Isaac Bober’s 2017 Hyundai Kona Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: The Kona is based off a tweaked i30 platform, sits compact-SUV-high at 170mm, offers room for a family and a lusty 1.6L turbo engine with all-wheel drive.

2017 Hyundai Kona

Price From $24,500+ORC Warranty 5 years, unlimited kilometres Safety Not tested Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km (2.0L); 12 months/10,000km (1.6L) Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol; 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol Power 110kW at 6200rpm; 130kW at 5500rpm Torque 180Nm at 4500rpm; 265Nm from 1500-4500rpm Transmission six-speed automatic; seven-speed DCT Drive 2WD/On-Demand AWD Dimensions 4165mm (L); 1800mm (W); 1550-1565mm (H); 2600mm (WB) Turning Circle 10.6m Boot Space 361L/1143L Ground Clearance 170mm Weight 1290-1414kg Spare Space Saver Fuel Tank 50 litres Thirst 6.7-7.1L/100km

THE HYUNDAI KONA arrives in Australia as the brand’s smallest SUV and goes head to head with the likes of Mazda CX-3, Subaru XV, the Honda HR-V, and the soon to launch Volkswagen T-Roc. There are others that are bigger but still considered small SUVs that buyers will likely cross-shop the Kona with, including the Nissan Qashqai.

In terms of pricing, the Kona kicks off from $24,500+ORC for the Active 2WD (2.0L); and $26,000+ORC with SmartSense; $28,500+ORC for the Elite; and $33,000+ORC for the Highlander. The AWD variants with the 1.6L turbocharged motor start at $28,000+ORC for the Elite; $29,500+ORC with SmartSense; $32,000+ORC for the Elite; and $36,000+ORC for the Highlander. Premium paint adds $595 across the line-up and the two-tone roof on Elite and Highlander costs $295.

Hyundai, via its iCare Plan offers fixed price servicing for the Kona of $259 for every single service across five years for the 2.0L variant and $269 for the 1.6L variant. And, the brand says that if a customer services within Hyundai’s dealer network then it will offer roadside assistance for up to 10 years.

What is the Hyundai Kona?

Based off the same platform as the Hyundai i30, albeit slightly shorter, the Kona boasts more boot space and both two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive variants as well as customisable colour patterns and two-tone roof options for mid- and top-spec variants. While the Kona’s brief is clearly to appeal to a younger demographic, I can see old… I mean, more mature buyers being attracted to the Kona because of its all-wheel drive and five-year warranty.

The Kona also includes Hyundai Auto Link which is way for buyers to interact more with their car and by that, I mean things like its fuel consumption, where they parked and for how long it’s been parked, when it needs to be serviced and where the nearest Hyundai dealer is, etc. You can activate Auto Link by connecting your smartphone to your Kona via Bluetooth and then via an app.

Prior to the Kona going on-sale earlier this week, Hyundai said it was its most popular pre-launch vehicle ever with more than 40,000 people registering to receive marketing material about it. And that ties in with the general run in the compact SUV segment which is the fastest growing segment within the whole SUV boom. Indeed, since 2011, sales of compact SUVs are up 700% and with the Kona and plenty of other new metal arriving into this segment in the short-term it looks likely to continue booming.

Speaking at the local launch of the Kona, Kevin Kang, from Hyundai’s US-based design team, which was heavily involved in the styling of the Kona, said the look was very much intended to create an impression of a dual personality. The top half of the vehicle was intended to convey an impression of being sleek and sophisticated, he said, while the bottom section was designed to look rugged via its contrast-colour and blistered guards, “like the sort of armour a mountain biker wears,” Kang said.

What’s the interior like?

Like the i30, there’s a tablet-style infotainment screen mounted on top of the dashboard and, just like in that car it doesn’t look like it’s been tacked onto the dashboard. Below that are the climate controls (only single-zone climate control is available on Kona) with all the major controls within easy reach.

The materials used in the Kona Highlander’s cabin don’t feel quite as premium, for lack of a better word, as those in the top-spec i30 with hard, scratchy plastic stashed around the place, but rather than detract I think it adds to the rough and tumble image Hyundai is trying to create for this thing.

2017 Hyundai Kona Review by Practical Motoring

There’s still plenty of soft-touch and high-quality plastics, and the leather seats on the Highlander feel good quality and, of course, as much as brand’s like Volkswagen would never admit it, Hyundai’s managed to match them for build quality and material choice.

2017 Hyundai Kona Review by Practical Motoring

Despite the jutting, tablet-esque infotainment unit it’s worth mentioning there’s no native sat-nav on the Kona, and that’s the case regardless of the variant you choose, but there is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and, Hyundai says, the Kona’s target market, it feels, is more likely to use their smartphone for mapping than a native system. More than that, the system in the Kona is the first smartphone-first infotainment system the brand has been used and isn’t just the same system as the i30 with sat-nav functionality missing. Being designed for smartphones first means the system feels faster than the system I’m used to in our i30 SR Premium long-termer but that’s hardly what you’d call a laggy infotainment unit.

There’ll be those who are a bit shocked by the absence of native sat-nav but don’t be, once you use the mapping on your phone with things like live traffic updates, and its ability to sync in with your meetings, etc, then you’ll never go back… the only drawback is touring when you lose signal but, even then, most smartphones will have the ability to continue mapping in an offline mode. How do you feel about the lack of native sat-nav?

Hyundai’s aiming the Kona at a younger buyer profile that allegedly wants to be able to make the thing their own and, so, “Kona Elite and Highlander can be specified with vibrant and fun acid yellow or red leather interior treatments which bring colour-matched piping and stitching to the seats, steering wheel, front armrest and gearshift boot”.

In the front seat, there’s a good amount of room for taller drivers like me (187cm) and, in the Highlander variant, enough fore and aft and up and down adjustment that both short or tall drivers will be able to get comfortable behind the wheel. The steering offers good adjustment for reach and height. The seat itself in the Highlander variant I tested is swathed in leather with good side bolstering and decent under-thigh support to keep your legs from tiring on longer stints behind the wheel.

2017 Hyundai Kona Review by Practical Motoring

Vision from the front seat, right around the vehicle, is good. And the reversing camera offers dynamic lines and a good field of view; the only downside, if the camera in our i30 SR Premium long-termer is anything to go by will be its low-light performance.

Climb into the back and there’s decent head, shoulder and legroom for someone my height; I set the front seat to suit me and then climbed in behind the front seat and had a good inch or more of knee room and wriggle room under the front seat for my feet. If you get out your tape measure, you’ll see front seat legroom measures 1054mm and rear seat legroom is 880mm.

The rear seat has a 60:40 split-fold feature and there are ISOFIX mounts for the two outboard seats. Thanks to a high hip point, climbing in and out of the back seat is easy and kids shouldn’t have a problem clambering into the back of the thing. There’s no rear air vent, regardless of the variant you choose, but there is ducting under the front seats that blows warm or cold air into the back and relative to the force of the fan speed in the front.

Over in the boot, there’s a dual-level load floor which allows space for stashing some gear beneath the floor when it’s in its upper most position. Boot space measures 361 litres which grows to 1143 litres with the rear seat folded. The boot is a good shape and on-par with key competitors, like the Subaru XV.

Beneath the boot floor lives a temporary space saver spare no matter the variant and, unlike the i30, there’ll be no full-size spare tyre available as a cost option, and this is the same for all markets; although the ability to add a full-size spare is something that Hyundai Australia says it’s communicating with head office about.

What’s it like to drive?

There are two engines and transmission on offer for Kona in Australia, including a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol making 110kW and 180Nm of torque mated to a six-speed automatic and a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder making 130kW and 265Nm of torque, mated to a seven-speed DCT. Kona can be had in either two- or all-wheel drive configuration. Fuel consumption ranges from 6.7-7.2L/100km depending on the variant. Both engines are Euro V compliant.

There’s no diesel available for our market which some might see as a negative given some of the Kona’s competitors offer a diesel variant, but Hyundai claims there’s just not the volume for diesel in the compact SUV segment.

2017 Hyundai Kona Review by Practical Motoring

Like the i30, there are different rear suspension set-ups, depending on the drivetrain, with two-wheel drive models getting a torsion beam bum and all-wheel drive variants running a multi-link rear suspension set-up. According to Hyundai, its local chassis development team tested “three sets of front and two sets of rear springs, 13 different front and 23 different rear shock absorbers for the all-wheel-drive variants and 13 front and 29 rear shock absorber combinations for the front-wheel-drive cars. Two different stabiliser bars were also tested before the final combinations were decided”.

My driving time was spent in the top-spec 1.6-litre turbocharged, all-wheel drive Highlander variant and it’s an impressive machine. The launch roads, out the back of Canberra, took in plenty of twisting bitumen which was a mixture of smooth and rough surfaces and a lot of dirt. It shows confidence from a manufacturer to let their vehicles loose on roads like this, as there’s nowhere for the chassis to hide… and is a good test of just how well the local tune will handle Aussie roads. And the Kona ate up the worst of the roads and felt good at around town speeds but it felt great as the speeds rose.

2017 Hyundai Kona Review by Practical Motoring

There’s a depth the suspension tune that allows you to really lean on the thing in corners, indeed, and this might sound odd when talking about a compact SUV but it’s the case that the quicker you go the better the thing feels. There’s very little bodyroll through corners and the high-speed damping tune is impressive. Mid-corner bumps are dealt with well despite the relatively short-travel suspension, the steering feels meaty and direct in its action with good on-centre feel.

On dirt, the Kona feels just as comfortable and sure-footed as it does on bitumen, smothering out-of-nowhere potholes and bumps and ruts in the road. Despite running an on-demand all-wheel drive system the tune is spot on (it’s a variation of the system running in the Hyundai Tucson and can be locked 50:50 for slippery surfaces) as is the traction and stability controls which on the rare moments they did cut in were more of a gentle guiding hand than the slap in the face you get from some systems.

2017 Hyundai Kona

We’ll have a complete assessment of this thing’s handling chops across our own ride and handling loop towards the end of this month when we get it into the Practical Motoring garage. But, our intial assessment is that the new Kona is right at the pointy end of the segment for its performance, ride and handling.

On the way to the airport, I managed to blag a 20-minute stint in the entry-level Active 2.0-litre four-cylinder, two-wheel drive (with cost-optional Smart Sense) and, I’ve got to say, I was super impressed. On paper, the engine reads a little asthmatic but it’s anything but on the road with the six-speed automatic squeezing out the last drop of every single kilowatt and newton-metre.

The ride was impressive too, with a softer feel when compared to the sportier 1.6-litre turbocharged all-wheel drive variants. That said, like its sibling there’s little bodyroll through corners, the steering is good, and the brakes and throttle are nice and progressive. I’m looking forward to spending more time with this variant. Stay tuned.

What safety features does it get?

The Kona doesn’t carry either an ANCAP or Euro NCAP rating, but offers six airbags as standard, reversing camera and rear parking sensors (the Highlander adds front parking sensors). In addition, Hyundai offers its Smart Sense active safety system as standard on Elite and Highlander variants and as a cost-option on entry-level Elite, it includes: autonomous emergency braking covering pedestrians between 8-64km/h and cars up to 160km/h, blind spot monitoring which operates above 30km/h, rear cross traffic alert, lane keeping assist which operates on two levels, one reactive and one proactive, both work above 60km/h only. There’s also driver attention warning and high beam assist.

So, what do we think of the Hyundai Kona?

Hyundai has got themselves a winner, there’s no doubt about that. Photos don’t do the Kona justice where it can look a little too, how shall I put this, try hard, but in the metal this is a properly good-looking machine. There’s sleekness to the roofline and some muscle to its bottom half thanks to its chunky body cladding. To really get the best out of the way this thing looks you’ll need to a bold colour and my pick is the bright blue.


Interview: Rob Boegheim, managing director of Hema Maps


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  1. Great looking SUV and decent engine, but imagine this with the 150kW turbo engine, would be a little rocket. Later they should do an N version to take on the VW T-Roc R.

  2. I have built in sat-nav. I prefer it. I don’t have to be welded to my phone. My sat nav knows when I’m running out of fuel and offers to direct me to a service station. I’ve not had to use it but it’s a nice touch if you are touring unfamiliar areas.

  3. Other Hyundai models have a full time spare, (Tucson), (Santa Fe), Kona has the good ol’ reliable space-saver, nothing like to squeeze the customer for more cash and then cutting costs with a space-saver, matched side by side with an i30 or Tucson, you’d be bonkers to buy a Kona with a space-saver.

    Until customers tell the salesmen why they not buying a Kona with a space-saver, the manufacturers will think, it’s OK to use more space-savers on future models, don’t buy a Kona for this very reason, buy a SUV with a full size spare, you’ll thank me later’

    So, can we expect KIA/Hyundai to cut costings in the future? After getting up there at the top, to be let down by a space-saver. I hope KIA/Hyundai don’t cut corners in the future just to save a buck

  4. I agree about the absence of Sat Nav being a problem…it was a deal breaker for me. I recently drove the Kona in Highlander Spec. It really was a wonderful car to drive. The steering felt direct, the seats were really comfortable, the 1.6 turbo was a lot of fun, and the car handled beautifully. I loved the colour options, the wheels and the ventilated seats. However, I found some aspects of the Highlander Kona’s interior very disappointing. The sound from the audio system was underwhelming, there was no sunroof even as an option, there was no adaptive cruise control, there were still a lot of hard plastics around, and the manual handbrake looks downright ugly and detracts from the cabin ambience. I could certainly have overlooked some of these things but sound is important for me and the lack of Sat Nav is a deal breaker. I don’t want to use my mobile download to power my in car navigation and want to be confident of maps in areas of poor mobile coverage. It is worth noting that European markets get the option of a sunroof and of the 8 inch screen which does have the option of in-built Sat Nav and a superior (8 speaker) sound system. I don’t understand why Hyundai has not made this at least an option in Australia. I know this car will sell well and Hyundai deserve to be commended for producing a good product but I could not possibly buy one as it currently stands. Am currently considering the Suby XV.

    1. You can download offline maps so you avoid the issue of mobile coverage. Frankly built in Navigation systems offer poor search functions, finding an obscure sports oval is a snap in Google Maps and an exercise in frustration with a built in unit. For me not a deal killer, however, I understand we all have different preferences and are used to different things.

      1. Yes. I have experienced the same thing with in built Sat Nav systems I have used in cars I have owned. I like to have the map on all the time when I drive. If Sat Nav was not built in that wouldn’t that mean I would be using download continuously over longer drives? I have also wondered about the DVT. There were significant complaints in the US from Tucson 1.6 T owners about problems with the DCT. I would imagine Hyundai has ironed out some of those issues now. Not aware that creeping in traffic not good for DCTs. Interesting.

    2. Hi Astrotom, just a quick note that I have lived with a New 2017 Elantra with only Applecar play and no on board sat nav as the Kona for the last 13 months . The down load on my iphone is so small its not worth mentioning , I do alot of country regional driving every month, also drive my wifes 2014 i30 with built in Sat nav on country trips too..I prefer my Elantra applecar play.. just seems simpler ..

    3. Highlander at $41000 with no panoramic glass full length sunroof plus some other missing what should be standard equipment disappointing on a high end car, maybe a deal breaker for me, I will offer the dealer $35000 cash see what happens, small SUV class what 12+ choices. A pity a stunning little beauty. My next choice Subaru XV, Subaru and Hyundai in Cairns almost share the some showroom.

  5. This is a excellent offering from Hyundai. My main concern is over the use of a dry clutch DCT, I have grave concerns over this type of gearbox’s longevity. Apparently you should not creep in traffic because it slips the clutches causing heat build up. Also. both the VAG DQ200 and the Getrag DCT250 (aka PowerShift) DCTs are dry clutch units and have a terrible reputation for reliability. It is possible that Hyundai have done the engineering correctly, however, when the advice is not to creep in traffic and other dry clutch DCTs are problematic this really puts me on notice. On this basis alone I would avoid the 4WD DCT versions of this car.

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