When I first sat into an ix35 some years ago I had a wow moment. I noted at the time that the biggest seller back then, the Nissan Qashqai, was going to have a battle on its hand. The ix35 was a world away from the Tuscon it replaced (a decision that has been reversed with the ix35 now renamed the Tuscon) and the wow moment turned out to be prophetic as the ix35 went on to achieve phenomenal sales. It paved the way for the Tuscon - the best-selling car in Ireland for the last two years. Its popularity is primarily related to the type of car that is. A crossover or SUV or SAV or whatever the fashionable term is these days. The point is that it is not a typical saloon or hatchback and the main attraction it seems is the height the driver sits at. It is always higher than a "normal" car – whatever that is these days. Success brings its own problems and the problem for Hyundai is how to build on that success and offer other cars to attract more buyers whilst at the same time not losing sales of your other cars.
The stylish new Kona is a crossover that is smaller than the Tuscon and is aimed at the Renault Captur market, the founder and European leader still, that is already awash with cars vying for your attention like the established Peugeot 2008, Mazda CX-3, Nissan Juke and some of the new kids on the block like the VW T-Toc, Toyota C-HR, Skoda Karoc, Seat Arona, Kia Stonic and my current, soon to be tested, favorite - the Citroen C3 Aircross,
Hyundai has produced the looker of the sector and armed themselves as best they can for what is the most competitive car sector at the moment. The roof line blends effortlessly into the rear of the car giving a sleek profile. The bonnet has some sleek creases that merges with the A pillars beautifully. The front has a large, meaty black and chrome grille with the lights split across three levels giving it an “unmistakable light signature” according to Hyundai – I concur. The cool daytime running lights at the top are the pick as well as purposeful and narrow fog lights underneath. There is a slit above the grille and an off road rugged mix of metal and plastic to suggest a utilitarian purpose for the jungle we call the suburbs. At the back the lights are split again with the indicator-reversing-fog clusters encased in their own protective looking plastic. It works. The side cements the off road appearance in your mind with large plastic overwheel arches. Hyundai know a thing or two about being the sector and overall leader and recognize that looks are vitally important. Hyundai also, like all car companies, know their customers and how to push their buttons – unlike us who are unable to push theirs as we are getting fewer and fewer in cars these days since car companies, en masse, all started worshiping in front of the all-powerful touchscreen – by offering an array of “5’s”. 5 year unlimited warranty, 5 years free service, 5 years health check and 5 years roadside assistance. In the quiver of competition these are powerful arrows.
I had the top of the range 1.6 automatic 4wd petrol version. It is not expected to be the big seller with most buyers buying the 1.0l petrol 2wd version. No diesel offering at present which is again signaling the demise of diesel even though I personally feel the jury is out on this. We like the idea of 4wd but our pockets, not so much. When the time to part with our hard earned cash arrives we consider where and how often we drive and for most of us 4wd isn’t necessary. The Kona is very much designed for the urban jungle despite its appearance and long, regular forays on the motorway is not what it was designed for. This became pretty apparent in my car when I undertook some of that driving and at motorway speeds the car was noisy – predominantly engine noise. It was quite fond of fuel. For my test I recorded 9.7l/100kms which is very high and not at all what I was expecting despite having PS available that in reality never felt overly powerful. It is heavier than the Captur by about 200kg which would explain some of the higher fuel consumption.
There are three driver settings Eco, Comfort and Sport and there is a noticeable difference between them all. Sport really feels like you have the full power of the engine available. Handling was fine and not at odds with the sort of handling this sector provides. When Comfort was selected and cruise activated it was a relaxed affair apart from not digital indication of that the cruise speed was set to – a complete mystery to me.
There are three trim levels with the basic Comfort model coming with a high level of standard equipment – as expected with a Hyundai. Prices start at €20,995 rising to €29,995 for my test model. The sweet spot will be the Executive trim that in addition to the Comfort spec. adds in 17" Alloy Wheels, Bluetooth Connectivity With Voice Recognition, Automatic Air Conditioning, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Rear view Camera with Dynamic Guideline, 7" Colour Touchscreen and Radio, Front Heated Seats, Rear Parking Assist System with Acoustic Warning, Rain sensing Wipers with Aeroblade, Automatic Windscreen Defogger, Privacy Glass, Supervision Cluster with 3.5" LCD with Dimmer Function, Front Fog Lights, Front and Rear Power Windows (Driver Auto Up/Down ), Overhead Console Lamp with Sunglass Case and Seatback pockets - driver and passenger sides for only €2,000 extra.
My car was well finished and had all the latest must haves. The climate control was thankfully not incorporated into the 7 inch infotainment system for no-look-away control. I am now of the opinion that a car has to have Apple/Android car play. It future proofs the entertainment system in the car. It even has WhatsApp added now. There were some hard plastics but overall it is a
Space was excellent and the boot at the back can take 334 litres of your whatever. That’s not earth shattering and is in or around just average. Maybe that’s because under the boot floor is a space saver wheel and not a tyre repair / inflation kit which I really dislike.
Hyundai, buoyed by their success with the Tuscon in the medium crossover sector, must be pretty confident they can repeat that success in the compact crossover sector with the Kona. I won’t be betting against them.