Refined mild-hybrid powertrain, and handles better than it strictly needs to
Hybrid gets expensive. Looks weird (even weirder than before) but then you might like that
What is it?
It’s the facelifted Hyundai Kona – surely the most outrageously styled Hyundai the world has ever seen, and that’s in a world where the brilliant-looking Ioniq 5 now exists. The Kona is what Hyundai would describe as a sub-compact SUV, whereas the rest of us just call these things crossovers. It competes with the Nissan Juke, the Renault Captur, the Kia Niro and an offering from just about every other car manufacturer on the planet.
Even in this style-led segment, though, none we’ve seen is as bold as the Kona. It’s hard to tell whether the mid-life facelift has improved things or not, but the basics include a new front end with even squintier lights and more plastic cladding, as well as a very slightly refreshed rear that includes some of the wildest light clusters we’ve ever seen.
There are some eye-catching new 17- and 18-inch wheel designs too, proving that Hyundai definitely isn’t trying to tone things down compared to the original Kona. In our eyes it’s still a little over-styled and odd-looking, but it’ll find as many fans as it will naysayers, no doubt.
The Kona Electric has also had a refresh but remains a much cleaner looking car. You can read our review of the full-EV by clicking these blue words – here we’ll focus on the standard Kona and the appropriately-named Kona Hybrid.
Even the regular Kona is ‘electrified’ post-facelift, though. In the UK you can now only have a petrol-powered 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine that combines with a six-speed manual gearbox and a 48V mild-hybrid system for 118bhp and 127lb ft of torque. Yep, it’s manual only. Diesel was dropped at the end of 2019.
If you want a Kona with an automatic gearbox, you’ll need to upgrade to the Kona Hybrid. That pairs a 1.6-litre petrol engine with a very small battery and an electric motor for 139bhp. Both are FWD only on our shores.
Oh, and there’s also a new N Line trim that offers a sportier look and less contrast-colour cladding - taking cues from the full-fat 276bhp Kona N. Phew.
What is the verdict?
If you like the way the Kona looks, then by all means go ahead. People buy on style more than anything else in this segment, so it’s almost incidental that the Kona is a reasonably well-sorted thing underneath. It doesn’t excel in any one area, but it doesn’t insult either.
If on the other hand, you don’t like the way it looks, don’t worry. There are literally shedloads of other little SUVs vying for your wallet, and they’re all broadly as good as this one. Worth bearing in mind there are more practical family cars for the money, too. But we like the Kona for trying as hard in the handling department as in the styling studio, and rising above the droves of humdrum rival crossovers.
Stick with the standard, three-cylinder Kona for the best buying and driving experience.