In-depth reviews

Hyundai Kona review - 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

£25,700 to £45,395
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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.

Plus, despite the new Kona being bigger in every physical dimension, its turning circle is uncharged at 10.6 metres, and the steering is so light that you can turn the wheel with one finger, although the trade-off is virtually no feedback.

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. That’s not to say the Kona rolls onto its door mirrors when cornering, though, 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 also contribute to the impressive ride quality we experienced, with the rest of the range riding on 18- or 19-inch wheels.

N Line and N Line S trim add a boy racer bodykit, but don’t make any technical changes like lowering the ride height or tweaking the Kona’s suspension settings. As a result, 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 considering it’s the slowest model in the range. According to Hyundai, the 1.0 Kona can ‘sprint’ from 0-62mph in a leisurely 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 mind you, but not underpowered, either. Plus, the six-speed manual gearbox that comes standard is pleasingly accurate and has a relatively short throw.

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, so gathering speed is easy, our test car’s dual-clutch transmission never felt properly in tune with what the engine was doing, and was even quite jerky at low speeds.

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 Hyundai says 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.

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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. However, torque output is the same, at 255Nm, and because the long-range Kona Electric has a much larger battery, its 0-62mph time is only one second quicker than the standard model (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 does feel like it's running out of puff when you’re trying to accelerate up to motorway speeds, but quick overtakes are not an issue, given the amount of torque ready at all times.

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