First Drive: Hyundai Kona Hybrid
Pinning its hopes on electric tech, Hyundai is set to challenge the market- leading Toyota C-HR with the Kona Hybrid, discovers Jonathan Musk.
SECTOR Small SUV PRICE £22,495-£27,195 FUEL 56.5mpg (NEDC) CO2 90g/km (NEDC Correlated)
Like others, Hyundai has plans to electrify 75% of its model range by next year. This is following its already impressive 600k electrified units shifted globally and 120k Kona cars since its market launch in 2017, in Europe.
But, in a UK market where the Toyota C-HR has stolen a march as the current best-selling alternative fuel vehicle (AFV), Hyundai has installed its hybrid powertrain in the comparable Kona for the first time – while at the same time quietly ditching the diesel model.
Borrowing from the Ioniq, the Kona Hybrid pairs a 1.6-litre petrol GDi Atkinson cycle engine with a 43hp electric motor and a 1.56kWh lithium-ion battery to produce a combined 141hp and 265Nm torque, sent to the front wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. Thanks to this set-up, the Kona Hybrid can tow 1,300kg and offer an electric-only range of around one mile.
Not only is the powertrain new to Kona, Hyundai has taken the opportunity to add infotainment options including the availability of a 10.25-inch centrally mounted touchscreen and Bluelink, which embeds live connectivity functions and remote app control.
There are three trim levels to choose from, ranging from the £22,495 SE through to the £24,295 Premium and £27,195 Premium SE.
Standard SE equipment includes 16-inch alloys, climate control and paddle shifters for a sporting touch, coupled with a useful 7.0-inch touchscreen that incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Driver aids include lane keep assist and driver attention alert.
Stepping up to Premium adds 18-inch alloys, a premium sound system, keyless entry, wireless charging for mobiles and the aforementioned 10.25-inch touchscreen. Premium SE comes with leather heated and ventilated trim, LED headlamps and AEB as standard. Other than this, trims remain as per the regular petrol-powered Kona.
Optional SmartSense 1, 2 and 3 safety packs add further features, such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and smart cruise control to the SE trim and other driver assist functions to Premium models.
On the road, the Kona Hybrid pulls away well and almost always in electric mode, which enhances overall efficiency. Benefiting from the DCT, gear changes are quiet and reasonably refined, although if pushed they don’t offer as much sportiness as Hyundai or the Sports mode promise. It is, however, more engaging to drive than its direct rival, but with only adequate performance of 11.2 seconds 0-62mph for SE trim and 11.6 seconds for both Premium trims. Suspension is relatively firm, unlike the C-HR, although we’ll reserve judgement until we drive it in the UK.
The hybrid system also encourages economy driving, with a default Eco setting driver aids to alert when to lift off and coast to a junction. Our time in two separate cars over varying journeys resulted in a respectable 54-55mpg.
Overall, the Kona Hybrid compares well to the best-selling Toyota, but that makes it cost far more than the discontinued Kona diesel.
Key Fleet Model: Kona Hybrid Premium
Strengths: Generous standard equipment, efficient powertrain
Weaknesses: Not the best to drive, small boot
The Verdict: A close competitor to the Toyota C-HR, and despite its slightly higher price and marginally worse emissions, the Kona succeeds in areas where its rival falters.