New Hyundai Kona: out of the box
Hyundai Motor Company must have been thinking out of the box when it created the Kona. With the Kona, Hyundai threw out the window all its accepted designing norms.
Launched on the global market in June 2017, the wildly styled Hyundai Kona is the Korean carmaker’s first segue into the booming subcompact SUV/crossover segment.
That the Kona is named after the Big Island of Hawaii, a favorite destination of surfers and other active lifestyle enthusiasts, gives a clue regarding its target demographic.
In Hyundai’s SUV lineup, the Kona slots under the Tucson, size-wise. Built on an all-new platform, its wheelbase is shorter than the Tucson’s, resulting in a much shorter rear overhang.
A five-seater, the 2018 Kona is offered in four trim levels with two powertrains, although in the Philippines, only the front wheel drive GLS or SEL variant with a naturally aspirated, 2.0-liter, Atkinson cycle inline 4 petrol engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission (A/T) is available.
This Kona engine spec produces 149 hp and 179 Nm max torque of 4500 rpm.
In other markets, a turbocharged 175-hp 1.6-liter four with 7-speed dual clutch A/T Kona is offered.
Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. (HARI) probably chose the non-turbo Kona for the Philippine market to make its retail price competitive with other subcompact SUVs.
At present, the Kona retails at P1.118 million. For that price, you get a big-grille, forward-flowing, chunky-looking SUV with bulky fender cladding that extends from the shark-eyed headlamps in front to the turn signal and reverse lamps in the rear.
The moldings are matched to the cuts and curves in the sheet metal, especially on the doors and the taillight housings.
The thin, upper strip lights—separate from and above the projector-type headlamps—are LED daytime running lights (DRLs) that add to the visual equation.
All these exterior features plus 17-inch alloy wheels combine to make a strong first impression, especially when the Kona’s body color is Acid Yellow, a shocking metallic yellow-green hue.
One disadvantage of the Kona is its low ground clearance—6.7 inches (170 mm) compared to the Ford EcoSport’s 7.8 inches.
This suggests that the Kona is designed for city streets, not rough roads or flash floods.
The Kona’s interior has a clean and simple look without feeling spartan, although hard plastic on the dash abounds, and the door armrests are skimpily padded.
Elbow room and shoulder room are generous in the front cabin, and the front seats offer good comfort.
Knee room is skimpy at the rear, however, and passengers have to duck to enter. The backrests of the 60:40 split rear seat fold to increase cargo capacity to 1,143 liters max.
Other cabin amenities are a floating-type radio display with aux, USB, Bluetooth, and six speakers (four plus two tweeters), overhead console with sunglass holder, front map lamps, room lamp, and rear covering shelf.
The infotainment menu and controls are user-friendly. However, the Kona I tested did not have a backup camera or rear parking sensors.
For safety, the Philippine spec Kona, according to HARI, is equipped with six airbags, ABS with EBD, engine immobilizer, disc brakes all around, and a tire pressure monitoring system.
Fun and frolic
The Kona’s quirky styling denotes youthful exuberance, fun and frolic, and its lively driving dynamics do not disappoint.
Light and energetic on its feet, the Kona provides car-like handling, frisky agility and sharp reflexes.
Like the Tucson, the 2.0-liter Kona is easy to drive with just enough power for most situations.
While highway merging requires all the engine can give, and the engine gets noisy at higher rpm, it can easily hit 150 kph without straining.
More than half of the Kona’s unibody is made of high strength steel, which translates into a tight build, isolation and rattle-free cabin.
Its suspension (MacPherson strut up front, coupled torsion beam axle at the rear) soaks up bumps pretty well.
Summing up, the Hyundai Kona deserves the consideration of young couples and millennials who seek a fun-to-drive yet practical ride in one affordable, outrageously out-of-the-box-looking package.