Raised hatchback or lowered crossover? While some would say the Hyundai Kona’s genre-busting characteristics lead to a sense of identity crisis, the Hyundai Kona’s unique traits actually make it a true next-generation car, with the proper mix of style and substance to attract its core audience — young drivers.
The biggest question mark in terms of where the Hyundai Kona fits in is due to its styling. From the foglamp housing and bumpers to the skirts and wheel arches, the Hyundai Kona has all the dark body cladding that emphasizes an SUV or crossover’s tough off-road sensibilities. Yet at the same time, its sleek silhouette, futuristic styling cues and hatchback-like top half give it a sportier, albeit softer edge. It wouldn’t look out of place parked on a beach, or on a university campus.
Inside, Hyundai decided to go with a more spartan, monochromatic cabin design; but in no way does it make the Kona’s interior any less inviting. While it could do well with a splash of color, the space-age cabin layout is actually quite intuitive, with your audio system controls accessible on a “floating” display with physical knobs for volume and file navigation. The air-conditioning controls sit right below, with large, well-built dials to regulate temperature, strength and direction. The compartment up front has two 12V sockets, an Aux jack and a USB slot.
The steering wheel, while not leather, still feels great to the touch, and is loaded with audio, communication, and cruise control switches and buttons. The instrument cluster relays all the important information with no fanfare of a multi-colored display and graphics. Instead, both the dials and the central digital screen are relayed as simply as they can be. While this may be a touch boring to some, I actually prefer it this way because it maximizes readability.
What keeps the Konda from matching its futuristic looking interior is its lack of, well, futuristic tech. The monochrome display is a bit of a letdown compared to all the large, full-color touchscreens we see even on the most entry-level cars, and this means the Konda doesn’t get a rearview camera as well. I understand that Hyundai is trying to keep the pricing of the Kona affordable and that will undoubtedly lead to some compromises, I just wish the compromise wasn’t done here.
Whatever gripes I may have about the Kona’s interior tech, the extremely comfortable and supportive seats more than make up for it. With the Kona’s tilt and telescopic-adjustable steering wheel, finding your preferred driving position is relatively easy. The rear seats have the same supportive bucket-shaped seats, and this makes rear seating more suitable for two passengers instead of three. It would be best not to think of the Kona as a family car, though it would be perfect for the college student going out of town with some friends and their gear. The rear seats are capable of a 60/40 split, to allow more room for luggage.
One of the Hyundai Kona’s strongest points lies in how it drives. It’s powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine that produces 149 hp and 179 Nm of torque. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, the Kona is exceptionally smooth whether at low speeds or at a faster highway pace.
Power delivery is consistently available through the rev range — all while keeping an average fuel economy of 10.4 kilometers per liter on combined city and highway conditions. The cabin is also remarkably hushed, with the Konda doing a good job of isolating outside noises.
Thanks to its relatively low 170mm of clearance, the Kona’s low center of gravity makes it a great tool for cutting through corners, with the mechanical power steering system returning excellent feedback and weight. The Kona’s front MacPherson strut and rear coupled torsion beam axle suspension system also does a great job of absorbing road irregularities and small bumps, keeping the vibrations to a minimum.
At P1,118,000, the Hyundai Kona offers some impressive kit for the price. Safety is given absolute priority, with six airbags, ABS, automatic headlights, a tire pressure monitoring system, and electronic stability control. With a well-balanced package of style, performance, and a dash of practicality with its fuel efficient engine and versatile luggage storing options, the Hyundai Kona now finds itself at the forefront of the subcompact crossover battle together with the best the segment has to offer.
Text and photos by Chris Van Hoven