What Car? says...
They say variety is the spice of life, and it looks like the Hyundai Kona really took that to heart: this small SUV is available in petrol, hybrid and electric form, so there’s a Kona for pretty much anyone.
In this review, we’re focusing on the petrol and hybrid versions – see our Hyundai Kona Electric review to read about the electric car version.
On top of new styling and improved efficiency, the Kona now has an all-new interior, lots of new technology and equipment, and a simplified range of trim levels. Better still, Hyundai has made it bigger and increased interior space, helping it to compete better with larger rivals.
Read on to find out how the Hyundai Kona compares with other small SUV models you might be considering.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The entry-level Hyundai Kona has a 1.0T 120PS petrol engine. With a modest 118bhp to offer, it’s not exactly potent and will officially sprint from 0-62mph in 11.8 seconds, making it a second slower than the T-Roc and two seconds slower than the entry-level Puma. True, it’s just enough power to promptly pull away from junctions or sprint to 70mph on a motorway slip road, but it’s best described as pedestrian.
The hybrid version is more powerful and quicker. It has a 1.6-litre petrol engine paired with an electric motor for a total output of 139bhp. The boost from the motor is available from a standstill and gives nippier acceleration off the mark than, say, the T-Roc 1.5 TSI. If you're gentle with the throttle, you can drive short distances on electric power alone.
As you accelerate, the petrol engine joins in smoothly, and takes you up to motorway speeds with no real effort. Even so, outright acceleration is fairly sluggish compared with the Puma mHEV 155 or the T-Roc 1.5 TSI. In our tests, the T-Roc got from 0-60mph around 1.5 seconds quicker than the Kona, managing 8.5 seconds, against the Kona’s 9.9 seconds.
Suspension and ride comfort
With softer damping and more suspension travel than the Puma and the T-Roc, the Kona is better at taking the sting out of most road imperfections, and we found it never thudded through even large potholes.
The ride isn’t perfect though: there's a slight but constant fidget as you drive along, even on smooth roads.
Avoiding the big 18in alloy wheels that come with all the hybrid versions, plus the N-Line, N-line S and Ultimate trims helps matters, but the Kona isn’t as composed or comfortable as its rivals.
If you want a small SUV with dynamic handling, you might want to look elsewhere – the Kona gives the impression that it would rather you avoided winding roads.
Its soft damping means it causes occupants to lurch around a little more, and it demonstrates more body lean than the firmer Puma. That said, it stays more upright through twists and turns than the Citroën C3 Aircross and the Renault Captur.
The steering doesn’t help matters. While it’s fine for normal driving, it’s vaguer than the T-Roc’s, making it harder to judge what the front wheels are doing. What’s more, the way the steering weight increases isn’t particularly linear, with it staying light around the centre point and then adding lots of weight as you turn.
Noise and vibration
When stationary, the pure petrol Kona’s engine transmits lots of vibration into the interior, buzzing that you’ll feel through the seat and steering wheel.
The Kona Hybrid is much better in this respect, because it operates peacefully on its electric motor alone, as you pull away or crawl along in traffic. That peace is shattered, however, when you ask for a quick burst of acceleration, because that engine is also quite buzzy.
At motorway speeds, the Kona produces very little wind and road noise, matching the T-Roc in our tests on a private test track. The brake pedal on the Hybrid version takes a bit of getting used to because it's hard to judge how much pressure to apply. That's something you'll find on some hybrid cars, and it can make it hard to slow down smoothly.
Strengths Little wind and road noise; comfy ride for the most part; impressive hybrid engine
Weaknesses Slow pure-petrol engine; not particularly dynamic; vague steering
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
The driver's seat in the Kona is mounted a few centimetres higher than in the Arona and the Kamiq, to give that raised SUV feel.
What's more, the driving position is fundamentally sound – the pedals line up neatly with the steering wheel and there's plenty of steering-wheel adjustment. Every version comes with adjustable lumbar support, to keep you comfortable on long drives, while going for N-Line S trim or above adds electric seat adjustment.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Seeing out of the front and side of the Kona isn't too difficult, because of its relatively narrow pillars and tall windows. This is really helpful when you're pulling out of T-junctions and on to roundabouts.
When you look back over your shoulder, the Kona’s broad rear pillars and small rear screen restrict your view, although it’s no worse than in the T-Roc.
Happily, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera are standard across the range. Opting for N Line S exchanges that camera for one that gives you a 360-degree view of the car.
Sat nav and infotainment
The software itself is impressive, with sharp graphics and quick response to all of your prods. Even so, the best thing about it is the sheer amount of physical shortcut buttons you can use to skip to each of the different menus. We much prefer it to the touch-sensitive controls you’ll find in the T-Roc, but we’d prefer a physical rotary controller like the one in the Mini Countryman.
Only entry-level Advance models miss out on a wireless charging pad, while opting for N Line S or above also adds an upgraded Bose stereo system with seven speakers. Its sound quality won't blow you away, but it lets you crank up the volume when your favourite song comes on the radio without too much fear of distortion.
The Kona's interior is a step behind the Kamiq’s for quality, with plenty of hard, scratchy plastics dominating the dashboard and insides of the doors. Indeed, most of the Kona’s rivals are better when it comes to their interior materials.
The Kona is, at least, well put together and feels sturdily assembled. Even all the buttons, switches and dials feel robust and have a satisfying click whenever you use them.
Strengths Lots of physical buttons; sturdy interior construction; plenty of parking aids
Weaknesses Lots of scratchy plastics inside; so-so over-the-shoulder visibility
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Thanks to its refresh, the new Kona is slightly larger than the outgoing version and the result is even more front space. Even if you’re six feet tall, you’ll find that there’s plenty of head and leg room, while the width ensures you don't rub shoulders with your front passenger.
Storage space includes a couple of cupholders between the seats and a large hidden cubby below the front centre armrest. There’s also a space behind the gearlever, which doubles up as the wireless charging pad, and door pockets that are big enough for a couple of small water bottles.
There’s no shortage of head room in the rear of the Kona, easily matching what you’ll find in the T-Roc and slightly more than the Puma.
It’s in the rear that the Kona really impresses, because you’ll find loads of leg room and seriously generous levels of knee room. You’ll certainly enjoy more space sitting back there than you will in the Puma and T-Roc.
Even middle-seat occupants will be happy with the impressive knee room. They’ll have to contend with a central tunnel, but it’s quite low and doesn’t steal too much space.
Seat folding and flexibility
You get versatile 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats as standard, allowing you to slide longer items through from the boot while still having two outer rear seats. That’s better than you’ll find in most small SUVs, including the T-Roc.
The VW T-Cross has even more useful rear seats that can slide back and forth to prioritise leg room or boot space.
Manual seat adjustment for the front-seat passenger is standard on lower trim levels, but that’s upgraded to electric adjustment if you go for N Line S or above. Unlike almost all the Kona’s rivals, the front and rear seats of all but the entry-level Advance model are heated, while top-spec versions also get ventilated front seats.
The Kona's boot is smaller than average for this class. We managed to squeeze just five carry-on suitcases and a couple of soft bags below the parcel shelf, matching the Arona but falling short of the T-Roc’s seven.
At least the Kona's boot has a relatively wide opening and its split-folding rear seats lie almost flat when folded down. Unlike with some hybrid versions of cars, there's no boot space penalty if you choose the Hybrid Kona.
Strengths Lots of front space; impressive rear leg room; versatile 40/20/40 rear seats
Weaknesses Boot isn’t particularly generous
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
In simple terms, the Kona will cost you less as a cash buy than the T-Roc, and ever so slightly more than the Puma or Kamiq. The Kona Hybrid has a slightly higher starting price and costs more than any version of the Puma and about the same as the mid-spec T-Roc Style.
Even so, the Kona is predicted to depreciate quite a bit more quickly than its rivals, so even the T-Roc can end up costing you less in monthly payments if you’re buying on PCP finance (resale value plays into how much you’ll pay).
Plus, you could get more of your investment back on the Puma and T-Roc if you decide to sell in three years.
The official fuel economy of even the 1.0T Kona is quite impressive, at 49.9mpg combined, but it’s the hybrid model that steals the show. Thanks to the electrical assistance that it gets, it boosts the official fuel economy to just over 61mpg and also drops CO2 emissions from 130g/km to 105g/km.
Equipment, options and extras
No matter which trim level you go for, the Kona comes with impressive standard equipment levels.
Indeed, even the entry-level Advance version comes with full LED automatic headlights, tinted glass, electrically folding and heated wing mirrors, a 12.3in digital driver display, dual-zone climate control and cruise control. That’s on top of the bits we’ve already mentioned and the more comfortable 17in alloy wheels, providing you don’t go for the hybrid.
Stepping up to N Line trim adds sportier styling, 18in alloy wheels, heated front and rear seats and a power tailgate. Meanwhile, N Line S builds on this further, adding N Line Alcantara interior trim, electric seats and an upgraded Bose stereo.
Top-spec Ultimate trim sits alongside N Line S, costing the same but taking away the sportier Alcantara interior and replacing it with a bespoke leather one. It also adds a glass sunroof which, unlike in many cars, actually increases head room in the front and rear. As with the N Line S, it’s expensive, though, so it’s hard to recommend.
The Kona is too new for us to have reliability data, but Hyundai did very well in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey, finishing in seventh place out of the 32 included manufacturers. That places it above Ford, Kia and Volkswagen.
For more peace of mind, all versions come with Hyundai’s impressive five-year unlimited mileage warranty as standard. The battery in the hybrid model is covered for three years after that.
Safety and security
Automatic emergency braking (AEB) comes as standard on all versions of the Kona, and it can recognise and respond to pedestrians as well as cars. If you go for the Hybrid version in Premium trim or Ultimate trim, the system can react to cyclists too.
Lane-keeping assistance is standard across the range, as is a driver fatigue monitor. However, the only way to get rear cross traffic alert or blind-spot monitoring is by going for N Line S or Ultimate trim (those features aren't available as options on cheaper models).
The Kona was awarded a five-star Euro NCAP safety score in 2017. That was relatively impressive at the time, but it's important to note that the testing criteria are a lot more stringent these days.
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Strengths Lots of standard equipment; great reliability record; hybrid is really efficient
Weaknesses Depreciates faster than rivals; hybrid version costs more than some rivals
The entry-level 1.0T petrol Kona officially manages 49.9mpg, which is quite impressive, but it’s the Hybrid that steals the show. That version can drive on electricity alone at slow speeds for short periods and manages just over 60mpg.
Yes, every version of the Kona comes with front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera. In N-Line S and Ultimate versions, it's upgraded to a 360-degree camera.
|RRP price range||£25,725 - £45,395|
|Number of trims (see all)||4|
|Number of engines (see all)||5|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||hybrid, electric, petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||43.5 - 60.1|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||5 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£70 / £2,203|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£140 / £4,405|