Sassy Hyundai crossover has a snappy price tag and quirky countenance
Love it or loathe it, the new offering from Hyundai will have tongues wagging
First up, Hyundai looks to be winning the grille wars of the lower segments. The company’s latest interpretation is by far the best since the Korean carmaker’s inception. It’s Audi-esque, yet not quite, Lexus-like, but not as bold. The Kona’s gaping maw is particularly eye-catching and theatrical, more so thanks to this small crossover’s dramatically divergent looks, with its thin letterbox-type headlights.
In all fairness, anyone who finds the Kona quirky shouldn’t be censored. The frontal styling and acres of dark-patch mudguards precede the outlook of a Hyundai crossover not aimed at everyone. Conservative tastes will be better served by the more mainstream-looking and R30,000 cheaper Hyundai Creta or the R34.000 dearer Hyundai Tucson. But for those who like their motoring oddities, the Kona continues along the same Hyundai path of practicality, packed-in features, performance and economy.
The Kona is 11cm shorter and 7cm lower than a Creta. But because the hipster Kona is shapelier, it only has 371l of boot space compared to 475l in mom’s Creta. Interior styling is altered in the Kona — it’s fun yet minimalistic, accented in lime, and features a dominating cylindrical-shaped section that houses the air-conditioning vents below a floating command screen.
From a features perspective, our test Kona had the basics, plus more, covered. Full electric windows, remote central locking, enough climate control, a pair of USB ports and a not-so-premium sound-system ticked the boxes (see full list in Tech Specs).
It’s available in two engine choices, a 2.0 MPI petrol four-cylinder or 1.0T TGDI. Drive is exclusively sent to the front wheels in either guise and our test TGDI was fitted with a six-speed manual transmission, which unfortunately for haters of gridlocked traffic is the exclusive fitment for this small-capacity engine.
You’ll either love or loathe the distinctively coarse thrum of a three-cylinder, but nonetheless the downsized turbo engine is peppy and impressive for a first stab at the genre. It delivers its 85kW and 175Nm with reasonable verve and is able to dispatch overtaking manoeuvres fairly decisively.
In case you were wondering, it’s only 8Nm down on torque than the larger four-cylinder variant.
Hyundai claims a thrifty 6.8l/100km, however the best fuel consumption I managed to draw was 7.0l/100km, helped along by a rare midweek cruise down the N3 south during the test period. In typical traffic conditions it shot up to 7.6l/100km.
It’s also a pretty decent ride. The typically light and easy responses expected from Hyundai are all there. Steering it in city conditions is effortless and actually masks its real size.
Though it’s no Lexus, the damping absorbs a lot of road ugliness very well and rattles and squeaks were noticeably absent. It was only the sound deadening in the panels that soured the experience, allowing that love-or-hate engine noise to filter through into the cabin.
Hyundai Kona 1.0 T-GDI Executive Manual
WE LIKE: Comfortable ride quality, looks, ease of driving
WE DISLIKE: Lack of automatic gearbox, expensive price
VERDICT: A Hyundai for hipsters
The noise is mostly voluble when furiously working through its gearbox, dipping the rev needle into the red zone.
This isn’t much of a bone to pick as the Kona should largely be driven in a civil manner to allow more time for onlookers to either appreciate or disapprove of its looks.
Overall, it’s an agreeable car. I love the look and it can also tackle terrain and rough roads that would be unhealthy for its Elantra sedan siblings. There is enough space for sizable luggage and it has a general vibe that suits young parents or first-time car owners.
I’m all for its fancy-enough business area and apt amenities, including its mechanical prowess that shouldn’t be faulted much, except perhaps if the three-potter could be availed with an automatic gearbox. It’s also unfortunate that it competes against some truly desirable alternative vehicles that cost less.
Type: In-line turbo three-cylinder
Type: six-speed manual
Type: Front-wheel drive
Top speed: 181km/h
0-100km/h: 12.0 sec
Fuel consumption: 6.8l/100km (as claimed) 7.6l/100km (as tested)
Emissions: 150 g/km
Six airbags, manual air conditioner, audio system, 7” display infotainment system, Carplay, iPod/USB/ aux connection, Bluetooth, on-board computer, electric side mirrors with folding function, cruise control, ABS brakes, electronic stability programme, downhill brake control, blind-spot collision warning, rear cross-traffic collision warning.
Cost of ownership
Warranty: 7 years/200,000km
Lease*: R8,166 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
Motor News star rating
Value For Money **
Ford Ecosport 1.0T Titanium, 92kW/170Nm — R334, 9000
Mazda CX-3 Active, 115kW/206Nm — R299,400
Fiat 500X Cross, 103kW/230Nm — R362,900
Toyota C-HR 1.2T, 85kW/185Nm — R346,200
Honda HR-V 1.5 Comfort CVT. 85kW/145Nm — R354,900
Subaru XV 2.0i. 110kW, 196Nm — R360,000