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THE INVESTOR

Automobiles

[BEHIND THE WHEEL] Hyundai’s fashionably late Kona is small but strong

  • PUBLISHED :July 16, 2017 - 12:50
  • UPDATED :July 17, 2017 - 14:08
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Editor’s note: On June 11, The Investor took the highest Premium Trim of the Kona on a 108-kilometer test-drive from Yeouido to Gyeonggi Province.

[THE INVESTOR] The Kona is not looking bad at all. As a latecomer in a booming compact SUV market where SsangYong’s Tivoli and Renault Samsung’s QM3 are rubbing shoulders, Hyundai knew it had to pull some serious aces out of its sleeve to make it in the race. It did just that with the Kona, which seems to be rapidly gaining recognition as the “small but strong car” it’s being marketed as.

Delivering horsepower of 177 with a 27.0 kilogram-force meter torque, the 1.6-liter gasoline turbo engine accelerated fast and smooth. With a step on the gas, the seven-speed dual clutch transmission easily hustled the petite car to 100 kilometers an hour in just 7.9 seconds. And despite the small size, the steering wheel felt stable, and cornering was not too bad, even at high speeds.

However, the wind noise became quite noticeable when the car was accelerated to above 110 kilometers per hour. It also bounced around on uneven roads. But after all, it’s a small SUV. 


Hyundai Motor’s subcompact Kona SUV runs the highways near Seoul in a media test-drive event on July 11. Hyundai Motor


There are three driving modes, including the Comfort, Eco and Sport, with the latter adding slightly heavier steering and sharper throttle response fitted for an exuberant ride on highways. By pushing a button on the steering wheel, the driver can shift it to Eco mode to reach maximum fuel efficiency, while the default Comfort mode works best for city roads.

Packed with high-tech features, the Kona targets mainly the tech-savvy young demographic. It‘s equipped with a bevy of advanced driver assistance features, including lane-keep assist, automatic high beam headlights, rear side collision alert and blind spot detection, among others. When the car detects erratic steering, the driver attention alert blinks, telling the driver to get some rest.

The 8-inch head-up display -- mounted above the gauge cluster -- stands out, since this function is usually reserved for high-end luxury and sports cars. The HUD, a first for a Korean-made SUV, provides navigation and speed, at a glance without having to look away while driving. Smartphone wireless charging, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also available.

The car has a relatively long wheelbase and short overhangs, making for greater agility. Hyundai’s signature cascading grille is complemented with new twin sleek headlights, including an LED strip above the main light, that was not seen in Hyundai’s previous offerings. The black plastic cladding, which Hyundai calls “armor,” features around the vehicle, giving the car more of a masculine vibe.

Unlike its edgy exterior, Kona’s interior design is less dramatic as Hyundai chose to keep it simple and clean. The back seat is spacious enough, and cabin design is highlighted with a floating infotainment display -- that comes in different sizes -- as well as color-contrasting interior accents to pop out in the somewhat dull cabin.

The numbers say the Kona is doing pretty well so far.

“Since we unveiled Kona, we have received more than 7,000 orders,” said Lee Kwang-guk, executive vice president of domestic sales, at the media test drive event. "We expect sales to further grow.”


The Investor rating (out of 5 stars)

Design: 4 stars

Safety: 4 stars

Gas Mileage: 4 stars

Price: 3 stars

Overall: 15/20


By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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