How can a carmaker build attractive vehicles?
On paper, the formula looks easy. Know what your consumers want, then combine sound engineering with a cool design. Add a host of advanced features to this mix, and you should have a winner.
By and large, that’s what Hyundai has done with the Kona Hybrid.
It’s a compact crossover, which is what many drivers desire. It has an efficient drivetrain that qualifies it for the A2 VES band. And it comes with SmartSense, the brand’s suite of safety features – many of which used to only be found in luxury cars.
TWO (ALMOST IDENTICAL) FLAVOURS
The Hyundai Kona Hybrid is available in two versions – a “regular” one, and the higher-spec Sunroof variant tested here.
Unique to the Sunroof variant are its radiator grille (which is black and chrome instead of just black) and larger wheels (18 inches versus 16 inches). The latter is responsible for “encouraging” me to drive inefficiently.
That’s because instead of being equipped with “green” tyres that have low rolling resistance, these larger wheels are fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres as standard.
Like its other Kona siblings, the Hyundai Kona Hybrid’s interior has a neat and user-friendly layout.
However, it also looks quite sombre with its dark interior scheme. The Sunroof model tries to lighten (and liven) things up a little with the white accents and white contrast stitching. Unfortunately, they do not help.
At any rate, the Hyundai Kona Hybrid’s strong points are its useful amenities such as the wireless charging tray, USB ports and oh-so-welcome ventilated seats.
I would have preferred dual-zone climate control, too, but that might be asking too much.
The most compelling item here, of course, is the SmartSense suite of safety features. These include Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blind-spot Collision Warning and Smart Cruise Control, just to name a few.
The Sunroof variant gets three more features that the regular Kona Hybrid does not: a rain sensor, Lane Following Assist and the handy Heads-up Display.
I found the Heads-up Display and Blind-spot Collision Warning features particularly useful.
The former helped keep my attention on the road, while the latter was a reassuring additional layer of safety against suicidal motorcyclists who enjoy riding in drivers’ blind spots.
NOT EASY TO GO GREEN
Primary power for the Hyundai Kona Hybrid is from a 1.6-litre GDI engine capable of 104hp and 147Nm.
This is paired to an electric motor that produces 43hp and 170Nm. Total system output is a healthy 130hp and 265Nm, sent to the front wheels via a 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
Now, with a century sprint time of 11.6 seconds, the Kona Hybrid is about as quick as a family saloon. In theory, this should help drivers come close to the Hyundai’s claimed efficiency of 23.3km per litre.
I thought I would also try to achieve that figure. But I changed my mind once I discovered that the Kona Hybrid did not mind being driven hard.
Again, this is not a fast car. But having a relatively willing drivetrain makes me aggressive with the accelerator.
The dual-clutch gearbox is smooth and the manual override function feels seamless, too. In Sport mode – you wonder why a hybrid even needs this – the responses become a bit keener.
Responsible for putting this performance onto the road are those high-performance tyres. So, instead of soft sidewalls and longer stopping distances, you get better grip and more assured braking.
If you enjoy driving, it is hard to resist not taking advantage of all this.
As a result, I only managed around 16.5km per litre over three days. Is that bad? Without this context, yes. But considering that I drove in a “normal” and more enjoyable manner, it is acceptable.
IF EFFICIENCY IS THE GAME…
If you’re seeking an eco-friendly compact crossover, the Hyundai Kona Hybrid is certainly worth checking out. It may not have the loveliest interior, but its numerous features and efficient drivetrain nevertheless make it a convincing proposition.
And if it does prove compelling, remember to opt for the less expensive “regular” model, which has almost everything found in the Sunroof version.
More importantly, it won’t have those high-performance tyres, which will be handy in your quest for efficiency and lower running costs.
Hyundai Kona Hybrid Sunroof 1.6 (A)
ENGINE 1580cc, 16-valves, inline-4, hybrid
MAX POWER 104hp (105PS) at 5700rpm
MAX TORQUE 147Nm at 4000rpm
ELECTRIC MOTOR POWER 43hp
ELECTRIC MOTOR TORQUE 170Nm
TOTAL SYSTEM POWER 130hp (96.7kW)
TOTAL SYSTEM TORQUE 265Nm
POWER TO WEIGHT 94.5hp per tonne
GEARBOX 6-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 11.6 seconds
TOP SPEED 160km/h
CONSUMPTION 23.3km/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE From $127,999 (after $10k VES rebate)
AGENT Komoco Motors