In-depth reviews

Hyundai Kona review - Engines, performance and drive

The Kona isn't an involving drive, although chassis and suspension tweaks bring some welcome improvements to ride and handling

We haven't really seen a small SUV that's genuinely involving to drive - and the Kona doesn't come close to bucking this trend. It has few vices, admittedly, but there is precious little scope for enjoyment either.

The 1.0-litre engine has just about enough grunt for most everyday situations, although you'll need to keep an eye on the rev-counter if you're about to attempt overtaking. That's because the three-cylinder turbocharged engine has a pretty narrow power band; Hyundai claims peak torque between 1,500rpm and 4,000rpm, but it feels like it starts about 700rpm higher than that.

Drop out of the zone and you'll soon find yourself becoming impatient as you wait for the motor to spin up to its best potential again. Other three-cylinder units on the market are punchier – notably Citroen's and Peugeot's excellent 1.2 PureTech. 

The mild-hybrid Kona has a six-speed manual 'box as standard, while the full hybrid has a six-speed DCT auto transmission. The manual isn’t the slickest box, but it’s quick enough as long as you’re positive with shifts. The squared-off gear lever feels awkward in your hand, however.

The facelifted Kona has benefitted from tweaks to its chassis and suspension, which provide a little more dynamic polish over the previous model - particularly in its ability to now absorb the bumps and jolts from rutted urban roads, even when riding on bigger 18-inch alloy wheels.

Once it’s up to speed, the Kona is pretty quiet, as the characterful three-cylinder note fades away. Wind noise seems well isolated, too, so there’s not much of a rush from around the side mirrors.

The Kona Electric goes around corners in much the same way as its combustion engined counterparts, but it quieter, smoother, more powerful drivetrain makes it by far the most pleasant model variant to drive.

If you’re willing to stretch a couple of grand beyond the cost of the 1.0-litre Kona, the full hybrid model makes for a compelling choice. It’s powered by a mix of 1.6-litre petrol engine and a small electric motor, delivering a combined output of 139bhp and 265Nm of torque. The main benefit here is fuel economy: on paper it’s significantly more frugal than the rest of the range.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

The Kona comes with a choice of engines – although in truth, the vast majority of customers will end up in the more modest version. It's a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder motor, producing 118bhp and 172Nm of torque.

On the whole, this engine is punchy enough for a car like the Kona. But in practice, we find its powerband a little narrow - and it's quick to punish you with sluggish progress if you allow the revs to dip much below 2,000rpm. You certainly won't be able to hurry the Kona into much of a sprint, as Hyundai claims the 0-62mph time is a rather sedate 11.9 seconds

The full hybrid's mix of 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine and electric motor results in a total output of 139bhp, although its pace is still not particularly impressive - taking 11.0 seconds to 62mph from a standstill.

Hyundai offers the EV model with either a 39kWh battery delivering 134bhp, or a 64kWh 201bhp version. Both are more capable sprinters, taking 9.9s and 7.9s to 62mph, respectively.

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