Late last year, I attended the NZ launch of the next-generation Hyundai Kona, and to say it’s a big improvement over the incredibly popular outgoing model would be a large understatement. It’s bigger inside and out, it’s smarter, has a Sci-Fi looking face and comes in a range to suit pretty much everyone. Anyway, Hyundai NZ’s offer of a second look was welcomed with open arms and it came in the form of the 1.6T N-Line.
To recap, the Kona has been a very important vehicle for the brand with sales in New Zealand alone topping 11,781 units (between 25 and 30% of their actual vehicle turnover) since its initial launch in 2017 – so the new generation had to be good.
The Kona’s face looks like it’s been designed by George Lucas (of Star Wars fame) and boasts a light strip across the nose, the headlights have now been moved right to the edge to maximise the width, and the traditional grille is virtually non-existent, meaning that the inevitable EV Kona will look like an ICE or Hybrid model.
In terms of size it’s now 145 mm longer, 25 mm wider and 20 mm taller so those of you who’ve got the previous generation Kona you may have to double check your garage space. The wheelbase is a little bit bigger too, which means that you’ve got 34 mm of extra shoulder room and those in the back it’s actually got 77 mm of extra legroom.
The wheel arches look more substantial and in my N-Line model’s case, surround its 19-inch feet, and if you step back a little, there’s a giant Z shape design that’s very prominent on the SUV’s profile.
Again, because it was the N-Line, the roofline spoiler is actually twin spoilers, it’s very dramatic looking and there’s an F1 style stop light in the centre – it’s all very sporty. The KONA badging is now two-dimensional, there’s a full width light bar, LED tail lamps and a cosmetic rear diffuser and twin exhaust tips round out the tail.
Open the tailgate and you get access to 470 L of boot space, and if you lift the bonnet you see a 1.6 L turbo married to an 8-speed automatic, (146 kW/265 Nm). When it comes to fuel efficiency it’s 8.5L/100 km and for those that want to know its emissions, 194g/km. In all honesty, the 1.6T is a great engine, however it does come with some lag and I did prefer the hybrid as a powertrain option.
Step inside and you get the N-Line experience which means sporty meets luxury. For example, the sporty seats come with a suede type material, an embossed N logo and contrast red stitching. That racing red theme carries on to the air vents and dash and the cabin itself gets a heap of natural light thanks to a factory sunroof.
Being more roomy inside means that the passengers are less cramped but also there is more space for ‘stuff’. Big door bins, big glove box, space for your phone, I think you get the point, it’s small family-friendly.
This new generation Kona also comes with the brand’s latest generation infotainment and interface, in smartphone fashion you can swipe and tap and get all the information and data you require and you can even personalise it.
To add to the sensation of space, the big thing to notice in the centre console is the lack of a gear stick or handbrake, and that’s because this function has been moved to the steering column, it’s actually a good place to have it.
I had the new Kona for a week and as such took myself and the family on all the usual trips around Auckland, plus some solo excursions to stretch the SUV’s legs. There was room for all inside (and then some), with the extra shoulder room giving us all room to breathe.
Considering it’s a capable ‘go many places’ style SUV, it’s very stoic on the road, with the cornering being up there with some of the best in its category. The steering’s good too, which translates to great road manners, while the sporty trim urges you to push that little bit harder, (particularly when no-one is looking).
As outlined earlier, the turbo 1.6 is not the most boisterous of power sources (it’s no thoroughbred N), but once on the move, I do believe it will satisfy the masses, offering ample performance for downtown and beyond.
On the matter of beyond, along with various drive modes, my Kona N-Line also came with multiple terrain options (Mud, Snow, Sand) plus a downhill descent control, so this is a versatile SUV that will take you off the beaten track, or at least to a more remote picnic spot.
The tech comes at you thick and fast and the driver/safety aids have you covered from every angle, however, although they are not overly intrusive (ie – they don’t violently throw you back into your lane), the pings and bings that let you know you’re venturing over the speed limit, or some form of potential disaster awaits you, are more than happy to sing out – they’re not as loud as some as some of the other vehicles (so some people won’t bother switching them off) but I got to the point where I needed to.
As you’d expect, for this latest generation Kona, Hyundai has taken all the things that have made this model so desirable and amped it up big time, but with multiple powertrains, trim levels and colours, Hyundai have let you, the customer, choose which one suits you best – so I guess the force is with you (another Star Wars reference).