Hyundai Kona Hybrid SUV review
"Capable of over 50mpg, the Hyundai Kona Hybrid is the pick of the range if your budget doesn't stretch to the fully electric Kona"
- Cheap to run
- Plenty of equipment
- Clear infotainment setup
- Small boot
- Sluggish acceleration
- Optional safety features
With no diesel variant in the Kona range, the Hyundai Kona Hybrid becomes the most cost-effective version to run other than the fully electric model, making it a top pick for company-car drivers not yet ready to make the jump to an electric car. The Kona EV is also more expensive, so the Hybrid is likely the sweet spot in the Kona line-up for the majority of buyers. It clearly impresses owners, coming top in our 2021 Driver Power survey, with excellent ratings across the board.
It shares its updated powertrain with the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, meaning there's a 1.6-litre petrol engine and a 43bhp electric motor connected to a 1.56kWh battery pack. The battery can store just enough energy to drive silently for one or two miles, and you'll almost always enjoy engine-off driving in car parks and stop-start urban traffic. The rest of the time the electric motor assists the petrol engine, bringing the car’s overall economy figure up to 57.6mpg.
CO2 emissions from 112g/km, or slightly more with larger wheels, will also make the Kona Hybrid an appealing choice for company car drivers, qualifying it for lower Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) than a petrol SEAT Arona or Citroen C3 Aircross. Rival small hybrid SUVs are relatively few and far between but do include the Toyota C-HR, and Kia Niro, while the Renault Captur E-Tech also available as a plug-in hybrid.
With 139bhp, the Kona Hybrid also has a respectable amount of power on tap but its gearbox feels sluggish and 0-62mph takes over 11 seconds. The Kona feels less sporty than the Arona or Ford Puma as a result, and is at its best when driven gently to make the most of its hybrid powertrain. At least its handling is little different to the 1.0-litre petrol versions, with reasonable grip and little body lean. Suspension revisions for the facelifted model has also given the Kona Hybrid a better balance between handling and ride comfort, so it now feels less jittery over rough stretches of tarmac.
The design of its unique alloy wheels and some blue badging is all that separates the Hybrid's looks from the rest of the Kona range, while the interior is available with white trim for the centre console and air vents. It's also fitted with an excellent 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system from the middle Premium trim, which is wide enough to display two sets of information at once. We'd be tempted to go for this above the entry-level SE Connect trim because it adds luxuries like heated seats, a premium Krell sound system and rear USB ports, along with 18-inch wheels.
While the Kona Hybrid isn't perfect, reasonable prices and fuel-efficiency of over 50mpg mean we'd expect a significant proportion of Konas to leave the showroom with a hybrid badge from now on. If you can afford it, the Kona Electric is even better, but it costs over £30,000 and there’s a long waiting list. Private buyers may find the 1.0-litre petrol Kona does everything they need, but it's higher BiK band is likely to keep it off company-car shopping lists.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Hyundai has quietly dropped the diesel version from the Kona range, so fuel conscious buyers will be particularly interested in the Kona Hybrid. That's thanks to an economy figure of up to 56.5mpg, placing it a few rungs above the standard petrol models. It's not quite as clean as the Hyundai Kona Electric, of course, but that car is also quite a bit more expensive and has been tricky to get hold of due to long waiting lists.
CO2 emissions of around 112-115g/km also make the Kona Hybrid a desirable model for company-car drivers, with lower Benefit-in-Kind liability than most petrol rivals like the SEAT Arona. However, this figure is well above the 75g/km threshold for free entry into the London Congestion Charge zone.
On our test drive, we managed to match the 56mpg figure on a variety of motorway and country roads, so urban driving with more electric-only running could produce even better numbers. At slow speeds, the 1.56kWh battery pack and electric motor can power the Kona for short distances of up to a mile or two. VED will cost the discounted rate which is less petrol and diesel models, and insurance groups 8 to 9 out of 50 should also make the Kona Hybrid cheap to cover for most drivers. Meanwhile, a five-year/unlimited-mileage warranty should ensure there aren't any unexpected repair bills.
Engines, drive & performance
With 139bhp and 265Nm of torque from its 1.6-litre petrol engine and electric motor, the Kona Hybrid looks reasonably powerful on paper. Despite this, it can feel somewhat sluggish, with bursts of acceleration met with a drone from the petrol engine as the dual-clutch gearbox shifts down to increase revs. Largely because of its manual gearbox, and the fact it weighs around 140kg less, the 1.0-litre petrol feels more engaging when you're pressing on.
The Kona Hybrid's steering and suspension has been improved with the facelift, though, with revised settings that make it feel more natural and fluid to drive. It's now slightly softer, so less road imperfections are felt in the interior, without much of a trade-off for the handling.
When you aren't thinking about getting up to speed, the Kona Hybrid driving experience closely matches the petrol equivalents, sitting between the comfort-orientated Citroen C3 Aircross and the slightly sharper SEAT Arona. It's happiest when driven gently, as it’s very quiet and switches between electric and petrol power almost imperceptibly. Trying to coax the car to drive using just electric power can also prove quite addictive.
Interior & comfort
The Kona Hybrid might be closely based on the standard car but there are some changes inside. White trim now surrounds the gear selector and air vents but more significantly, Hyundai has updated the infotainment system. The brand's latest setup has a 10.25-inch touchscreen, serving up a wider aspect ratio that can show more information at once. A split-screen mode can simultaneously show your directions and media, for example, and the graphics and user interface are clear and logical. For the facelifted car, every version now gets a digital instrument cluster as well.
Trim levels are SE Connect, Premium and Ultimate. Every version features an impressive infotainment setup, along with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. There's also a rear-view camera, rear parking sensors, climate control and 16-inch alloy wheels. Hopping up to Premium brings 18-inch alloy wheels, a Krell premium sound system, BlueLink remote connectivity, heated seats and steering wheel, front parking sensors, keyless entry and wireless smartphone charging. The top Ultimate versions feature LED headlights, a head-up display, heated rear seats, ventilated front seats and advanced safety technology.
Practicality & boot space
The Hyundai Kona only takes up as much space on the road as a hatchback but a tall roofline means back seat passengers will be pleased with the headroom available. However, rear legroom is tight when the front seats are slid back to accommodate taller occupants. Top trims also get a central armrest for passengers, while cubby spaces include some storage around the centre console, cupholders, door bins that are on the small side and a decent glovebox.
The boot measures exactly the same 374 litres as non-hybrid versions, so it's commendable Hyundai has avoided impinging on the Kona’s practicality. With the 60:40 split-folding seats folded down, the boot increases in size to 1,156 litres. There are rivals with bigger boots, including the C3 Aircross with 410 litres. The hybrid Toyota C-HR offers 377 litres, while the Kia Niro manages 382 litres thanks to its boxy shape.
With a maximum towing capacity of 1,300kg (for a braked trailer), the Kona Hybrid becomes the most capable in the range for caravanners.
Reliability & safety
Hyundai has a great reputation for reliability, and its cars all come with a long five-year/unlimited mileage warranty. The Hyundai Kona came first, ahead of 74 top models in our 2021 Driver Power survey, with an impressive second-place for reliability and build quality. The South Korean brand came 16th overall out of 29 manufacturers. It's also worth noting that while the hybrid powertrain was a fairly recent addition for the Kona, it had already been tried and tested in the Hyundai Ioniq.
Euro NCAP have already awarded the Kona a five-star safety rating following extensive crash testing. It comes fitted with lane keeping assist and a driver attention alert, but it's a shame customers need to specify an optional safety pack to get autonomous emergency braking, costing around £550. It becomes standard for the Premium SE trim, along with blind spot warnings and rear cross traffic alerts. The Ultimate trim gets another raft of advanced safety kit, including a head up display and a system that warns passengers of approaching traffic as they exit.