REVIEW | Hyundai i20 or Hyundai Kona: finding the sweet spot for the family car

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Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual
Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual
  • Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI offers a sporty drive that borders on hot hatch territory.
  • Hyundai Kona 2.0 with IVT gearbox is light on fuel, but has several quirks.
  • Both cars prove amazing to live with, but it's the traditional hatchback that does things right.
  • For motoring news, go to Wheels24


We spent the past week assessing two fantastic new Hyundai products; the i20 hatchback and the Kona crossover. Both press vehicles came packed with standard features, and both drove with the kind of appeal we're typically used to in cars that cost a lot more money.

Both vehicles are very different in look, feel and execution, but both will comfortably carry four adults and provide a respectable amount of luggage space. The i20 we had on test was the 1.0-litre TGDI Fluid with six-speed manual transmission and two-tone paint. It sells for R338 900. The Kona was the 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated Exec model with IVT (Hyundai's version of continuously variable transmission). The Kona sells for R459 900.


What do you think of Hyundai's latest products in terms of exterior design? Are they stylish or a bit over the top? Let us know in the comments section, or please send us an email here.


Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual
Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual

For the sporty drivers in the family

The Hyundai i20 has undoubtedly become more avant-garde in terms of styling on the outside. It's a head-turner of note, and during the test period, it was showered with praise by friends, family, and neighbours for its looks. We like the compact nature of the car and its sharp lines and aggressive stance. It looks like a hot hatch, and it has a charm to it that is very alluring.

The Hyundai i20 measures 3995mm in length, 1775mm wide and stands 1505mm from the ground. It offers a ground clearance of 170mm, which is not bad considering it's a classic five-door hatchback vehicle and not a crossover like the Kona. We didn't have any issues in the cabin when it came to space as a three-member family unit. Even the trunk proved large enough at 311 litres for a weekend getaway's worth of luggage.

REVIEW | Nippy Hyundai i20 1.0T an agile surprise as new turbo engine impresses

Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual
Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual

Being the range-topping Fluid model, we had all the features we needed to ensure a comfortable trip, but I was surprised that the i20 does not come with traction or stability control. It has anti-lock brakes and electronic brakeforce distribution, but there aren't any electronic systems here to help you maintain traction on slippery surfaces. I'll be honest, it's fun being able to light up the fronts with a bit of chirp from the tyres, but as far as safety goes, this car should come with stability and traction control as standard at this price point.

DRIVEN | Enhanced Hyundai Kona crossover offers buyers more than just a pretty face

Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual
Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual

The car's 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder was a gem to experience. It produces 90kW and 170Nm, good enough for zero to 100km/h sprints in 9.7 seconds and a top speed of 190km/h. We averaged 9 litres per 100km during our test cycle because we thoroughly enjoyed the sporty driving characteristics of the i20. We pretty much drove this car like it was a Toyota GR Yaris as it felt terrific in the hands and from the driver's seat and inspired confidence even though it didn't have electronic driving aids to leverage.

Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual
Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual

We particularly enjoyed the short-throw, six-speed manual transmission and the easy to actuate clutch pedal. In the right gears, you can safely overtake, and if you are gentle with the vehicle, you can use as little as 6.5 litres of unleaded per 100km. The i20 proved so convenient and so much fun to live with that we consider it one of the best alternatives to the class-leading VW Polo right now for less than R350 000.

Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive auto
Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive auto

For the pioneering members of the family

We'd have to argue that the Hyundai Kona's styling is either: love it or hate. I love the look of the thing, but my wife and most of the people who commented on it this week said it was a bit too over the top in terms of looks for their taste. Whether you like the looks or not, you can't deny that it attracts attention, and if that's something you're looking for in a vehicle, this is the car for you.

Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive auto
Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive auto

It measures 4205mm in length; it's 1800mm wide and stands 1565mm tall. Ground clearance is a claimed 170mm. If you compare that to the i20, it's not much larger and offers the exact ground clearance. If you plan to drive along dirt roads to mountain bike trails or hiking trails, you should look at a proper SUV, as the Kona might disappoint you in terms of its ride height as it did us. Its five-door layout and its large trunk (544 litres) are easier to live with if you're buying something for a larger family or if you have two toddlers at the moment. 

The Kona shines for comfort and convenience features, and it's also packed with driving aids and safety systems. We thoroughly enjoyed the wireless Apple CarPlay compatibility and the wireless charging pad. We also appreciated the variety of driving modes that alter the transmission's shift pattern to help you save fuel or experience more performance depending on your mood. Unlike the i20 we tested, this Kona came jam-packed with safety systems such as Vehicle Stability Management, Hillstart Assist Control, and Downhill Brake Control. In the rainy Johannesburg weather, it made for much more confident driving having these systems on hand.

Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive auto
Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive auto

Our Kona test car's 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine produces 110kW of power and 180Nm of torque. Mated to the IVT gearbox, it feels punchier than the numbers suggest when pulling away from a standstill. Even when overtaking, the transmission and engine worked well together, and you don't get too much of that droning noise that's usually associated with these sorts of drivetrains. We averaged 7.5 litres per 100km during the test cycle, which is excellent considering the type of vehicle. We were only one litre per 100km off Hyundai's claimed 6.5 litres per 100km figure, and we reckon you can do even better than that if you use the Smart and Eco driving modes that the car comes with.

Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive auto
Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive auto

We enjoyed our time with the Kona, but we did find that the rear seat space is limited compared to some of its competitors. When we loaded the child seat in the rear of the cabin and moved the front passenger seat forward, my child had limited leg space. This was odd, considering the i20 we had just jumped out off offered him more legroom. It might have to do with the seat positioning and interior space in the Kona as opposed to the i20. The Kona's driver's seat offers shorter drivers a nice view from the cabin, and its nicely weighted steering and easy to modulate brakes make it a fantastic daily driver.

Overall summary

You can't compare the i20 and the Kona as they are very different segments; however, as we tested them back to back, it was interesting to see how each performs as family runarounds. We thought the Kona would be the one to have as a family car; it offered the automatic transmission with the larger boot and the (supposedly) more roomy interior. We ended up preferring the i20 as it was so much fun to drive, and it had a kind of premium car feel to the way it rode, albeit a bit firmly.

Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual
Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual
Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual
Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual
Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual
Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual
Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual
Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual
Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual
Hyundai i20 1.0 TGDI Fluid manual
Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive auto
Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive auto
Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive auto
Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive auto
Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive auto
Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive auto
Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive auto
Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive auto
Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive auto
Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive auto

If you're looking for a family vehicle and have one child, you can easily get away with living with an i20 for many years to come. It really should come standard with traction control and stability control, but if you're an experienced driver, this won't be a deal-breaker for you. We expected more from the Kona, but for its asking price, we think a more conventionally styled SUV rather than a crossover could hit the sweet spot for families. We'd have the i20 in a heartbeat based on the two cars we had on test.

All Hyundai products come with a seven-year or 200 000km warranty. 


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