Hyundai Kona (2017 – 2023) Review

Hyundai Kona (2017 – 2023) At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
The Hyundai Kona is a distinctive-looking small SUV with a strong equipment list, long warranty and good infotainment on facelifted versions. You can get hybrid and fully electric versions, too, but in most other areas the Kona is no longer up with the best in the class.

+Can be had in petrol, hybrid and fully electric forms. Improved tech and quality with 2021 facelift. Five-year warranty.

-Cabin lacks space and is uninspiring. Doesn't ride that well. Latest petrol and hybrid models offer only adequate pace.

Insurance Group 10
On average it achieves 86% of the official MPG figure

The Hyundai Kona is one of the older small SUV models on the scene now, having been around since 2017. It's been updated with a fairly extensive facelift in 2021, though, while the availability of hybrid, electric and high performance N versions means it offers plenty of choice. But is it any good these days? We'll find out in this review. 

There's such a large number of small SUVs these days that we wouldn't blame you for forgetting about the Hyundai Kona. Particularly with newer, fresher rivals such as the Ford Puma, the Vauxhall Mokka and the Toyota Yaris Cross hogging the limelight. 

Indeed, it appears that even Hyundai itself managed to forget about the Kona, since releasing the similarly sized and priced Bayon. While we're maybe being a little flippant (the Bayon is around £1100 cheaper and is intended to be a more low-slung mini MPV-style crossover) both cater to a rather similar buyer. 

What the Kona does offer over and above its new sibling, however, is the option of a full hybrid version, a fully electric version and even the Kona N, a proper hot small SUV with 280PS and Nurburgring-tuned handling. 

It's also quite distinctive to look at, particular when compared to cars such as the Volkswagen T-Roc and Skoda Kamiq. The look is different depending on the version you go for, with everything from a two-tone effect on lower trims to the sporty-looking N-Line and the rugged off-road cladding of higher trims. 

The 2021 Hyundai Kona facelift was a lot more than some lightly altered headlights, with a totally new front-end giving an even quirkier shape. As it's subjective, we'll let you decide if the revisions are successful or not. 

The inside, too, received a boost over the pre-facelift version, which is welcome as the old cabin was something of a mixed bag. Logically laid-out and easy to get on with it might've been, but the abundance of dark, scratchy plastics gave the Kona a rather low-rent feel. From 2021 things got better, particularly on the technology front, but it's still nowhere near as characterful as the outside. Still, equipment levels are very good for a car of this price. 

The Kona's practicality hasn't been improved by the facelift, though. Legroom is poor for those sitting in the back -  it's unlikely that adults will enjoy a long journey in the rear seats. To make matters worse, the front seatbacks are covered with more hard plastics which press uncomfortably on the knees.

Earlier Hyundai Konas came with the choice of a 120PS 1.0-litre T-GDI three-cylinder turbo petrol engine and a 1.6-litre four-cylinder T-GDI with 177PS. There was also a 1.6-litre diesel on offer for a couple of years, too. But as of 2021 the standard Kona range focused around the willing (but not remotely fast) 1.0-litre mated to a mild-hybrid system. 

Hyundai also introduced a self-charging hybrid version mating a 1.6-litre GDI petrol engine with an electric motor. It's a bit perkier (though still not exactly punchy), but the key thing is its ability to do over 57mpg combined. Interestingly, the real pace comes with the Hyundai Kona Electric (reviewed separately), which offers warm hatch pace in its highest output. 

Whichever engine you opt for, the Hyundai Kona is surprisingly rewarding to drive. The steering is smooth and direct and the chassis stays flat though the corners, which means things generally are calm and composed, even when tackling the tightest of turns. However, owing to the rather firm set-up of the chassis, the ride quality can get bumpy and uncomfortable on 18-inch wheels. 

As an affordable yet stylish small SUV, the Hyundai Kona gets lots of things right, with its low running costs and comprehensive warranty being its two standout selling features. However, the cramped interior and so-so ride quality leave the Kona feeling distinctly middle-of-the-pack compared to rivals.  

We lived with a Kona for six months - find out how we got on with it in our long-term test review of the Hyundai Kona. Looking for a second opinion? Why not read heycar's Hyundai Kona review.

Ask Honest John

Is my Hyundai warranty invalid if I get my car serviced elsewhere?

"I just purchased a Hyundai Kona, the seller said remember to get it serviced as it's coming up to is 50,000 miles so I put it into Halfords. I was in the Hyundai garage today and the sales person said if you take it to Halfords to get it serviced it invalidates my warranty - is this correct?"
The terms and conditions of the warranty will stipulate the requirements for the warranty to be honoured, but generally speaking most manufacturer warranties require the vehicle to be serviced by a main dealer in accordance with the maintenance schedule.
Answered by David Ross

What car would be suitable for myself and my wife, who is five feet tall?

"My wife is approximately five feet tall and has difficulty with visibility and reaching the controls in many cars. We currently have two cars, a Ford Kuga for me and the caravan and a Vauxhall Corsa for my wife, which is generally used for short journeys. We are planning to lose the caravan and go down to one car that serves for local journeys and long hauls, such as the 250 miles to our daughter. I am thinking about a medium-size petrol car that would be suitable for both of us. Can you recommend anything? We would prefer a manual. "
It can be difficult to find a car that will suit two drivers of differing heights, so if possible the best approach would be to ensure both you and your wife have the opportunity to get behind the wheel of any prospective purchase and go for a test drive, ensuring both of you can get comfortable and control the car easily. We would suggest looking at the Kia Ceed, which has a relatively high-set driving position for a hatchback and is available with a petrol engine and manual gearbox, or the Hyundai Kona. The Kona also has a high driving position, but is available in petrol, hybrid and electric forms. Although you say you would prefer a manual, an automatic may prove easier for your wife to drive if there is no clutch pedal to operate. The hybrid version would would give you better fuel consumption on short journeys than the pure petrol engine too.
Answered by David Ross

Which is better, Toyota Yaris Cross or Kia Nero hybrid?

"We’re thinking of downsizing from a BMW x1 diesel to a Toyota Yaris Cross or a Kia Niro hybrid. We have a budget of £30,000, what would you recommend for an active but recently retired couple?"
You've shortlisted two excellent cars - both the Toyota Yaris Cross and Kia Niro are two of our favourite hybrid SUVs. I suppose it comes down to how much space you need - the Niro is a bit bigger than the Yaris and closer to your X1 in size. Both ought to be very reliable and cheap to run. If you can't decide between the pair, it might be worth asking about delivery times - I know the Niro in particular has relatively long lead times at the moment. If you're not in a rush, it might also be worth waiting for the new Hyundai Kona which is due to arrive in 2023.
Answered by Andrew Brady

What do you recommend to replace a Volkswagen Golf?

"My in-laws, who are in their 70s and live in rural Scotland, recently had a car crash in which their 2014 Volkswagen Golf was written off. They are now looking for a smaller car than the Golf but one that suits my six foot six father-in-law. The car also needs to be economical and ideally an automatic. So far I've narrowed it down to: Toyota Yaris Cross, Hyundai Kona and the Nissan Micra. "
All of the above are solid choices, although the Hyundai Kona feels very similar in size to a Golf so that's worth bearing in mind. I've not driven the Yaris Cross, but the standard Yaris is an excellent car and I'd expect the Cross to feel very similar. The Yaris I drove got brilliant fuel economy even on long motorway runs up to Scotland, which you'd expect wouldn't favour its hybrid engine. Toyotas use proven parts that are very reliable and they're dealers consistently score highly for customer care. If you do pop down to a Toyota dealer, it might be worth waiting a couple of months for the new Aygo X. It replaces the current Aygo and has mini-SUV looks that should translate into excellent front seat headroom. It's based on the Yaris, but will feel significantly smaller than your in-laws' Golf. The only things that might be an issue is its 72PS engine which feels pretty weedy, although it does suit the optional automatic gearbox. I'm not sure how the Micra would feel for your father in-law, best for him to try it out in person, but from memory it wasn't overly spacious in the front seat. I'd describe it as a grown up small car, though, it's very comfortable and quiet. Another car I would suggest having a look at is the Volkswagen Polo. It's surprisingly big inside, is very easy to drive and is cheap to run. It's available with a 90PS turbocharged engine, which has a handy slug of extra power for driving out of town, but returns 55mpg all day long. I'm always surprised how comfortable it is for a relatively small car. The only problem may be the DSG automatic gearbox that can be jerky during low-speed manoeuvring, it's a little disconcerting if you're not used to it. Hope that helps, we have full reviews of all the car's mentioned, below: Yaris Cross: Aygo X: Kona: Micra: Polo:
Answered by Russell Campbell
More Questions

What does a Hyundai Kona (2017 – 2023) cost?