Independent review by Steve Grant
- Eye-catching looks
- Fun driving experience
- Quiet on the move
- Tons of leg and headroom
A vibrant paint job adorned the Hyundai Kona Hybrid when it turned up. It certainly stood out in a car park, so you’d never have trouble finding it again.
It’s certainly an eclectic choice, so much so, I thought I was probably driving the only one of its kind in Devon and Cornwall until I spotted one – you can’t miss it – travelling down the A38 in the other direction. Other colours are available.
I was quite taken with the Kona Premium SE which was genuinely pleasant to drive despite a few grumbles. Because it’s small and relatively light, it handles well, while its fairly soft suspension provides a comfortable ride.
The hybrid ‘sub-compact’ SUV combines a 1.6-litre petrol engine and a 6-speed dual clutch automatic transmission with a small battery and electric motor. The battery just captures energy that would otherwise be lost when braking, and this is re-used to power the electric motor. There’s no long-range emission-free motoring here.
There’s also no range of driving modes, but you can knock the gear stick sideways to put you in low-revving Eco mode or a noticeably sprightly Sport mode – a good excuse to use the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts, especially on twisting B-roads.
The Kona is a pleasure to drive in Eco mode in normal day-to-day driving around town. This is because it has a ‘real’ automatic transmission rather than a CVT, such as found in other Japanese and Korean hybrids, so there’s a more direct and less noisy driving experience.
Despite its 139bhp and 195lb ft of torque, the Kona Hybrid can feel somewhat sluggish – the main grumble - but there’s little body roll and its steering responds well. It can also easily handle longer journeys at higher speeds on motorways, where it’s remarkably quiet when cruising.
The official WLTP combined fuel economy for the Kona Hybrid Premium SE is 52.3mpg, and I managed a remarkably close 51.4mpg.
The Kona Premium SE system is equipped with a clever Eco-Driving Assist System (ECO-DAS) to help improve fuel economy. The system features a Predictive Energy Management system, which manages charging and discharging of the battery in uphill and downhill situations to maximise the battery usage.
As well as a rearview camera, the Premium SE comes with rear parking sensors, climate control and 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, auto wipers, wireless smartphone charging, LED headlights, privacy glass, leather upholstery, heated front seats, and a head-up display.
When an incline is expected on a route, and the battery state of charge is low, the vehicle increases engine operation slightly to pre-charge the battery ahead of the uphill section. This ensures the electric motor can go uphill with ease and minimizes the inefficient use of the petrol motor.
If the battery is sufficiently charged, it increases the level of electric motor power usage before driving downhill to minimise fuel consumption. The electric power is then recovered on the way downhill by regenerative braking.
Design and Practicality
The design of its unique alloy wheels and some blue badging is all that separates the Hybrid's looks from the rest of the Kona range, while the interior comes with white trim for the centre console and air vents. It also has a new user-friendly 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system, including a satnav.
A tall roofline means back seat passengers will be pleased with the headroom available. However, rear legroom is tight when the front seats are slid back to accommodate taller occupants.
With a 361-litre boot that you can extend to 1,143 litres when the 60:40 split-folding rear backrest is flattened, the Kona Hybrid is also practical. It also has a maximum towing capacity of 1,300kg.
Striking to look at, economical, and spacious, the Hyundai Kona Premium SE is one of the most attractive small SUVs on the market. Offering a welcome host of innovative equipment and safety features, the Kona is never dull to drive.