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Head to head: Hyundai Kona Elite AWD Vs Toyota C-HR Koba

The Hyundai Kona vs Toyota C-HR. Both are aiming to woo ‘style conscious’ buyers who want their vehicle to make a statement, but which one’s the better buy?

2018 Hyundai Kona

PRICING From $24,500+ORC WARRANTY Five years, Unlimited km ENGINE 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol; 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol POWER/TORQUE 110kW/180Nm (2.0); 130kW/265Nm (1.6L) TRANSMISSION 6-speed auto (2.0); 7-speed dual-clutch (1.6) DRIVE Front-wheel drive; All-wheel drive BODY 4165mm (L); 1800mm (W EXC MIRRORS); 1550mm (H) SEATS 5 BOOT SPACE 361L WEIGHT 1290kg-1507kg (depending on variant) FUEL TANK 50L THIRST 5.8L-6.3L/100KM FUEL 91RON


2018 Toyota C-HR

PRICING From $26,990+ORC WARRANTY Three years, 100,000km ENGINE 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol POWER/TORQUE 85kW/185Nm TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual; Auto continuously variable transmission (CVT) DRIVE Front-wheel drive; All-wheel drive BODY 4360mm (L); 1795mm (W EXC MIRRORS); 1565mm (H) SEATS 5 BOOT SPACE 377L WEIGHT 1375kg-1510kg (depending on variant) FUEL TANK 50L THIRST 6.3L-6.5L/100KM FUEL 91RON

What Are We Testing?

Once small hatchbacks were warriors. Not long ago they were the sole go-to if you wanted to spend $25,000 to $35,000 on a well-kitted new vehicle. But now, new and loaded small SUV models have landed, most recently in the form of the Hyundai Kona and Toyota C-HR.

They join several others in the auto equivalent of a growing housing estate, on what once was vacant land. And like a housing boom, everyone wants in on that turf.

The automatic-only Kona range starts with a front-wheel drive (FWD) 2.0-litre four-cylinder configuration in Active ($24,500+ORC), Active Safety Pack ($26,000+ORC), Elite ($28,500+ORC) and Highlander ($33,000+ORC) specification.

However, all-wheel drive (AWD) is also packaged with a gutsier 1.6-litre turbo engine for $3500 extra, or $3000 over the above pricetag in the case of the Highlander.

The C-HR only gets a 1.2-litre turbo engine across the range, with a choice of six-speed manual for $26,990+ORC, or an automatic continuously-variable transmission (CVT) for $28,990+ORC. Don’t worry about those higher pricetags – with everything of its rival’s Active Safety Pack as standard, plus most of the Elite kit, the Toyota is actually better value.

You can option AWD for $2000 extra on the auto only, or step to the C-HR Koba at $33,290+ORC (FWD) or $35,290+ORC (AWD) – yet, disappointingly, with no power increase.

To make things interesting we’ve pitched the latter against the powered-up Kona Elite AWD at $32,000+ORC. Although the C-HR Koba AWD costs $3290 extra, it adds heated seats, dual-zone climate control (versus single-zone), adaptive cruise control, auto-dimming centre mirror, auto up/down high-beam and larger 18-inch alloy wheels (versus 17s).

Alternatively, you could spend another $710 over that C-HR Koba AWD and take the Kona Highlander AWD, which gets all of the above bar adaptive cruise, while adding ventilated/electrically adjustable front seats and a head-up display. But it doesn’t seem as strong value as the Elite AWD here – so we’re calling it a draw for value for money.

Longer term, though, and Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty eclipses its rival’s three-year/100,000km cover. But Toyota’s annual or 15,000km servicing asks $195 for each of the first five checks, where its rival needs 10,000km checks at a $281 average.

What’s The Interior Like?

The cabin of the C-HR has a Lexus-like flair that is surprising for a Toyota. The soft-touch plastics, tactile controls, soft mood lighting and rich leather trim make a Corolla feel like a Lowes special, and the Kona seem similarly drab. Hard grey plastics dominate the Hyundai cabin, although leather quality is similar and visibility eclipses that of the Coupe-High Rider.

The tables turn for infotainment. Hyundai uniquely includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on its 7.0-inch touchscreen, and the system is also faster and slicker in operation than the Toyota’s dated unit, which exclusively scores sat-nav but not much else.

Ultimately, though, the C-HR appears the most special and premium inside, whereas the Kona simply feels more like a tarted-up little hatchback.

What’s The Passenger Space Like?

Both front seats are excellent, but they are positioned only nominally higher than a hatch.

Thanks to a 20cm-longer body, the C-HR’s rear seat is deeper, with far greater legroom and headroom. The downside is poor side visibility, and no roof grabhandles or a centre armrest. By contrast the Elite feels extremely light and airy back there, although both headroom and legroom are lacking and the boring ambience feels more sub-$15,000 than $30,000-plus.

With more room and more comfortable seating, though, it’s another win to the Toyota unless you’ve got kids who won’t much like travelling in the claustrophobic back seat of the Toyota.

What’s The Boot Space Like?

The C-HR’s 377-litre boot also eclipses that of its 360L rival, but the Kona gets a luggage net and underfloor storage compartments missing from the Toyota. And although both score 60:40 split-fold rear backrests with a flat-fold function, neither rear seat base slides or flips – and in a small SUV, they arguably should. Here, it’s even-stevens.

What Are They Like To Drive?

Toyota’s 1.2-litre turbo is sweeter than Hyundai’s 1.6-litre turbo, but sadly there just isn’t enough of it. With 85kW and 185Nm, it’s soundly beaten by its rival’s 130kW and 265Nm. The C-HR is quiet, and serene if you’re being kind or slow if you’re not. By contrast the Kona is noisy and thrashy, but also quick (0-100km/h in 7.8 seconds claimed) and responsive.

Both weigh roughly 1500kg, too, and both used 8.5 litres of regular unleaded per 100 kilometres on test. Both could also use a better transmission, however. The C-HR’s CVT is slow to engage unless in Sport mode – which should be the standard mode – while the Kona’s seven-speed dual-clutch is jerky at low speeds, though it’s intuitive on the move.

On the flipside both have superbly quick and medium-weighted steering, and suspension set-ups that blend comfort and control – with the plush C-HR prioritising the former by being a bit pillowy, and the Kona the latter by displaying terrifically taut body control.

Both are also fun-to-drive. The Hyundai feels planted, using its sheer thrust to great effect, but it can’t match the fleet-footed nature of the Toyota, which is more agile and playful.

For light off-road duties, the Kona gets a 50:50 lock button that pins power evenly distributed front and rear axles at all times, whereas the C-HR relies on computers to shift drive rearward (although on gravel we found it does this instantly and impressively).

We’d still prefer the surety of a lock button, though, and along with its stronger engine the Hyundai just pulls ahead both on-road and (without being too adventurous) off it.

What Are The Safety Features Like?

The C-HR gets seven airbags to its rival’s six, adding driver’s knee protection to dual front, side and full-length curtain protection. Standard across the range on both are rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera, but the Toyota adds front sensors too.

Only Kona Active Safety Pack and above get blind-spot monitor, rear-cross traffic alert and AEB, though, which is standard on all C-HRs. But Hyundai’s lane-keep assistance is better, as it more accurately guides the steering wheel to help stay inside a lane. Call it a draw here.

So, Which One Wins And Why?

The C-HR’s spacious and premium cabin is highly impressive, but its performance less so. The Kona’s turn of speed is delightful, by contrast, but its cabin can feel cramped and cheap.

So, which are the more important attributes to SUV buyers? Although to be fair we would take a base C-HR in FWD guise, we still think the Koba-spec Toyota does enough to make a cashed-up buyer feel special. It’s a winning small SUV, but only by a very small margin and not if you plan on transporting kids.

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John John
John John
6 years ago

I just don’t know what Hyundai was thinking, omitting adaptive cruise control (even as an option) and a full size spare (even as an option – and I believe one will fit) from the Koba.

Likewise, I don’t know what Toyota was thinking, not giving the CHr just a touch more power.

David Grant
David Grant
6 years ago

From the photos, both appear to have tinted rear windows, but not the front door windows. Why? Other brands, (Subaru comes to mind) are the same. Is it illegal? As a “sun sensitive” guy, I need all the sun protection I can get.

Rye an
Rye an
6 years ago

…..or a Vitara instead.

4 years ago

Test drove both – Toyota wins in my book!
Toyota also looks a lot nicer and sexier 🙂

Dan DeGasperi

Dan DeGasperi