- Max Speed
What have we here?
Another electrified Hyundai, this time a Kona hybrid, here to replace the diesel – which was binned a little while ago – and to fill a hole between the 1.0-litre petrol and pure electric models. And despite the national craze for a) small crossovers, and b) hybrids, weirdly there isn’t much to rival it: only really the Toyota C-HR and the Kia Niro are in the Kona’s mid-£20k ballpark.
It’s a full hybrid (but not a plug-in) powered by a 1.6-litre GDI petrol and a 32kW electric motor supplied by a 1.56 kWh battery. All in all, they serve up a total of 139bhp and 195lb ft, directed to the front wheels via a six-speed, double-clutch automatic transmission.
Is it any good?
The Kona glides around almost silently under battery power alone (determined by the car, not by you), and at lower speeds – up to about 20mph – the petrol engine isn’t too eager to take over, unless you provoke it. Knocking the gearstick to the left awakens Sport mode, but don’t get your hopes up: 0-62mph takes over 11 seconds, and at full throttle it’s a bit of a thrash. Better to watch the world go by at medium pace, while back-seat passengers sit comfortably, with decent legroom, atop multi-link rear suspension (usually only available on top-spec and four-wheel-drive Konas).
Most hybrids – for this money, at least – use CVT transmissions, which are often moany and weirdly elastic, making the whole hybrid driving experience quite off-putting. The Kona is different. Its double-clutch ’box helps to smooth the power-sharing between e-motor and combustion engine, and serves up slick, predicable shifts where a CVT might feel jumpy. It doesn’t have the quickest reactions, and sometimes takes a moment to react to the pull of a paddle. But it’s a hybrid crossover. What did you expect?
What’s it like inside?
There’s a welcome upgrade to Hyundai’s new-and-improved infotainment system, with a 10.25-inch touchscreen slap-bang in the middle of the dash (for mid-level Premium trim and above).
The widescreen display is easily split between, say, the map and economy info, and it works fine with CarPlay and Android Auto. For many designers – particularly those obsessed with wipe-clean minimalism – this would also be an excuse to strip the cabin of actual buttons, but the Kona keeps quite a few for shortcutting controls, rather than making you jab distractedly at the screen. It might not look as tidy, but you’ll be grateful switching DAB stations in a hurry. Because those Radio 4 dramas can really sneak up on you.
Premium spec upwards buys you Hyundai’s new Bluelink connectivity, with live traffic, speed camera warnings, fuel prices and smartphone link for remote monitoring and locking/unlocking. It works via an embedded 4G modem and comes with a free five-year subscription to live services (matching the lifespan of the car’s standard, unlimited miles warranty).
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Standard safety kit depends on the trim. All models get lane assist and driver attention alerts. Top-spec Premium SE gets autonomous emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring, but all can be added as upgrades to lower trim levels, through Hyundai’s tiered ‘Smartsense’ system.
What about the styling?
On the outside it’s pretty much business as usual, except for some new alloys (16s on SE spec, 18s on Premium and above). Inside, you can choose from various different colours for the air vent surrounds, which – when combined with new exterior paint options and contrasting roofs – gives you a possible 27 colour combinations. You have been warned.
Is it worth my money?
It wouldn’t be our first-choice Kona. That would be the pure electric version, with a range of 279 miles for about £35,000. But there’s a waiting list for one of those, currently stretching well into 2020. So for now, this is the quickest – and more affordable – way to get your fix of eco-Kona. Other medium-size crossovers are more fun to drive, and plug-in hybrids give you more electric-only range, but for now the Kona does a good enough job of bridging those worlds together.
Prices start from £22,495 for the SE. It has a smaller, seven-inch touchscreen but makes up for that with standard lane keeping assist and a parking camera. The sweet-spot Premium version, yours for £24,295, has Bluelink, 18-inch wheels, wireless phone charging and more. Top spec Premium SE is £27,995 (would you?).
Whichever you go for, expect mpg in the mid 50s and upwards – that’s what we managed on our Dutch test route, although that was as flat as a slice of Edam.
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl petrol plus 32kW e-motor, 139bhp, 195lb ft
Transmission: Six-speed auto, FWD
Performance: 11.6secs, 115mph
Economy: 52.3mpg, 99g/km CO2