What is it?
It’s the small SUV from the advert with the funky dance music and what looks like the rollers from a car wash.
Hyundai’s Kona SUV is a compact, edgy-looking, machine that comes in four trim levels, with a choice of two engines, a fully electric version, and a dark grey “Iron Man” special edition.
The Highlander as tested was fitted with a 2.0-litre, 110kW/180Nm non-turbo engine and 6-speed auto, with drive to the front wheels.
The other engine available is a pokier but more expensive 1.6-litre turbo as found in other Hyundai and Kia cars.
Fuel economy for the 2.0-litre is a claimed 7.2L/100km from the E10 compatible, EURO 5 compliant engine.
What’s it cost?
The range starts at $25,990, rising to a pinch over $43,600.
It has a colour-coordinated interior, with air vent surrounds, seat piping, seat belts, and gear selector surround getting the same colour as outside — in this case an eye-searing Lime Twist.
The Highlander has Head Up Display, projected on to a plastic display screen that buzzes quietly as it rises slowly from its portal in the driver’s binnacle.
The dash is clean and simply laid out, but not without a measure of class.
The 8.0-inch touchscreen houses satnav and DAB audio via an 8-speaker Krell audio system, with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and associated background settings.
The screen itself is a matte-satin sheen which means fingerprints aren’t as obvious.
Both driver and passenger have power operated seats, and both have heating and venting which work quite well.
There’s a heated tiller for the Highlander as well, plus wireless charging pad near a pair of USB ports and 12V socket.
Bluetooth streaming and voice activation are standard.
Safety is solid with six airbags, Front Collision Warning and Forward Collision Assist (Pedestrian and Cyclist), Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
Front and rear parking sensors, rear camera with dynamic guidance, Emergency Stop Signal, and tyre pressure monitoring are also part of the package.
Size-wise there’s more interior room than the exterior would suggest, with 1005mm headroom, 1054mm legroom for the front, 880mm legroom in the rear.
Cargo space is borderline for a family of four with a weekly shop, with 361L moving to 1143L with the split fold seats down.
Kona takes its design cues from the Americans, with eyebrow LED driving lights that sit above the main headlights and indicators.
The lower centre air intake has conventional driving lights and cornering lamps. At the rear is LED tail lights. Wheels and tyres on the Highlander are 18 inch alloys with 235/45 from Ventus.
They and the headlight covers are about the only roundish parts of the exterior.
The rest of the body is hard edged, assertive for the size, and there’s a notable taper to the roof when viewed from the rear.
t’s not an unpleasant design, but one that will appeal more to the demographic the TV adverts are targeted at.
What clashes, but not unpleasantly, is the ovoid, curvaceous design of the dash.
What’s it go like?
It’s initially sluggish.
Although dry weight is around the 1360kg range, the 4500rpm required for peak torque means it needs a prod to get underway.
It get’s a little noisy, a little thrashy, as it heads towards 5000rpm, but it’s rare that anything above 4000 is really seen.
Once underway power delivery is quite linear, building firmly and surely between cogs.
At freeway speeds the cabin is quiet and allows for easy conversation, and enjoyment of the audio system as it cranks out AC/DC on a classic rock station.
Rolling acceleration for overtaking is a touch more than adequate, but not sparkling.
Getting away from a standing start, it’s best to allow an extra second or two for safety’s sake.
ide is tight, composed, if a tad jiggly at times, but isn’t harsh or unpleasant.
Flat roads provide no issue, it’s coarse chip surfaces and lesser maintained roads that have the bump-thump intruding into the cabin.
Handling is predisposed to understeer, with some easy sweepers seeing the nose run wide when left to its own devices.
It feels as if the steering ratio needs tightening up and, over the first couple of days, the actual steering rack felt like twisting a solid rubber rope.
What we like?
- Very solid equipment list
- Funky looks inside and out
- Better than expected room for passengers
What we don’t like?
- Lacklustre performance off the line
- Compromised cargo space due to size
- Mid-low $40k price seems exey for the size
The bottom line?
The advertising points to the intended audience.
Throbbing music, vibrant colours and frantic movement, all suggest it’s probably not the best choice for Aunty Joan or Grandpa John.
It’s an edgy design aimed at a younger, more modern buyer.
The turbo engine would be a more appealing package for the driver. As it stands, it’s good enough to deliver on the promise it makes — a solid, dependable, fun, little SUV.
Hyundai Kona Highlander, priced from $43,600