Yes, this is a Hyundai. No it’s not a concept. It’s an actual car that you can walk into a dealership and order today.
For people used to the safe-but-dull styling that typifies Hyundai the Kona is a serious departure. There are sharp angles, deep slashes, a gaping grille surrounded crazy multi-tiered front lights, a contrast colour roof and matte black roof rails and cladding.
Hyundai Kona Premium SE
Price: £22,430 as tested
Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 12 seconds
CO2 emissions: 125g/km
It’s even more dramatic looking than its Kia Stonic cousin and knocks the Ford EcoSport and Vauxhall Mokka into a cocked hat. It might not be to everyone’s tastes, especially in the retina-searing Acid Yellow paint of our test car, but in a segment where looks and individuality are key to buyers it has both in spades.
Although the plastic cladding and stance look tough this is still essentially a tall two-wheel-drive hatchback but that means it behaves like one rather than something designed to conquer the Yukon.
There’s a fairly firm ride which means the body feels pretty controlled but this is balanced nicely to avoid feeling harsh. Once you get used to it it’s actually quite nimble down a country road but there’s a strange elasticity and detachment in the steering that means it’ll go where you want but doesn’t communicate anything back.
You can get your Kona with a 1.6-litre petrol putting out 177bhp through a four-wheel-drive system which, frankly, sounds a bit excessive. Our test car’s turbocharged 1.0-litre felt perfectly peppy and willing with its 118bhp being fed to the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox.
It didn’t sound so willing, however, producing a gruff, uneven grumble at anything but a constant cruise.
The engine noise was joined by a lot of roar in the cabin at higher speeds so the Kona’s not going to win any prizes for refinement, even in its relatively junior class.
It’s a shame because the interior’s a nice place to be otherwise. Premium SE and GT models come with the option of colour packs that liven up the cabin with body-coloured highlights around the vents, gear level and start button. The colour is matched in the piping on the premium-feeling leather seats and, in a really nice touch, the seatbelts. Some buyers might find it a bit much but to me it nails the Kona’s ambition to feel youthful and lively.
The Premium SE also comes with a bucketload of the latest technology, from a wireless phone charging pad and heated/ventilated seats to a handy head-up display and lane keep assist. It does mean this particular Kona weighs in some £6,000 more than the £16,750 entry level model but it’s a whole heap of premium features for your money.
The compact SUV market is unbelievably crowded at the moment but anyone buying a Kona is unlikely to be disappointed with their choice. It looks eye-catching, drives fairly well, gives good economy and in Premium SE trim is overflowing with equipment. Only a lack of refinement and a weirdly woolly steering let it down.