Hyundai Kona SUV review (2017-2023)
“The Hyundai Kona looks more exciting than the brand’s other cars, but delivers sensible, middling competence rather than excellence in any one area”
- Plenty of standard equipment
- Eye-catching design
- Great warranty
- Small boot
- Dull to drive
- Expensive high-spec models
Verdict: Is the Hyundai Kona a good car?
Owners certainly think so – the Kona came top of our Driver Power survey in 2021, only slipping to fourth place in 2022. It has proved itself to be reliable, cheap to run, good to drive and safe. It’s not perfect though, with a slightly cramped back seat and a boot that’s on the small side. These are issues the next-generation Kona arriving aims to address; the crossover model grows in size for 2023.
Hyundai Kona range
The Hyundai Kona is a popular small SUV that goes up against numerous rivals, including the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur, Kia Stonic, Peugeot 2008, Citroen C3 Aircross, SEAT Arona and Ford Puma. The Kona even has an in-house rival in the form of the Hyundai Bayon, and it’s set to be replaced by an all-new Kona model during 2023.
It’s a trait of cars in this class to look a little less conventional than their hatchback counterparts and the Kona follows this trend, with a design that’s funkier and slightly more eye-catching than more utilitarian Hyundai models we’re used to. This was taken a step further by the facelifted model, which not only got usual new bumpers, but also a new bonnet and an increase in overall length by 40mm. Along with the arrival of a sporty N Line trim, the changes made the Kona look more chunky and aggressive.
Just one 118bhp 1.0-litre petrol has been made available in the facelifted car, now boasting mild-hybrid technology to improve efficiency. It can return over 45mpg, but some of the Kona’s rivals are more efficient. In 2019, Hyundai discontinued diesel versions, introducing a Kona Hybrid model to appeal to economy-focussed buyers. There's also a zero-emission Kona Electric, with very impressive range figures and minimal tax rates, and now there’s even a Kona N performance model to take on the Volkswagen T-Roc R and Cupra Formentor. You won’t find any hybrid assistance in the N; it prioritises speed and power, with 276bhp and a rapid 0-62mph time.
Most buyers looking at a Kona should consider the SE Connect or N Line trim levels. The SE Connect specification gets key items such as an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, smartphone mirroring, rear parking sensors and lane-follow assist. The N Line trim is a sporty addition to the range and gets extra features, while the Premium model costs around the same but adds heated seats. Top-spec Ultimate even gets heated rear seats and a sunroof.
Families will be pleased to learn the Kona has a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. Not only is the car's structure strong in the event of a crash, but autonomous emergency braking reduces the likelihood of one happening in the first place, so we’re glad it now comes as standard. Factor in the Kona's strong five-year/unlimited-mileage warranty and the Kona looks like a safe place to put your money, as well as your family.
However, as sensible as it is, the Hyundai's performance does little to appeal to the heart. On the road, it's competent rather than invigorating to drive. It makes sense that Hyundai has engineered it this way, as most customers don’t want, let alone expect, sporty handling characteristics, but it's a shame it can't come close to matching the Ford Puma's rewarding nature. Perhaps the biggest disappointment, however, is a relatively small boot and cramped rear seats that rather handicap practicality.
Its place in the middle of the pack is confirmed when you look elsewhere, with other cars in the class trumping or at least matching the Kona for interior design, quality and versatility, economy and value-for-money. Strangely, every other version of the Kona, be it the hybrid, electric or the range-topping N, is much easier to recommend depending on your own priorities.