Hyundai Kona (2017 – 2023) Review
Hyundai Kona (2017 – 2023) At A Glance
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.