DRIVEN: New Hyundai Kona is an SUV to fall in love with

New offering has a perky 998cc three-cylinder turbocharged engine.

My job involves driving different cars on a regular basis and writing about them.

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It is rare that I feel sad when I have to return a test car to its owners, but it did happen recently, after having what can only be described as the treat of getting behind the wheel of Hyundai’s latest offering, the Kona in 1.0 T-GDI Executive guise.

This vehicle slots in between the Korean manufacturer’s Creta and Tucson models.

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I understand the direction in which Hyundai is headed, taking into account that cars are debuting weekly and it has become a battle royal in the SUV segment.

The Creta is aimed at young drivers and, perhaps, retired couples looking for something practical and affordable. The Kona should cater for the middle aged who are still looking at the trendy side of life.

To me, it looks like an overgrown Hyundai i20 – not a bad thing. In fact, I love how it looks, though I found the front-end to be slightly cluttered.

It features a trendy dual lighting style with the LED daytime running lights sitting on top of the headlights.

Although I did not take it offroad, it looks ready for that, with black lower body cladding, excellent 17cm ground clearance, roof rails plus a hill descent switch next to the gear lever.

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The interior is excellent, with plenty of room for all occupants while the boot measures 361 litres.

I did not try to increase the boot space but Hyundai says you can do that by removing the hidden storage tray, which should serve you well during weekend escapes and longer trips.

And the 60:40 split rear seats can be folded down to make more space, too. Seating position is top notch with all-around visibility, thanks to seat height adjustment, plus the height and reach-adjustable steering wheel.

Speaking of the interior quality: it feels premium on the dash yet the door panels have a plastic feel, but in a good way.

According to Kevin Kang, the man in charge of the Kona’s interior design, his main personal highlight of the Kona is the bold character line that hugs around the outside vents, which gives the interior a wide and engaging feel.

There is also Hyundai’s familiar floating seven-inch navigation touchscreen, two USB ports and an AUX slot.

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The Kona makes use of a perky 998cc three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with 88kW of power at 6 000rpm and 172Nm of torque between 1 500 and 4 000rpm.

It employs a smooth six speed manual gearbox, driving the front wheels.

On the road, the Kona is comfortable even on bumpy surfaces. Point it to the open road and it drives fairly well, too.

I normally dislike manual cars because I live in Johannesburg, but thanks to the light clutch and smooth gears, I could live with the Kona on a day-to-day basis.

It used 7.6l/100km during my week of evaluation with the driving range coming close to 620km. Hyundai says the Kona is one of the safest cars in its segment, confirmed by the five-star safety rating it achieved in Euro NCAP.

The Kona comes with ABS, ESP, downhill brake control, blind-spot assist and rear cross-traffic collision warning.

Passive safety features include driver and front passenger airbags, complemented by curtain and side-impact airbags.

The 1.0 T-GDI Executive will set you back R379 900, which includes a seven-year/200 000km manufacturers’ warranty (comprising the five-year/150 000km warranty with a two-year/ 50 000km drivetrain warranty.

It also comes standard with a five-year/90 000km service plan and five-year/150 000km roadside assistance.

Likes 

  • Quality ride.
  • Stylish.

Dislikes 

  • Lack of Satnav.
  • Turbo lag below 2 000rpm.

Verdict 

If you are in the market for a compact solid SUV that offers it all and you could live with every day, make sure you visit a Hyundai dealer.

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