Based on the i30 hatch, this five-seater wagon has quickly caught the attention of young family buyers in Australia.
The Kona is a car that dares to be different.
With its bold design, wheel cladding that gives it a bit of a masculine look, and a black roof, it is already one of the country’s top-selling small SUVs and a car of interest for dads buying their first family car.
The Kona is offered in four trim levels – each with the choice of two engines that can be matched to a manual or automatic transmission and with two or all-wheel-drive.
It is a broad range with equally broad pricing that starts at $24,500 and tops out at $36,000. Direct Advice for Dads was provided with the top-of-the-range 1.6 Highlander AWD for testing.
Strap ’em in
At 4165mm long, the Kona is one of the smaller wagons in the segment but it still offers surprisingly good cabin space.
Setting up the rear-facing baby seat in the back, I was able to sit in the front passenger seat and my knees were just off the glove box. We are only talking a few millimetres here but that can be the difference between feeling comfortable and like you have been jemmied into the space. For me (at 180cm), driving with the rear facing baby seat behind me was not an option.
There are three top tether anchor points in the back as well as three ISOFIX points but if you elected to use the centre seat you would be able to fit only one baby seat and access would be difficult because of the low roof line.
Access to the top tether anchorage points, on the back of the rear seat, was good, though I did find it easier to unclip the cargo cover rather than try and squeeze the strap between it and the rear seat.
The Highlander has a premium look and feel with its leather upholstery, liberal use faux brushed aluminium trim and soft-touch plastics in all the right places.
The electrically adjustable front seats, which provide plenty of support, can also be heated or cooled to suit the climate (it does not seem that long ago you thought you were the ants pants if your car was air conditioned and now we can heat or cool our butt on demand).
Storage is good with plenty of space in the centre console for your bits and pieces as well as a good sized bin in the console and storage in all four door. There are a selection of power options for both front and rear seat occupants that will cover a myriad devices. There are cup holders in the centre armrest in the back and storage bins in the doors but no bottle holders.
Getting the bub in an out of the car is not a difficult operation but with ground clearance of just 170mm, only 30mm higher than the i30 hatch, and the sleek roofline I did need to bend down a bit to get them in and out of the car.
On the road I found the insulation from wind noise good and there were no rattles or shakes in the cabin, but tyre noise was a little intrusive on some roads.
As I said earlier, the Kona is one of the smallest models in the segment and one of the areas you will notice this is in the cargo space.
The boot has a 361-litre capacity which is a long way behind the class leading Honda HR-V, which can carry 437-litres.
It is big enough to carry the large pram Direct Advice for Dads lugs around for all reviews, but it took up all the floor space.
With some clever packing, and by removing the cargo shelf, you would be able to fit some shopping around it, but don’t expect to be able to pack it up for a weekend away.
ANCAP Safety Rating: 5 Stars
The Kona was crash tested by ANCAP in December 2017, with a score of 35.07 out of 37, earning a five-star rating. It scored 14.07 out of 16 in the frontal offset crash and received full marks in all other tests. Crash testers said the Kona provided “good all-round safety”.
Dual front and curtain airbags come standard, and the Highlander we tested also has autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring and lane support systems.
It may be quicker to mention what the Kona Highlander does not have – it is a very well equipped in this area. It is also one of an increasing number of cars in this segment that has a head-up display, another feature you are going to see more and more.
What I really liked about the Hyundai version was that the blind-spot collision warning was highlighted on the head-up display as well as in the side mirror. This meant that you were constantly aware of exactly what was around you without having to checking your side mirrors.
Covering your entertainment needs is a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto while technology like blind-spot collision warning, forward collision with autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist and a reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors and rear cross traffic assist helps keep you and your family safe.
The Highlander is powered by a 130kW/265Nm turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine matched to a seven-speed Direct Shift automatic transmission that pushes power to all four-wheels.
It’s a cracking combination that I would go as far as saying is the best in its class. The DSG is not as smooth as a traditional automatic but I think it gives the car a sportier feel. Pity it does not have paddle shifters on the steering wheel – they would really add to the “fun” factor.
The transmission also comes with three drive modes – Eco, Normal and Sport but I think most will find no need to change from the default normal setting.
The ride is comfortable, it handles well and steering is light enough for easy manoeuvring in the metro environment it is most likely to live and nice and direct.
For those who are really keen to go offroad it also comes with a button that locks it in four-wheel-drive with a 50/50 power split. This is a car most will enjoy driving.
The wife’s take
Love, love, love the look of this car. It attracted a lot of attention on the road, even from my drive-through coffee barista.
The colour, a reddish orange, was amazing and really highlighted the black trim. The styling reminded me of a mini coupe, but the interior was much bigger. I felt like I was sitting quite high, which was a pleasant surprise.
The infotainment system was simple to use, and the touch screen was in easy reach. This model had a head up display that showed both your speed, which keeps you on track, and the side warning systems found in the side mirrors. The reversing camera was clear and helpful.
The engine had good pick up speed and the ride was very comfortable. My only concern about this car is that I think it would only suit a small family. It was a ripper.
“The styling reminded me of a mini coupe, but the interior was much bigger.”
The Kona Highlander is a well-equipped, funky-looking wagon that is fun to drive. It also comes with a full suite of safety features to help keep the family safe.
The boot space is not great, but big enough to carry a full-size pram. It also bigger than the Mazda CX-3.
The top-of-the-range model we tested comes with a reasonably high price tag but is competitive when compared to the top grade models of its major competitors.
Toyota C-HR Koba AWD
Price: $35,290 RRP
Engine/Transmission: 1.2-litre turbo charged four-cylinder (85kW/185Nm) with seven-speed continuously variable automatic transmission.
Another one of the new, funky-looking wagons that are fast becoming popular in this segment. Like the Kona the C-HR is well equipped and comes with all the latest safety technology and it has a good-size cargo area (377-litres). It has the weakest engine in this quartet and the worst warranty.
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Exceed AWD
Price: $38,500 RRP
Engine/Transmission: 1.5-litre turbo charged four-cylinder (110kW/250Nm) with six-speed continuously variable automatic transmission.
This is a nice package that ticks most of the important boxes for young families in regards to safety, space and technology. Performance is good, though not as sporty as Konda and it has an even smaller cargo area (341-litres).
Mazda CX-3 Akari AWD
Price: $39,190 RRP
Engine/Transmission: 2.0-litre four-cylinder (109kW/192Nm) with six-speed automatic transmission.
Like all its competitors in this group the CX-3 is highly equipped and has a full suite of safety technology. It is the only one with a naturally aspirated engine but the 2.0-litre still provides a sporty driving experience. Its Achilles heel for families is its tiny boot, which at 264-litres is the smallest in the class.
• $36,000 RRP
• Warranty: Five years unlimited km
• Servicing: Annually or every 10,000kms with capped price servicing for the first five services. All but the fourth service, which costs $329, is $269.
• Fuel Consumption: 6.7L/100km (official) 7.7L/100km (during test)
• Engine: 1.5-litre Turbo charged four-cylinder
• Power: 130kW/265Nm
• Transmission: 7-speed DSG
• Visit HBF for a tailored insurance quote
READ MORE DAD CAR REVIEWS:
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- Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
- Renault Koleos
- Kia Sportage Si AWD
- Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium
- Honda HR-V VTi-L ADA
- Subaru Liberty 3.6R