First time behind the wheel of the Hyundai that will challenge the Nissan Juke
Hyundai Kona 1.6 T-GDi
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol
Gearbox: Seven-speed DCT automatic
Kerb weight: 1401kg
Top speed: 127mph
Economy: 40.3mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 169g/km, 32%
Hyundai is readying a new compact SUV and, so excited is the firm by its potential, it flew us over to South Korea for a first drive in a near-production prototype. It’s not the finished product and there’s lots of tuning still to do, but it gives us an idea of what to expect.
Like the Nissan Juke it’s set to take on, this is an urban SUV, a little lower and wider than the Nissan, with decent onboard space to bolster its family SUV credentials. Occupants sit high up for the 4×4-like feel buyers love, and styling is more distinctive than some other Hyundais: you will notice it out on the road.
It will come with engines including a 118bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine, a 1.6-litre turbodiesel and the higher-spec 174bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol we drove. This was an automatic model with AWD, but manual gearboxes and front-wheel drive will probably take most sales.
The Kona accelerates well, and the engine is smooth and quiet when cruising. The gearbox is quick-shifting DCT-type tech, and has two modes – comfort and sport. Choose the latter if you want it feel like it’s holding onto gears far too long: we preferred the normal mode.
Handling is still being honed, and European cars will be sharper than this South Korean-spec model. Initial impressions are of a smooth, quiet-riding model, with a settled feel that soaks up bumps well. Steering is effortless, if not packed with much feel, and handling feels decent.
Perhaps our only disappointment was the slightly plain interior, which seems at odds with the bold exterior of the car. It’s easy and simple, though, and a decent driving positon gives a good view out.
Of course, it’s tricky to offer a full review of a car we’ve only driven on a test track, that’s not even yet finished. But initial impressions are positive and we think Hyundai is in with a good shot of class-competitiveness with the Kona – particularly as it’s likely to be well-priced.
How well-priced? Prices for the strong-sounding 1.0-litre turbo petrol could start from £15,000, which really would give the Nissan Juke something to think about…