Wednesday 23 January 2019

Kona making all the right noises in a crowded crossover market

Hyundai's new SUV will offer stiff competition for old stalwarts

EYE-CATCHING: Strong lines give the Kona a stand-out look
EYE-CATCHING: Strong lines give the Kona a stand-out look

Martin Brennan

Crossover fever has gripped the country and demand on the forecourts is spreading like a flu epidemic. The casualties are the small hatchback and saloon models. All the major players are now in full SUV crossover mode with a rash of baby crossover models emerging.

Hyundai had spectacular success with the Tucson, Ireland's best-selling car for the past two years, so it is no surprise that a junior version should jump off the drawing boards. The Kona is an ideal option to tempt buyers away from superminis and small family cars because of strong looks, and the high seating, once the choice of hip afflicted older drivers, but now a 'must-have' for a wide range of drivers because of the more commanding driving position. A lot of drivers admit to feeling more superior when looking down into the less fashionable traditional models. If the Kona is to emulate the success of the Tucson, it will have to fight off rivals such as first cousin Kia Stonic, Citroen Aircross, newcomer Seat Arona and old stalwarts such as the Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008 and Renault Captur. The two PSA models boast better fuel consumption and lower emission figures.

The launch line-up for the Kona comprises two turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engines - a one-litre 120bhp and a 1.6 litre 177bhp. A diesel 115bhp up! is being developed and should be here later in the year and an all-electric Kona is also due by late next year.

Kona gets an all-new chassis, unlike the Stonic, and the strong lines, plastic insets and strong colour options give a stand-out look that is as essential in the crossover class as driving qualities. But Kona does not disappoint in this department and the icing on the cake is the array of safety and comfort aids which unfortunately drives up ex-works prices from the entry-level €20,995 to a high of €29,995, which will be out of the reach of most buyers in this market segment. Despite this, Hyundai expects the Kona to be the best seller in the B-SUV segment this year.

The entry-level Comfort version comes with a 120bhp output engine and has air-conditioning, cruise control, LED running lights, and importantly, lane assist and a driver fatigue warning system. But many buyers will opt for the Executive trim level at €22,995, which gets bigger 17" alloy wheels, 7" colour touchscreen privacy glass, rear views camera and Android and Apple CarPlay as standard.

The Premium grade retains the smaller petrol engine and for a hefty €25,995, adds leather seats, 18" alloy wheels, blind spot detection, front park assist and rear cross traffic assist, a great help when reversing out of a parking area. The top of the range gets even more goodies and a 1.6-litre 117bhp turbocharged engine which is mated to a very efficient 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission - this replaces the 6-speed manual transmission in the lower trim models.

The 117bhp engine comes with CO2 emissions ranging between 117-125 g/km depending on tyre size, and a claimed fuel consumption of 5.2L/100km while the 180bhp unit has a CO2 output of 153 g/km and a claimed fuel economy of 6.7L/100km. Economy is helped by Stop-Start technology. On test, the top-of-the-line with automatic transmission returned 8.8L/100km. A comfortable transporter but a small boot space and tyre noise intruding into the cabin at motorway speeds takes away from the fun.

Sunday Independent

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