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Car review: Commodious new Kona goes to extra lengths - The Business Times

08 Nov, 2023 12:44 PM

I’LL BET you anything that the people who insist size isn’t everything tend to be the ones who simply haven’t got a lot of it. But a bit of extra length certainly never hurts in the car world.

Case in point – the new Hyundai Kona, which is 14.5 centimetres longer than its predecessor. That sizeable stretch addresses one of the original Kona’s main shortcomings. As funky as it looked, and as zippy as it was to drive, the compact sport utility vehicle (SUV) was never really big enough for family duties.

After being upsized, it’s available for now as a 1.6-litre petrol-electric hybrid, with the battery-powered Kona Electric set to launch early next year. The smart money is on a debut at the Singapore Motorshow in January.

With its new dimensions, the new Kona is still a little smaller than something like a BMW X1 or Mercedes GLA. However, it’s become a much more practical car, not to mention a posher one inside.

A longer wheelbase means it’s no longer cramped in the back, although you’ll want a wider car – such as Hyundai’s own Tucson – if ferrying four grown-ups around is something you do often. And the cabin feels much more airy than before, especially since it comes with a glass sunroof if you choose the Elite version.

At 466 litres, the boot has grown roughly 25 per cent in capacity, and that’s before you fold the rear seats and expand it to 1,300 litres.

While the Kona has gained practicality, it’s held on to its distinctive looks. At both ends, it has flush-mounted light bars that make it look like something beamed here from tomorrow. Meanwhile, all along the sides are crisp creases and bulges that embody the idea of chiselled good looks. If you’ve always wanted to drive something that stands out, here’s your chance.

In terms of dashboard design, the new Kona borrows heavily from the Ioniq 5, the made-in-Singapore car that serves as Hyundai’s calling card in the world of electric vehicles. Like that car, the Kona has a long freestanding display with a pair of 12-inch screens for the infotainment system and virtual instruments.

The main touchscreen is snappy to use and the graphics look clean and pared-down, like they went through countless iterations before being let loose on the public.

Thankfully, Hyundai retained a large number of physical switches, which makes both the entertainment and climate control systems much easier to use. The Kona also has the Ioniq 5’s stubby gear selector mounted on the steering column to free up storage room between the front seats, so there’s plenty of space for everyday stuff, though you can’t cover much of it from prying eyes.

It’s worth mentioning that the cabin quality is up a couple of notches, with softer plastics that make the car feel way more premium than before. The Kona is also loaded with features that you once had to buy a Lexus for.

The front seats are ventilated, the driver’s seat slides back automatically to make it easier to get in and out of the car, it has a wireless charging pad for your phone, and you can use Apple CarPlay without a cable. It comes with blind spot monitors, smart cruise control, lane keep assist, and a system that warns you if you’re about to reverse into harm’s way.

Hyundai may be hyper-aggressive about putting electric cars on the road, but the Kona Hybrid is for people who are less ready to make the leap from fossil fuels.

As a full self-charging hybrid, it’s efficient – you’ll probably fill up the 38 litre tank only twice a month – and it’s quiet in day-to-day traffic because the electric motor does a lot of the work. The motor is also why the acceleration is lively at low-to-mid revs, too.

Just don’t expect fireworks when you floor the accelerator. Come to think of it, the handling is nothing special, either. The Kona is tuned more for comfort than excitement, and it feels best in city traffic.

The most appealing thing behind the wheel is how easy the Kona is to drive. It pulls off tight U-turns, and is noticeably more wieldy and manoeuvrable than the Ioniq 5, which feels like a much bigger car.

What the Kona really shows is that Hyundai is still a master of the value-for-money car, but it is also really nailing it in terms of design and sophistication these days, too. In fact, the Kona’s stiffest competition comes from Hyundai’s sister company, in the form of the Kia Niro Hybrid.

As luck would have it, the Hyundai has rolled into town at a time of painfully expensive Certificates Of Entitlement (COEs). That won’t do it any favours, but if you’re a merry optimist you can at least take some comfort in the fact that while COE premiums are more bloated than ever, the Kona itself has expanded to match.

Hyundai Kona Hybrid Elite

Engine 1,580 cc, in-line four

Power 105 hp at 5,700 rpm

Torque 144 Nm at 4,000 rpm

Gearbox 6-speed, twin-clutch automatic

Electric Motor 44 hp

Battery Lithium-ion, 1.32 kWh

System Power 129 hp

System Torque 265 Nm

0-100kmh 11.4 seconds

Top Speed 165 kmh

Fuel Efficiency 4.7 L/100 km

Agent Komoco Motors

Price S$191,999 with COE

Available Now

Photos by: Big Fish Publishing

Source: The Business Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction

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