New Hyundai Kona Hybrid 2021 review

We find out if the new Hyundai Kona Hybrid is the best iteration of the small Korean SUV

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5


The Kona Hybrid is really only the version that you should look at if you’re a company car chooser who’s not quite ready to commit to full electric. Its official CO2 emissions are low, to help with BIK rates, while its practicality remains so-so, its scores in these areas are, in truth, in the same ballpark as those of one of its main rivals, the Toyota C-HR. But it’s hard to look past the fact that the 1.0-litre version of Hyundai’s small SUV will get pretty close to the Hybrid’s efficiency in real-world use - as well as being considerably cheaper and no worse to drive.

We were impressed by the Hyundai Kona in 48-volt 1.0-litre mild-hybrid form when we tried it a few weeks back. But the car is also available with other powertrains, including, of course, a pure-electric edition but also a more conventional hybrid. And we’ve had our first chance to sample the revised version of this latter version on UK roads.

The Kona Hybrid should, in theory, have a bit more shove than its 48v stablemate. It uses a 1.6-litre petrol engine producing 104bhp on its own, and then inserts a 1.56kWh battery (small, so you don’t plug this car in) and a 43bhp electric motor into the mix. The end result is a total system output of 139bhp and 256Nm of torque - enough for a o-62mph time of 11.3 seconds on the 18-inch wheels of this Ultimate-spec model. And its CO2 emissions reflect the car’s extra ability to run on electricity alone, with an official figure of just 115g/km, over 20g/km less than the mild-hybrid Kona.

Of course, the extra complexity of the Hybrid’s powertrain also brings extra weight - as much as 140kg-odd more than the 1.0-litre car, in fact. So despite having a torque advantage, the Hybrid is basically no faster than its smaller-engined sibling. It’s hampered a little, too, by the standard six-speed dual-clutch gearbox, which is prone to the occasional jerky shift. Granted, you can use the steering wheel paddles to take control of shifts yourself but this feels like it’s missing the point.

It’s a shame, really, because on the whole the hybrid system is every bit as well integrated as the mild-hybrid. You can quite easily leave it to its own devices and barely be aware of the car managing transitions between electric and petrol power. Clever software probably helps here (we wish the gearbox had more of the same code), but the engine does its bit by being pretty refined and smooth.

This Kona weighs a bit more than the 1.0 version and it feels a little more unwieldy if you try to throw it about, but on the whole the tweaks to its suspension for this facelift - mostly at the rear - have given it a slightly more effective compromise between body control and comfort. It’s still susceptible to sharp jolts coming through to the cabin, though, and while it might corner with a little less roll than before, the experience isn’t remotely involving in the way that a Ford Puma can manage.

Hyundai’s offering scores better on in-car tech. The 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster is crisp and clear, and the similarly sized infotainment screen is one of the best in the class, with quick responses and clear graphics. Even its navigation is one of the better manufacturer systems - although of course, Android and Apple hook-ups are supported, allowing more personal mapping services.

The screens are the main source of inspiration in the cabin, because while the Kona’s interior feels like it’s built well enough, it’s still desperately short on visual flair. The huge expanses of grey and black plastic will probably wear well, but a splash or two of colour wouldn’t go amiss in a car that is, after all, positioned as quite funky and youthful.

Practicality remains a bit of a weak point too, with a modest 374-litre boot capacity that’s easily trumped by the likes of the Renault Captur. But at least that’s the same as in other Konas, so it’s not as if having the combination of combustion and electric power demands a sacrifice in load space.

Our car’s Ultimate trim doesn’t come cheap, but it certainly doesn’t want for any standard equipment. You get leather-trimmed upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, front and rear parking sensors plus a rear-view camera, a heated steering wheel, a sunroof, a head-up display and front and rear USB sockets.

Model: Hyundai Kona Hybrid Ultimate 1.6 T-GDi Hybrid 
Engine:1.6-litre 4cyl hybrid petrol
Transmission:Six-speed dual-clutch auto, front-wheel drive
0-60mph:11.3 seconds
Top speed:100mph
Economy: 55.4mpg
CO2 emissions:115g/km
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