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

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The updated Hyandai Kona range starts from R449 900.

We drove the new 1.6-litre TGDI model, priced at R499 900.

The Kona slots in between the Creta and Tucson in Hyundai's local line-up.

For more motoring stories, go to Wheels24

Hyundai has been on a new model offensive in South Africa over the last couple of years, affording customers a more comprehensive range of in-house options in the SUV and compact car segments. The local SUV market is booming, and at the same time, it is congested with a flurry of examples from most automakers across the country.

First launched in 2018, the Korean brand refreshed the Kona crossover SUV for 2021 with the model slotting between the existing Creta and Tucson offerings. Hyundai says the Kona is named after the coastal region on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Still due a completely new derivative, the crux of the changes comes in the front while also ushering in new technology. The range is priced from R449 900 with two engine options and trim levels on offer. Also confirmed for local introduction in the first quarter of 2022 is the high-performance N model - adding to the i30 N already on sale in SA.

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T
2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T

A bit of nip-tuck

Compared to the pre-facelift, the refresh already boasts a number of standard inventory like a full artificial leather interior, automatic air-conditioning and wireless charging. The new model is also slightly longer (4 205mm) compared to the older model (4 165mm).

There are noticeable aesthetic differences when compared to the N-Line. The 'tri-slot' front grille with the N-Line badge is the most obvious. Another is the full body colour, compared to the other two models that still have black wheel arch, front and rear bumper sections and the single twin-exit exhaust. The crossover also sits on factory 17-inch alloys.

READ: Hyundai enhances Kona crossover in SA - Pricing and specification announced

The interior is minimal fuss and remains essentially the same as its older face. Toggling between features like the FM radio, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay can be done via the 8-inch infotainment screen. When shifting into reverse, it also changes into the eyes for the reverse camera that also has guiding lines. Sections like the storage compartment behind the two cupholders, dashboard switches and USB points are ergonomically within reach for both the driver and passenger.

The Kona's starting price of R449 900 pits it against some strong competition in the form of Audi's Q2, Mazda's CX-30 and Volkswagen's T-Roc - all of which come in pricier. Just looking at the overall build and what it offers, the Kona has its sights set on the German automaker from Wolfsburg.

Hyundai Kona 1.6 TGDi N-Line DCT
2021 Hyundai Kona

How it drives

As far as power is concerned, there is a 2.0-litre unit good for 109kW and 179Nm, and a sportier TGDI 1.6-litre that produces 146kW and 265Nm. Depending on the powerplant chosen, it can be coupled to either a six-speed automatic or seven-speed DCT transmission. The model driven at launch was the 1.6-litre TGDI Executive with the seven-speed DCT, priced at R499 900.

One thing most refined is the seamless transition between gear changes courtesy of the seven-speed DCT transmission. There is no split-second chassis vibration that makes you feel every gear change, whether sitting in traffic or undertaking long drives on the highway - both of which were the order of the day.

Hyundai replaced the older turbocharged 1.0-litre unit, mated to a six-speed manual, with a bigger 1.6. Not only does the increased displacement make a difference under acceleration, but the DCT is a massive step up from the standard automatic. Putting the Kona under the Kosh, there is a lag - albeit very minimal - between achieving the appropriate gear, but that is normal with most forced-induced units.

READ: Local petrol heads in for a treat when Hyundai launches new Kona N in 2022

The long road is where the Kona comes into its own and can also traverse less than ideal surfaces when asked to do so. The seats hold you tighter than a child not wanting to go to their first day of school. Besides being spacious, an SUV must be practical as well, and the refreshed Kona boasts the best ingredients from its rivals that make it a darn good value for money proposition.

Hyundai plans to give customers variety when choosing their next SUV and to create showroom traffic amongst in-house models instead of having people looking at a different automaker altogether.

Aftersales remains the same and is taken care of by Hyundai's trademark seven-year or 200 000km mechanical warranty and five-year or 75 000km service plan.

2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T
2021 Hyundai Kona 1.6T
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