Road Tests

Hyundai wants to Kona the small crossover market

Another Hyundai to mispronounce

This time named after a spot in Hawaii, but the Hyundai Kona can simply be referred to as the ‘good looking one aimed at the youth.’

So is it making waves?

The entire segment is making waves so you’re spoilt for choice if you have R360 000 to spend on a small crossover. Hyundai’s Creta has dipped a stubby toe in this segment but that was the one with sub Euro V emissions and sans the 5 star Euro NCAP. The Kona is more passable on European emissions and boasts that 5 star Euro NCAP score.

Is there room for both?

Pricing is similar and South Africa is the only market to retail both side by side. Creta has more ground clearance, bigger boot, utilitarian design and a choice of diesel. Kona is available with Acid Yellow paint, offers Android Auto as well as Apple Carplay and the airvents have coloured rings. Dare we say it, this is a Hyundai you might aspire to own before glancing at the specs and pricing.

Bold for Hyundai

Built to resonate with the European trends which today is largely predetermined by daytime lights, turbo charged 3-cylinder engines and whizzy touchscreen. Only thing Kona is missing is a lashing of options for that bespoke personalisation.

Does it drive like a safari i20?

Not if you go for the silky 88kW, 172Nm 1.0-litre turbo triple – and you must. The engine alone revitalises the Hyundai nameplate in ways that shine exceptionally bright for future models like the upcoming Hyundai Styx (confirmed) and new i20 (confirmed).  We say Ford’s Ecoboost 1.0-litre has been usurped by a new benchmark…

But Hyundai, soon as they get one thing right, manage to disadvantage themselves; in this case the exclusion of an auto box with this engine. If you want auto – and market analysis says you do – you have to settle for the vanilla 110kW, 180NM 2.0-litre normally aspirated engine. Therefore the car which drives like the flagship is the entry-level model (R379 900), and the flagship (R399 900) feels dynamically impaired. Visually you can’t separate them.

What if space is more important than coloured airvents?

Then go for the Creta because despite being one of the widest cars in class, the overall length is truncated to that of a Nissan Juke. Let me explain; elbow room is sufficient, rear legroom is not. Hyundai has obviously vetoed rear legroom for a competitively-sized boot but if you want to carry people or bulky baby seats, the Kona feels about as spacious as an i10.

Final thoughts

Hyundai has got things all backwards; where they’re conventionally strong on practical terms, the Kona is cramped and where the brand usually struggles with engine refinement and power, now they’re right up with the best. A few tweaks to the line-up would add useful combinations yet even so the highly impressive Kona is the starting point for modernisation of the brand. ANDREW LEOPOLD

 

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