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In-depth reviews

Hyundai Kona - Engines, performance and drive

The Hyundai Kona is refined and comfortable, with town driving being its forte

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

Engines, performance and drive Rating

4.5 out of 5

Price
£26,000 to £45,595
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The Hyundai Kona is a car that encourages you to take it easy when behind the wheel, and has been set up to be a comfortable family car rather than one that’ll set your trousers on fire. It’s happiest around town, where you can drive the Kona Hybrid and Kona Electric with just the accelerator thanks to one-pedal driving modes, recuperating energy and boosting the car’s efficiency.

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Despite the new Kona being bigger in every physical dimension, it remains just as manoeuvrable as its predecessor, with a turning circle of 10.6 metres. The steering is so light that you can turn the wheel with one finger, which is a real boon when parking. The trade-off is virtually no feedback, though.

There’s plenty of suspension travel to help deal with less than perfect roads – which are not difficult to come across in the UK – and the ride itself is relaxing at pretty much any speed, being much softer than the firmer Ford Puma. That’s not to say that the Kona is so soft that it rolls onto its door mirrors when cornering, and overall, it handles in a very safe and predictable manner. It’s likely the 17-inch rims that feature on entry-level Advance-spec models (and are an option on Ultimate trim Kona Electric models to lessen rolling resistance and improve electric range) also contribute to the impressive ride quality we experienced, with the rest of the range riding on larger 18- or 19-inch wheels.

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N Line and N Line S trim have more aggressive exterior styling, but don’t have any alterations made to the suspension to make them handle sharper, so these versions don't feel any different to drive than a bog-standard Kona – despite looking like they’re raring to pick a fight with a Ford Puma ST.

0-62mph acceleration and top speed 

The 1.0-litre petrol Kona produces just 118bhp and 172Nm of torque, so it’s hardly surprising that it’s the slowest model in the range. It’ll ‘sprint’ from 0-62mph in 11.8 seconds, and go onto a top speed of 112mph, although it felt quicker than its claimed stats suggest we tested it. It’s not fast, but it’ll be sufficient for keeping up with traffic in town, and you can keep the engine on the boil using the standard six-speed manual gearbox with its pleasingly accurate and relatively short throw, which we found to be much more satisfying to use than the manual in the Nissan Juke.

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The 1.6-litre petrol models produce a healthier 196bhp and 265Nm of torque – enough for 0-62mph in as little as 7.8 seconds when equipped with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, or 8.7 seconds if you stick with the standard six-speed manual. The 1.6-litre petrol Kona also gets a higher top speed of 130mph. But, while the 1.6-litre motor packs a decent amount of punch that enables you to gather speed easily, we found that progress can be spoilt by the jerky dual-clutch automatic transmission, which never felt properly in tune with what the engine was doing. We suggest you’d be better off sticking with the manual with this engine.

The Kona Hybrid pairs a 1.6-litre petrol engine with a single electric motor, which work together to drive the front wheels. Combined, the set-up produces 139bhp and 265Nm of torque, which is good for 0-62mph in 11.2 seconds. However we found that after the initial pep of the electric motor, the petrol engine provides more noise than it does propulsion, and the acceleration tails off significantly once you go past 50mph. Once you’re at motorway speeds though, there’s still enough oomph available for overtaking.

Both versions of the Kona Electric use a single electric motor to drive their front wheels, but while standard-range models produce 154bhp, long-range cars have 215bhp on tap, although the torque output remains the same for both, at 255Nm. The additional power of the long-range Kona Electric helps overcome the extra weight of its heavier battery pack, giving it a one-second advantage over the standard-range model in the 0-62mph dash – 7.8 seconds vs 8.8 seconds.

As you’d expect from an EV, the Kona Electric’s motor delivers its torque instantly, and there’s enough power to make the Kona seem very nippy around town. It doesn’t feel quite as rapid when trying to accelerate at higher speeds, but there should be sufficient oomph in reserve to get past slower moving trucks without holding up anyone behind you.

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