First Drive Review: Hyundai Kona

Independent review by Stewart Smith

5-minute read

Red Hyundai Kona Exterior Front Driving

First Drive: Hyundai Kona

Explore the key features of the Hyundai Kona in our expert first drive review

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The Hyundai Kona's looks set quite the impression, and when behind the wheel, it proved to be a strong contender within the competitive SUV segment.


  • Distinctive design
  • Good levels of equipment
  • Plenty of space inside
  • Various powertrains to choose from
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The switch from traditional saloons to SUVs, of all sizes, seems never-ending and one of the latest to make an appearance is the Hyundai Kona.

With design features that will hit the spot with younger drivers, it's up against the likes of the Renault Captur and Nissan Juke in the small SUV sector.

Its quirky styling with sweeping lines, bold front grille and stand-out wheel arches give the new Kona a stand-out look.

Hyundai is no longer a cheap and cheerful choice, having enhanced its build quality, standard equipment levels, and under-bonnet power packages, and the Kona should be an attractive choice for many.

Driving Experience

At launch in the UK there'll be a choice of two petrol powered models, a 118bhp 1.0-litre turbocharged 3-cylinder engine with a 6-speed manual gearbox or a 175bhp 1.6-litre 7-speed automatic.

A 1.6-litre diesel engine and an all-electric Kona Electric are also available.

The biggest seller will probably be the 1.0-litre T-GDi which I tried on a mixed route in and around Barcelona taking in motorways, twisty mountain roads, and city streets.

A few years ago, if you had said you were considering buying a motor with just 1.0-litre of volume and three cylinders, many would have scoffed. But today’s small motors offer adequate grunt, and the Kona is a fine example.

It can hit 112mph and 0 to 62mph in 12 seconds, which isn’t at all bad for a small SUV, and on a combined run expect around 53mpg with CO2 emissions coming in at 125g/km.

The Kona’s gear change is pretty slick, and I found the power offered for overtaking and cruising on the motorway acceptable.

As far as the way it handles, I found it easy to drive with just a little body roll on some of the tighter bends when at speed.
Stewart Smith

The Kona I drove was kitted out with 18-inch alloys, and maybe the standard 16-inch wheels would give a more comfortable ride, ironing out potholes and ridges on rougher tracks better.

On the move the Kona’s steering is precise, if a little heavy, braking is secure and positive and overall the ride quality is pretty smooth.

The driving position is excellent and can be adjusted to suit as can the steering wheel which means it will suit drivers of any build.


Seating is good with plenty of headroom front and back, although it could a bit tight in the back if three adults were on board.

Boot space isn’t the best in class, offering 334 litres but with the seats folded this goes up to 1,116 litres.

Equipment and Technology

The entry-level Kona S comes with body coloured bumpers, door handles and door mirrors, as well as a rear spoiler with an integrated LED brake light.

Interior equipment includes cloth seats with driver’s seat height adjustment and 60/40 split folding rear seat. S trim level also comes with air conditioning with rear air vents in the centre console, automatic headlamps with LED positioning lamps and LED daytime running lamps.

Also included are cruise control with speed limiter, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors and electric front and rear windows. DAB and Bluetooth connectivity features as standard throughout the Kona range, with the S featuring a 5-inch LCD centre console display, six speakers, USB and AUX connections and steering wheel controls for audio, telephone, and cruise control operation.

The Kona SE builds on S trim level by offering additional equipment including 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails and fog lamps, leather wrapped steering wheel and gear knob, and electric driver’s seat lumbar support.

The SE version comes as standard with a parking system including rear parking sensors and rear camera, with a 7-inch touchscreen centre console display including smart device integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

There are three other trim levels on offer – Premium, Premium SE, and Premium GT which offer extra kit.


There’s a lot of competition in the small SUV sector, but I think the Kona, at least in looks, stands out from the crowd and should do well. With plenty of tech on offer and a great driving experience, the Kona proves to be great value for money and will be a common sight on British roads for years to come.