Review: Hyundai Kona 1.0T hits the spot

Late in 2018 Hyundai South Africa expanded its local product offering with the Kona crossover. The new model is the smallest of the Korean manufacturer’s SUV offering and does it slot in below the proven Creta. But unlike the Creta the Kona is lower to the ground and is the smallest engine a 1.0-litre turbo unit.

And it was this very model that had the tongues wagging, because finally Hyundai is also playing the game whereby manufacturers see who can bring the smallest engine to market. But does this iteration of the Kona work in Hyundai’s line-up? Or is it just simply a marketing ploy to attract signatures.

Nice design

Two models comprise the Kona range – this 1.0-litre and also a 2.0-litre model – both kitted in Hyundai’s Executive package, which means that there is a substantial list of standard features to increase the vehicle’s stance in the market. Part of the what should attract attention the Kona’s way is its design. It has to be one of the prettiest vehicles in Hyundai’s stable. Some might not agree with it and rather opt for a vehicle that’ll disappear in the crowd, but the Kona stands out.

The striking grille, the double fog lights at the bottom of the front bumper and on the edges of the grille, the small gap just above the badge that runs between the headlights… And it’s those very headlights that attract attention. Edgy, dynamic-looking; there’s just something about them and not many vehicles in the South African new car market can brag with a design like this. Especially not on a vehicle retailing for under R400 000.

The Kona is further kitted with 17-inch wheels that fill the wheel arches and a compact design that comes across as sporty. In my opinion the Kona should only be available in one colour, that lime green, but the wine red our test unit came in is fortunately not on the bland side.

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Image: Charlen Raymond

Leather/cloth combo

The Kona is surprisingly roomy inside, but passengers in the rear might feel as if the space is a bit on the tight side. And taller drivers might allow just enough leg room for teenagers who didn’t eat all their breakfast en route to growing up. That’s a bit of a concern and should families considering this car keep it in mind.

But the seats, covered in both leather and cloth, provide ample of support and are they manually adjustable. Around the instrument panel and the gear lever are inserts in the same colour as the exterior. That no doubt contributes to the Kona’s fun, youthful attitude and are even the seatbelts finished in that colour. It just works and should it get the nod of approval more times than not.

Boot space is rated at 361L, but it increases when the rear seats are folded flat.


If Hyundai is marketing the Kona as a youthful proposition, given the design and bright colours, then surely the media system should represent that? Well, not in the Kona’s case. Although the music system reads your devices and your smart phone easily connects with the Bluetooth, the centrally mounted touchscreen is not available in colour. Nor does it have satellite navigation.

A rear view camera, cruise control, and electric windows form part of the package, but one can’t help but wonder why adequate provision has not been made for this youthful buyer.

Review: Hyundai Creta makes diesel look good

But whoa, don’t assume that it’s detrimental to the Kona’s overall feel because that’s clearly not the case. Everything works well and do your fingers intuitively find their way across the buttons. And that’s what’s important: that the interior should be a welcome space. Should Hyundai decide to provide the Kona with a more modern touchscreen, it’ll bump up the price and possibly push the Kona into another segment. Maybe even in the company where the Creta does duty.

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Image: Charlen Raymond

Adequate power

In the Kona’s nose is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine. Yes, three cylinders. One would think that the engine will suffer hauling the Kona around, but it surprisingly does not. It’s no hassle for the 88kW/172Nm engine to perform its tasks. Put your foot down and there’s a reaction from the engine. The six-speed manual gearbox cogs over smoothly and it’s no trouble for the car to reach your desired speed quickly.

The Kona send drive through the front wheels and do drivers get enough feedback through the steering wheel to determine the vehicle’s mannerisms on the road.


The Kona is like a breath of fresh air in Hyundai’s local product line-up, making it difficult to miss. Literally. The design is fresh and young, while the engine supports the vehicle’s youthful look on life. Not everyone will like it, but there can be no doubt that the design is one of its greatest traits.

With everything taken into account the Kona is a pretty decent vehicle that sees to your needs in many regards. The performance isn’t fast and the technologies not class-leading, but it’s enough. And the person who enjoys life will no doubt enjoy this Kona.

Price: R384 900

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Image: Charlen Raymond