If any car symbolises how far Hyundai has come in the last few years, it’s the Kona. Not only does it sell well for them (the aim is for 17,000 in the UK this year, which would make it the firm’s second best-selling car), but it’s also got nearly the full gamut of powerplant offerings to cover any customer’s needs. Petrol mild-hybrid, hybrid and electric – there’s even a hot ‘N’ version coming. Europeans also get diesel versions, but Hyundai sold so few here it doesn’t bother anymore.
The car has recently been facelifted and this time we’re trying out the hybrid version of that surgery. It’s not the most radical design overhaul but if you enjoy playing ‘spot-the-facelift’, you should know that the narrow DRLs are even narrower (if that was possible), while there’s more plastic cladding around the nose and the front fog lights are more rounded and less blocky. The rear also features a smidge more plastic cladding and similarly tweaked lower lights. In addition, new paint colours are available (complete with predictably jazzy names like Surfy Blue) and new wheel designs. The 18-inch alloys on our test car look particularly good.
Overall, it’s not what I’d call a beautiful car, but it is at least distinctive – something that’s needed when the compact crossover class is so crowded with rivals like the Renault Captur, Toyota C-HR and Nissan Juke.
Inside, the overhaul continues with a fresh new infotainment system – 10.25-inch touchscreen but mercifully with plenty of physical buttons directly beneath it – so it looks less like a Fisher Price system these days. There’s a new digital dash as well. There’s an electric handbrake now and the odd touch of chrome – nothing major but it certainly helps to make it look more up-to-date.
There’s plenty of technology on offer: wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone connection is standard across every trim, and all bar the base Kona come with nav and BlueLink Connected Car Services, the latter of which covers things like Last Mile Navigation (which will transfer the last bit of nav instruction to your phone, if the end bit of your journey has to be on foot), Connected Routing (smart navigation, so it’ll update according to traffic) and Live Parking information (does what it says on the tin). It’s a subscription service but you get five years for free.
Leather is standard in this Ultimate trim level and features both heated and ventilated front seats – the rears are also heated as standard. Impressive stuff, from a car that costs under £30,000.
Those rear seats are a bit flat, but you perch quite high in the back so there’s good visibility over the driver’s shoulder. Anyone over six foot should be wary though – because of the high seating position, headroom is a bit limited in the rear.
We’re testing the hybrid version here, but a 1.0-litre mild hybrid is also available on the Kona for the first time. Our 1.6-litre petrol hybrid is good for 141bhp and 108 lb ft, all helpfully assisted by the 1.56kWh battery and 32kW electric motor. It’s a self-charging hybrid – no plug-in here, unlike rivals like the Captur. Hyundai reasons that if you want more of an electric experience, you can opt for the full EV Kona. The headline sprint takes 11.3 seconds and fuel economy is 55.4mpg and 115g/km, the latter of which are within the margin of error when compared to rivals like the Toyota C-HR.