The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0
The Kona is not a spectacular car to drive, but it feels light and easy around town and secure and stable on the motorway. Although it’s a compact car, it still manages to feel airy with enough space for four to travel in comfort. With petrol, hybrid and full-electric power options, plenty of equipment and an extensive warranty, you’re running out of excuses not to buy a Kona.
Reasons to buy
- Choice of petrol, hybrid or electric power
- Plenty of equipment
- Great warranty
At a glance
- How good does it look? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's the interior like? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How practical is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's it like to drive? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How powerful is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much will it cost me? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How reliable is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How safe is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much equipment do I get? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Why buy? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
How good does it look?
The Kona is one of the more striking compact SUVs to hit the UK in recent times. It continues the current trend for dual lighting, with the LED daytime running lights sitting on top of the headlights. A roof-mounted rear spoiler, complete with third brake light, a pair of integrated roof rails, and extensive use of black lower body cladding all emphasise the robust, off-road look. The electric model stands out with a different grille to the rest of the range, under which you'll find the charging port.
There are a range of trim levels depending on which power option you go for, but all of them have alloy wheels.
What's the interior like?
Although it’s not as outlandish as the exterior design, the Kona still manages to look pretty stylish inside. The use of colour-coded stitching on the steering wheel and seats and splashes of complementary body-coloured paint on the air vents, gear shifter and starter button surrounds, make it easier to forgive the hard, shiny plastics on the dashboard and door trims.
If you’re expecting the lofty driving position you find in many SUVs, you’ll be disappointed. It’s better to think of the Kona as an elevated version of the i20 hatchback. There’s a good range of seat adjustment, and the steering wheel adjusts both up-and-down and in-and-out, but the driving position is still spoiled slightly by the fact that the pedals are heavily offset to the right of centre.
Like most cars in this sector, the Kona is available with an infotainment touchscreen that sits in the middle of the dashboard. This displays the audio, navigation and phone connectivity icons. There’s also the option of a couple of more luxury car features, such as a heated steering wheel and a head-up display screen, which sits on top of the main instruments, directly in the driver’s line of sight. It displays navigation instructions and speed limit icons in a way that doesn’t involve the driver having to take their eyes off the road.
How practical is it?
Like most cars in this class, shoulder-room is a bit on the snug side, but other than that, the Kona provides a decent amount of space for four, even five at a push. Although knee-room can get a wee bit tight in the rear if you get stuck behind a particularly tall driver, an almost flat floor and elevated seating means you won’t need to sit with your legs crossed.
There’s a fair few storage areas dotted around the cabin, including cup holders, front door pockets – that will each hold a 1.5-litre bottle of water – a decent-sized glovebox and a hidden cubby under the central armrest. The Kona Electric does away with a gear selector in the conventional sense. Instead, you can select drive, park, neutral or reverse by individual buttons on the centre console.
The bad news is the boot is a bit on the small side. If there’s only one or two of you, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem, as you’ll get most of your belongings safely stored under the boot load cover. If you have small children, you should just about be able to fit in a baby buggy diagonally with a bit of space to spare. If you want to include the travel cot and a bundle of cuddly toys, though, you’ll need to flip down one of the 60/40 split folding rear seat backs.
What's it like to drive?
If you live in a rural area and feel additional traction will come in handy, you can get a four-wheel-drive Kona, but it’s only available with top of the range trim. This means it’s very expensive, and for this kind of money there are countless better 4X4 SUVs.
The vast majority of Kona sales will be made up of the front-wheel drive variety. Given the typical urban driving conditions these cars will regularly encounter, the Kona is more than capable. The ride can be slightly unsettled at times as the rear end can jitter abut a bit, but it’s not too uncomfortable or noisy over most lumps and bumps. The heavier Kona Electric is better, as the extra weight of the battery settles the rear down, and it's mounted low enough as to not particularly affect the handling. At motorway speeds, the Kona feels securely planted, but you will notice quite a bit of wind-noise.
The majority of owners will be happy with the light and easy steering, which will help when zipping in and out of traffic with minimal effort. It does feel rather slow to respond, though, and there’s also an artificial feel that doesn’t inspire much confidence when you’re going a bit faster.
How powerful is it?
Although we wouldn’t dismiss the 1.6-litre 4x4 Kona, you’ll be in a pretty exclusive club if you decide to buy one. You’ll cut out the hassle of changing gears manually, and the seven-speed automatic gearbox changes gear smoothly, but surprisingly, for such a powerful engine (177 horsepower), it feels quite unresponsive at lower speeds. More often than not, you’ll find yourself standing hard on the accelerator when pulling out of junctions, overtaking slower moving traffic, or simply trying to build speed to merge with faster flowing traffic.
The 1.0-litre is not perfect either, but its performance feels more in keeping with its size. It pulls pretty well away from the mark and it’s reasonably flexible, but it doesn’t like to be revved hard. Although you’ll probably quickly get used to it, the clutch pedal does feel quite mushy, and the six-speed gearshift is a bit notchy, but both are light, so it’s not something that’s going to bother you too much when driving in heavy traffic.
We've been impressed with the Hybrid model, introduced in 2019, which combines a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to give 141 horsepower. The electric aspect gives instant low-down grunt in the rev range, and means it feels pleasingly sprightly to drive, and also runs on zero-emission, electric-only power when the battery is charged. Clever power management software can read the road ahead and optimise charging and discharging of the battery to maximise fuel economy. However, this only works if you have a route set in the sat-nav.
The Electric model is also very good, with two different versions with different power outputs and driving ranges. We've got a separate review that you can read to find out more.
Two 1.6 diesels were available when the Kona launched, but they were discontinued in 2019.
How much will it cost me?
Exactly how much you'll have to spend on your Kona will depend on whether you go for petrol, hybrid or electric power, and which trim level you opt for. Broadly speaking though, the Kona is competitively priced against its rivals, which are plentiful and include the Nissan Juke, Kia Stonic, Seat Arona and plenty more. It's not spectacularly cheap, and doesn't have amazing resale value, but it doesn't disgrace itself either. Basically, it sits in the middle of the competition when it comes to cost.
That said, the Hybrid model only really competes with the Toyota C-HR Hybrid, which is quite a bit more expensive, and the Kona Electric knocks money off its purchase price thanks to a substantial grant from the Government. It'll also be far cheaper on electricity than a petrol-powered version, and with demand for the electric version far outstripping supply, it'll likely hold onto its value well too.
How reliable is it?
The Kona is far too new for any meaningful reliability data, but as a brand, Hyundai is sitting pretty towards the top of the manufacturer standings for both Warranty Direct's Reliability Index and JD Power's 2019 Vehicle Dependability Study. Hyundai offers one of the best warranties in the business, which is transferable. This is a great selling point if you wish to sell the car on before the warranty expires. The Kona is covered for an unlimited number of miles over five years, which makes the three-year/60,000-mile warranty offered by most European manufactures look positively stingy. That said, we don’t expect many people to cover huge mileages in their Konas, so if that’s you, and you’re looking for ultimate peace of mind, you might want to consider the Kia Stonic, which comes with a seven-year/100,000-mile warranty.
How safe is it?
The Kona scored the maximum five stars when crash tested by safety organisation Euro NCAP. It comes with a decent amount of standard safety equipment, which includes plenty of airbags, lane-keep assist, hill-hold and hill-descent control, and driver fatigue monitoring. The Premium SE model also gets blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, while the Premium GT adds automatic emergency braking with pedestrian recognition, which will automatically attempt to bring the car to a stop if it senses a collision is imminent.
How much equipment do I get?
The petrol-powered Kona is available with five trim levels: S, SE, Premium, Premium SE and Premium GT. Entry-level S cars come with 16-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, four electric-windows, powered side mirrors, LED daytime running lights and automatic headlights, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, and a 5.0-inch infotainment screen plus a DAB radio.
That seems like plenty, but if you’re into your tech, moving up to SE adds a 7.0-inch touch-screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. You also get electric adjustment for the driver’s seat, rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera. Bigger 17-inch alloy wheels are also included, as is a touch of leather on the steering wheel and gear knob.
The Premium trim adds keyless entry and engine start, automatic wipers, 18-inch alloy wheels – you might want to assess the effect these have on ride comfort before you go ahead – and an 8.0-inch touch-screen.
Premium SE adds heated and ventilated leather seats, a head-up display, a heated steering wheel and front parking sensors. The top-of-the-range Premium GT is only available with the 1.6-litre petrol engine, and comes everything Premium SE gives you, plus full LED headlights and rear lights.
The Kona Hybrid is available in SE, Premium and Premium SE versions, while the Electric comes in Premium or Premium SE forms.
We wouldn’t blame you if you bought a Kona simply on looks alone. It’s certainly one of the more striking additions to the rapidly expanding compact SUV sector, and with three choices of power - petrol, hybrid or electric - can appeal to a wide audience. The exterior wow-factor is complemented by a funky, airy interior, and a decent driving experience, along with competitive pricing, excellent levels of equipment – even on the base model – and a comprehensive five-year warranty, which all stack up to a create a compelling argument in the Kona’s favour.