2018 Hyundai Kona 1.6 CRDi 115 review - price, specs and release date

As if petrol and electric versions of the Hyundai Kona weren't enough, there's also a new diesel option for the small SUV. Does it make sense?...

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Doug Revolta
3 Jul 2018 16:22 | Last updated: 12 Jul 2018 12:19

Priced from £19,750 Release date On sale now

You might think that a small SUV and a diesel engine go together like pale skin and the Costa del Sol’s blazing midday sun, but Hyundai believes there’s a strong enough business case to introduce such an engine into its smallest SUV.

Yes, although diesel engines only account for a small portion of sales in smaller cars, the Hyundai Kona is now available with a 1.6-litre diesel engine in two different power outputs. There’s a 113bhp version with a six-speed manual gearbox, and a 134bhp variant that gets a seven-speed automatic gearbox. If you want a low-powered auto or a high-powered manual, you're out of luck.

The engines sit between the two petrol engines in the line-up in terms of price and performance. Should you find engines that burn squashed dinosaurs passé, there's also an electric version of the Kona that will be launched in the UK soon.

If electric power doesn't suit your needs, the low CO2 emissions and impressive claimed fuel economy figures that a diesel provides could turn your head. But the Kona has some competition. Rivals such as the Kia Stonic and Seat Arona offer diesel variants, so how does Hyundai’s small SUV measure up against them?

2018 Hyundai Kona 1.6 CRDi 115 review - price, specs and release date

2018 Hyundai Kona 1.6 CRDi 115 on the road

In terms of performance, the lower-powered, 113bhp engine is slower than the Kona’s slightly more powerful 1.0-litre petrol engine, but not by much, and it still feels sprightly enough around town. It pulls well from low revs, picking up eagerly from 1500rpm, and easily gets the car up to motorway speeds in a fairly relaxed manner. There's a bit of vibration through the pedals, more so than in the petrols, and the engine sounds coarse when you work it hard. However, under normal use, it appears more subdued than the 1.6-litre diesel of our favourite small SUV, the Arona.

We also had a drive of the higher-powered, 134bhp diesel Kona with the seven-speed automatic gearbox. This offers a decent slug of extra performance over its little brother, making it feel more at home on the motorway. As for the gearbox, it's a good unit that rarely frustrates, changing gears swiftly without fuss. However, while the running costs are fairly similar, the 134bhp is a lot more expensive to buy outright, so the 113bhp version is the pick of two.

Aside from the engine, the Kona’s ride still disappoints. It’s easily unsettled, and road imperfections are much more noticeable than they are in its rivals, with the car crashing over bumps and expansion joints. The handling is good for the class, though, with the Kona proving to be an agile SUV that will happily hustle along through twisting country roads in a composed manner with little body roll in the corners. Nevertheless, the Arona offers a more enjoyable driving experience, thanks to its superior steering.

2018 Hyundai Kona 1.6 CRDi 115 review - price, specs and release date

2018 Hyundai Kona 1.6 CRDi 115 interior

The diesel Konas have no differences inside from the petrol models, so it’s business as usual here. That means it’s not as practical as its rivals, with rear space more cramped than in the Arona and boot space below average for the class.

Unlike the 1.0-litre petrol, the diesel engine isn’t available with entry-level S trim, but that’s no bad thing, because it’s pretty sparsely equipped. Instead, the diesel range kicks off in SE trim, which gets plenty of equipment. And the 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system that comes as standard is one of the better examples in the class. Its graphics are clear and it’s simple to work your way around all the different functions, thanks to clearly laid-out menus. Again, though, the Arona's infotainment is even better.

The quality of the materials used around the Kona's interior is a bit of a disappointment; the hard and scratchy plastics around the dashboard and centre console feel cheap. While many of the Arona's plastics are also hard, they're better finished, and the areas you touch regularly feel classier.

Should you want more information on the Kona's interior, have a look at our main review for all the details.

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