Hyundai Kona Review (2017-2023)
Stand-out styling, excellent value and a range of power options (including hybrid and electric) make the Hyundai Kona a compact SUV that’s well worth considering.
Published: 7 March 2023
If you’re looking for a stylish compact SUV with low running costs and lots of high-tech features, the Hyundai Kona could be just what you’re looking for. Like all Hyundai models, it’s good value for money and comes with a five-year warranty from new. It’s good to drive and reasonably practical and, unusually, you can choose from petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric power if you’re buying a used example.
The Kona was introduced in 2017 and updated in 2021 with upgraded tech and refreshed design details including a new front bumper that gives it a smoother, more rounded appearance. An all-new Kona is due to go on sale in autumn 2023.
- Distinctive looks
- Available with electric power
- Very well equipped
- Tight back-seat space
- Boot is a bit small
- Interior lacks ‘wow’ factor
Dashboard & tech
It’ll probably take you less than a minute to find all the buttons and dials on the Kona’s dashboard and work out what they all do – the design’s that clear and simple. The curving shapes are quite attractive and top-spec models have body-colour trim that brightens up the place.
The infotainment system’s touchscreen display is at the top of the dashboard. The system has lots of features and every model has DAB radio and Bluetooth and many also have sat nav. The system supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto if you want to connect your phone. Any Kona sold new from 2021 has a widescreen digital driver’s display.
The Kona’s front and back seats feel soft and supportive. There’s a wide range of adjustment in the driver’s seat – electric in top-spec models – so you should easily be able to find a position that suits you. Top-spec models also have leather upholstery, heated front and back seats plus a heated steering wheel for an extra touch of luxury on those cold morning commutes. All Konas have air con or climate control.
The Kona is more of a crossover than a true SUV, with a seating position that’s only a bit higher than a conventional hatchback’s. While you don’t get the same elevated feeling, you still get a good view out of the front of the car. The view is not as good out the back but all versions of the Kona come with reversing sensors and a rear-view camera as standard.
The plastics used throughout the Kona’s interior are quite hard to the touch but everything is very solidly put together and feels like it’ll last a long time. But there are other small SUVs with interiors that have more of a ‘wow’ factor and softer, more premium-feeling materials.
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Practicality & boot space
Although it’s not as roomy as some compact SUVs – especially rivals such as the Renault Captur and the Skoda Kamiq – the Kona is reasonably practical. There’s generous headroom and legroom in the front of the Kona, and even really tall people should be able to get comfortable. Space is tighter in the back. An average-height adult can sit behind someone of similar size in the front, but they may find their knees are very close to the seat in front.
Fitting a child seat can take a bit of manoeuvring because of the limited space although you may find the slightly raised seating position makes it easier to get kids in and out of the back seats.
Storage spaces include door bins big enough for a half-litre water bottle, a phone tray by the gear lever, cupholders in the centre console, a small cubby under the centre armrest and a glovebox with plenty of space for snacks.
Petrol and diesel Konas have 374 litres of boot space, which is similar to what you find in mid-size hatchbacks such as the Ford Focus, but the Kona’s boot is actually on the small side for a small SUV. Still, if the boot in a Focus can cover most families’ needs, so can the Kona’s. Half a dozen big shopping bags, four medium suitcases or a Springer spaniel will fit easily. Lift up the boot floor and you’ll see a storage tray that’s useful for keeping maps and shopping bags. Kona Hybrid and Kona Electric models have smaller boots because the batteries that power them take up some of the space.
Loading the boot is easily done. It’s a square shape, the opening is big, it’s not far off the ground and the back bumper is more-or-less level with the boot floor.
If you need to carry bigger loads like garden waste or flat-pack furniture, you can fold down the back seats in two parts – a 60/40 split. That frees up 1,156 litres of space in petrol and diesel models, less with hybrid or electric power.
If you value a responsive, nimble feel in your car, the Kona could be just the ticket. Compared with some compact SUVs (especially the Citroen C3 Aircross and the Renault Captur), the Kona’s suspension feels quite stiff. That means it doesn’t lean much through corners and it helps the car to respond quickly when you turn the steering wheel. The steering, pedals and gear lever have a light, effortless feel, and the Kona feels safe and secure at higher speeds.
The downside to the firm ride is that things can get bouncy over bumps – it’s not the most comfortable option out there. The high-performance Kona N model has upgraded suspension and is firmer still, but it’s a lot of fun to drive.
Every Kona gives you enough pace to pull out of junctions safely and to get up to speed easily on the motorway. The more cost-effective options can feel a bit strained at higher speeds when loaded with people and luggage but in general they’re nippy enough.
The Kona Electric pulls away swiftly from a standstill, as do most electric cars, and the more powerful of the two Kona Electric models (with the 64kWh battery) is quite fast outright. It’s not as fast as the Kona N, however, which is a true hot hatchback capable of accelerating from zero to 62mph in just 5.5 seconds, which is a match for some sports cars.
Fuel economy & CO2 emissions
According to official figures, you’ll get somewhere between 32mpg and 49mpg from a petrol Kona. The high-performance Kona N is at the lower end of that range and the 1.0 T-GDi is at the top – its mpg is on a par with most other small SUVs.
Diesel Kona models are more fuel-efficient, giving you an average of 52mpg to 67mpg. But they’re beaten by the Hybrid, which can give 56mpg to 75mpg.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are rated at 142g/km to 192g/km for petrol engines, 111g/km to 114g/km for diesels and 114g/km for the Hybrid. Those numbers translate to relatively low annual car tax charges. The Kona Electric emits no CO2 at all while driving, so you’d currently have no car tax to pay.
Value for money
Pick any Kona and you’ll find it’s generally better equipped than many other small SUVs of the same price. It’s very good value, overall.
Reliability & Warranty
Hyundai has a reputation for building reliable cars and the brand achieved third place in the J.D. Power 2019 UK Vehicle Dependability Study.. If anything does go wrong, the car’s backed up by the five-year warranty Hyundai provides on all its cars – more than most manufacturers offer. Buy a used Kona that’s less than five years old and you’ll still be covered.
Safety organisation Euro NCAP rated the Kona highly, awarding it a full five-star safety rating when it tested it in 2017.
Extra driver safety features were added when the Kona was upgraded in 2021. They include automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and a driver-attention monitor. Top-of-the-range models also have blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert.
Older Kona models have lane-keeping assist included as standard; most of the other features mentioned above were only available as an option or on top-spec models.
Trims & Engines
Since 2021, when the range was updated, the trim levels available on the Kona are SE Connect, N Line, Premium and Ultimate. They all come with a touchscreen infotainment system that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, air con, cruise control, rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera and a digital driver’s display. N Line adds sporty styling details, a Krell stereo and a wireless charging pad. Premium adds heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. Ultimate has leather seats and a sunroof.
In older models, you’ll find air con, cruise control, DAB radio and Bluetooth at the very least. Pick one of the high-spec models like Premium SE and you’ll get pretty much the same features that you’d find in the current models.
The Kona is available with petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric power – very few other cars offer you that much choice.
There are three ‘T-GDi’ petrol engines. The 1.0-litre has 118bhp and comes with a six-speed manual gearbox (models sold from 2021 are mild hybrids with an extra electrical system that improves fuel economy and lowers emissions). The 1.6-litre has 174bhp and a seven-speed automatic gearbox. The Kona N has a 2.0-litre engine with 276bhp – a huge amount for a small SUV – and an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The 1.6-litre ‘CRDi’ diesel engine is available with 113 or 134bhp. The 134bhp version has an automatic gearbox and accelerates a bit quicker. The 113bhp version has a manual gearbox and is more fuel-efficient. We’re only talking about small margins, though.
The Hybrid has a 1.6-litre petrol engine and an electric motor that produce a combined 139bhp. The Electric – a popular choice because it costs so little to run– has either 134bhp and a 39kWh battery for a range of 180 miles or 201bhp and a 64kWh battery and a range of 281 miles, according to official figures. Both the Hybrid and the Electric are automatics.
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