2017 Hyundai Kona Review – Australian Launch (video)

Hyundai hopes its new Kona is like Google.

The South Korean brand has been notably absent from the booming baby SUV segment, hoping to arrive late and beat the competition with a better product. Hyundai Australia chief executive JW Lee drew an analogy between the emerging car class and early web browsers such as Netscape, a former market leader comprehensively beaten today by Google’s Chrome and Microsoft Internet Explorer.

“We are a little bit late to the small SUV market, but not too late,” said Lee at the launch of the Kona this week in Canberra.

“We have been able to observe the market closely and observe our customers and bring something great to the segment.”

He believes the late arrival has allowed Hyundai to develop and position the Kona better than its more established opposition.

“We are entering a market that has some offerings that are, dare I say, dated,” Lee said.

That’s a big claim given Hyundai faces an uphill battle to win over customers from the current favourites. The Mitsubishi ASX was one of the first city-sized SUVs, remaining a best-seller alongside the Mazda CX-3 which quickly asserted its popularity with Australian buyers following its launch in 2015.

Hyundai hopes to make a strong first impression with the Kona, helped by its bold styling. While Mazda opted for a ‘mini CX-5’ look for the CX-3 and Toyota turned up the funk for its C-HR, Hyundai has gone down the path of a more rugged look.

It hopes to attract young professionals who live an urban life during the working week before heading out of town for adventures. With that in mind, Hyundai refers to Kona's black body cladding as “armour”, claiming it was inspired by protective gear used by mountain bike riders.

Hyundai Kona Highlander. Photo: Supplied

Underneath the rugged exterior are newly developed underpinnings shared with the latest i30 hatch. In terms of size, the Kona is shorter in length than its hatchback sibling by 175mm, but the wheelbase has only shrunk 50mm, so its internal packaging is impressive for this class of car.

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The interior design isn’t as bold as the exterior, looking similar to the i30, but room in the front and rear is excellent for a compact SUV. The back seats can accommodate an adult in relative comfort, not something all vehicles in this segment can claim.

Cargo space is accounted for by a respectable 361 litres of capacity accessed through a wide but not particularly deep boot.

Mechanically, the Kona is effectively two different cars. Hyundai Australia is offering a choice of two four-cylinder petrol engines. The basic 2.0-litre powerplant offers 110kW and 180Nm outputs, while a more powerful 1.6-litre turbocharged version brings 130kW and 265Nm.

The 2.0-litre is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive, while the 1.6-litre has a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and all-wheel drive.

To further differentiate the two, 2.0-litre models get a torsion beam rear suspension set-up, while the turbocharged models get a more sophisticated multi-link rear end.

The result is two very different Konas on the road.

Hyundai expects the 2.0-litre to account for up to 80 per cent of sales, so we started our test drive in it.

A Canberra-based test loop had us tackle some of the most twisting and challenging roads in the region. Despite the company’s typical local suspension tuning efforts, the base model Kona didn’t feel at home on the fast, flowing roads.

Hyundai Kona Highlander and Elite. Photo: Supplied

The engine tended to labour up the climbs, with its gearbox tending to rush to taller gears to help fuel economy, only to drop back down through the ratios to access optimum engine performance.

However, around town the 2.0-litre feels well suited to the role of an urban runabout. There’s decent performance off the mark and the traditional torque converter automatic shifts smoothly.

The simpler rear suspension set-up feels fine at low speeds but out on faster open roads it was often unsettled by repeated bumps and occasionally crashed in larger ones.

Hyundai Kona Highlander. Photo: Supplied

By contrast, the 1.6-litre turbo models with multi-link rear suspension feel nicer and more controlled on all varities of road.

There are three trims levels available for the Kona - Active, Elite and Highlander - all of which can be had with either powertrain option.

Pricing for the range begins at $24,500 (plus on-road costs) for the 2.0-litre and $28,000 for the 1.6-litre.

Standard gear for the Active includes 16-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, auto headlights, rear view camera with rear park assist, a 7.0-inch touchscreen compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a leather trimmed steering wheel and 3.5-inch digital instrument display.

But the entry-level Kona does miss out on active safety features - including autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist and rear cross traffic alert - that are standard on the Elite and Highlander. They can be added for $1500.

The Elite starts at $28,500 for the 2.0-litre and $32,000 for the turbo model. It adds 17-inch alloy wheels, leather trimmed upholstery, keyless entry and ignition, front fog lights, auto wipers and grey exterior touches on top of the Active.

The range tops out with the Highlander, priced from $33,000 and $36,000 for the 2.0-litre and 1.6-litre respectively. For the extra money you get 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, front LED indicators, auto high beam. Head-up display, ventilated and heated front seats, heated steering wheel, wireless device charging and a 4.2-inch digital instrument display systems also feature.

That puts it in the middle of the price range for the segment  - but it’s well equipped for the money.

While the Kona's looks will polarise opinions, there’s no question Hyundai's contender is one of the best-packaged options in the baby SUV market, with a generous cabin, particularly in the back seats.

So which is the pick of the rather complex line-up? The Elite offers the best value in terms of equipment, both creature comforts and safety, and the 1.6-litre powertrain is the better choice if you plan on doing a lot of country driving. But for around town commuting the 2.0-litre is more than up to the job.

Could the Kona go the way of Google Chrome and overwhelm established players?

That seems unlikely given the diversity of the pint-sized SUV choices, but it certainly has a chance to be a serious contender.

2017 Hyundai Kona price and specifications

Price: From $24,500 plus on-road costs

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol/1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol

Power: 110kW at 6200rpm/130kW at 5500rpm

Torque: 180Nm at 4500rpm/265Nm at 1500-4500rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive/Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, all-wheel drive

Fuel use: 7.2/6.7L/100km

  • For more information, visit our Hyundai showroom.

    Source : http://www.drive.com.au/new-car-reviews/driven--hyundai-s-cx-3-rival-65404.html


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