to $46,500 drive-away. The prices for most Kona models represent an increase of $500 to $1400 compared to pre-facelift versions.
The base model is simply called Kona, then there is the Active tested here (from $28,200 plus on-road costs, or $31,800 drive-away), Elite and Highlander. These four model grades have a 2.0-litre petrol engine and CVT automatic transmission that drives the front wheels.
Two flagship models, dubbed N-Line and N-Line Premium, are powered by a turbo 1.6-litre paired to a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic and all-wheel drive.
The two base-model Hyundai Konas (including the Active tested here) come with power windows (with one-touch auto-up and auto-down function for the driver), remote central locking with an ignition key (rather than sensor key and push-button start), wireless phone charging, an 8.0-inch infotainment screen, digital speed display, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
As mentioned in earlier reviews, Hyundai’s wireless Apple CarPlay is plagued with gremlins that constantly disconnect the phone and, unlike most other cars, there is no wired backup. You need to use Bluetooth or earbud headphones if you want to talk hands-free on the phone when driving. Hyundai says a fix is on the way, but we’re yet to experience it. Dearer Hyundai Kona models have wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and work fine.
Distinguishing features on the Hyundai Kona Active tested here (versus the base model) include 17-inch alloy wheels (instead of 16s), tinted rear windows, leather-accented seats, rear parking sensors (front parking sensors are a dealer-fit accessory), power-folding, heated side mirrors, front seat back pockets and a centre armrest.
Standard safety features include autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, radar cruise control, individual tyre pressure monitors, a rear-view camera, six airbags, and a five-star crash safety rating from 2017.
Not available, even as an option, are rear cross-traffic alert and blind-zone warning. You need to step up to the Elite, Highlander, N-Line or N-Line Premium for these features in a Kona.
And the Hyundai Kona still does not have speed sign recognition – a handy licence-saving feature that is increasingly becoming standard on new cars these days. Instead, the speed warning in the Hyundai Kona relies on navigation data (on models equipped with embedded maps), which can become outdated and don’t pick up works zones.
All 2021 Hyundai Kona models are covered by a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km for 2.0-litre models, and 12 months or 10,000km for turbo models.
Individual capped-price servicing costs are no longer disclosed on Hyundai’s public website, and instead a query about future costs directs you to a dealer.
Prices for pre-paid service plans are published, however, and for the Hyundai Kona Active routine maintenance costs $957 over three years/45,000km, $1276 over four years/60,000km, or $1595 over five years/75,000km – provided these amounts are paid up front when the vehicle is purchased.
|Hyundai Kona, Active, Elite and Highlander models||Hyundai Kona N-Line and Hyundai Kona N-Line Premium models|
|Engine||2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol||Turbo 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol|
|Power and torque||110kW and 180Nm||146kW and 265Nm|
|Transmission||8-step CVT auto||7-speed twin-clutch auto|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive||All-wheel drive|
|Kerb weight||1280kg to 1383kg||1395kg to 1504kg|
|Fuel consumption claim||6.2L/100km (91RON)||6.9L/100km (91RON)|
|Fuel used on test||8.0L/100km (urban and inter-urban)||6.0L/100km (open road)|
|Spare tyre||Space saver||Space saver|
|ANCAP safety rating||5 stars (2017)||5 stars (2017)|
|Warranty||5 years/unlimited kilometres||5 years/unlimited kilometres|
|Service intervals||12 months/15,000km||12 months/10,000km|
|Main competitors||Mitsubishi ASX, Mazda CX-3||Mitsubishi ASX, Mazda CX-3|
|Price range (excluding on-road costs)||$26,600 to $38,000||$36,300 to $42,400|
|Price of vehicle tested (excluding on-road costs)||$28,200|
On the road
We sampled turbo and non-turbo versions of the 2021 Hyundai Kona at the media preview drive earlier this year. Now we’ve spent a week with the Hyundai Kona Active, the second model up from the cheapest variant.
It is powered by a new-generation 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine paired to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that drives the front wheels.
Unlike conventional torque converter automatics or twin-clutch designs, CVT autos have an internal belt and pulley system that delivers an infinite number of ratios. The idea being that the transmission will find the optimum engine revs based on how much throttle is applied.
Earlier versions of this type of transmission made the engine rev high, and sounded like there was a clutch slipping.
Newer CVTs such as the one in the updated Hyundai Kona – which have eight 'steps' to mimic a conventional torque converter automatic – have largely masked these traits and feel more natural to drive. You only really notice the technology when you floor the throttle. In commuter driving, it’s difficult to spot the difference.
In terms of performance, the Hyundai Kona Active is par for the class, doing the industry benchmark 0–100km/h dash in an as-tested 9.5 seconds (versus a rather leisurely 8.8 seconds for the turbo Kona variants).
While the base and Active Kona models at first glance may seem like basic propositions, they will suit the needs of most buyers.
The Kona has a comfortable cabin, there is plenty of oddment storage, and all buttons are well placed and intuitive to use.
The suspension is more comfortable on the cheaper models that run 16- and 17-inch wheels and tyres (as per the Active tested). The 18-inch wheel and tyre package on the N-Line has plenty of grip, but is noisy on coarse surfaces.
Tyre performance is variable on the updated Kona range depending on which model you buy. The Hankook tyres on the base model were okay, while the Nexens on the Active tested here noticeably lacked grip and were noisier than their counterparts, pulling up in an average-to-below-average 40.5m in an emergency stop from 100km/h.
The Michelin-equipped Kona N-Line stopped in 36.8m – similar to hot-hatch emergency braking performance.
Fuel economy was also par for the class returning an average of 8.0L/100km in a mix of urban and inter-urban use. The Hyundai Kona Active runs on 91 regular unleaded, too, which helps the hip pocket.
Room for improvement? The Hyundai Kona Active would benefit from better tyres, even by city SUV standards and dealing with the daily grind. I’m yet to meet a Nexen tyre that has impressed.Perhaps the Nexen tyres were designed for low-friction fuel economy rather than grip.
And I reckon the time is fast approaching where rear cross-traffic alert and blind-zone warning ought to be standard on all model grades on new motor vehicles, especially as this technology becomes more affordable.
The 2021 Hyundai Kona Active is worth including on your shopping list if you’re in the market for a city SUV. Just be sure to test the wireless Apple CarPlay connection with your phone to check if the gremlins have been sorted – or be prepared to live without this feature and use old-school Bluetooth.