- Much more practical than the first Kona
- Even the base model is quite well equipped
- Pleasing CVT automatic transmission
- Infuriating safety noises that are difficult to switch off
- Ride a touch firm at urban speeds
- Interior quality could be better
The Hyundai Kona, originally released in 2017 as the brand’s first small SUV in Australia, has entered its second generation. Now larger, better equipped and more advanced than the first generation, the new Kona promises to be a better all-round package for small SUV buyers – and that’s regardless of drivetrain chosen, with both petrol and turbo-petrol options on offer now with hybrid and all-electric models coming soon. Is the entry-level 2023 Hyundai Kona 2.0 MPi the best small SUV? Let’s find out.
Price & Equipment: 9/10
While there are quite a few Kona variants for the second generation of the nameplate, we tested the entry level model, which is simply called ‘Kona’. It’s priced from $32,000 plus on-road costs, or around $36,000 drive away, depending on location. This is $5,100 more expensive than the previous entry-level Kona, though it’s actually priced quite similarly to its equivalent model in the old model lineup, the Elite.
2023 Hyundai Kona 2.0 MPi standard equipment:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Dusk-sensing automatic LED headlights
- Roof rails
- Intermittent wipers
- Keyless entry with push button start and remote start
- Heated and auto-folding mirrors
- Leather steering wheel and gear knob
- Height-adjustable front seats with driver’s lumbar adjustment
- Cloth upholstery
- Eco, normal and sport driving modes
- Dual-zone climate control with rear air vents
- 4.2-inch driver’s information display
- 12.3-inch touchscreen with over-the-air updates
- AM/FM/digital radio
- Bluetooth phone and audio streaming (multi-connection)
- Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Six-speaker sound system
- Four USB-C ports
- Wireless phone charger
- Hyundai BlueLink app for features like locking status and climate control
- Cargo net
Safety equipment includes:
- Seven airbags (2x front, side and curtain with a front centre unit)
- Auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian, cyclist and intersection assistance
- Lane keep assist with lane departure warning
- Lane trace assist
- Adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality
- Safe exit assist
- Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert (with braking)
- Auto high beam
- Traffic sign recognition with warnings for speeding
- Driver attention monitoring
- Reversing camera
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Burglar alarm
- Tyre pressure monitoring
The new Kona is yet to be tested by either ANCAP or Euro NCAP, though we’d expect a five-star rating considering its high level of safety equipment and that the old model received five stars as well.
Colour options for the Kona:
- Atlas White
- Mirage Green
- Abyss Black (+$595)
- Denim Blue (+$595)
- Ultimate Red ($595)
- Ecotronic Grey (on our test car, +$595)
There are quite a lot of rivals to the Kona on the market, including the Kia Seltos, Subaru Crosstrek, Mazda CX-30, Nissan Qashqai, Toyota Corolla Cross, Skoda Kamiq, Volkswagen T-Roc and Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross. We consider the Kia Seltos Sport ($35,390 drive away) and Mazda CX-30 G20 Evolve (around $37,500 drive away) to be the entry-level Kona’s closest rivals.
Over the Seltos Sport, the Kona adds an extra zone of climate control, LED exterior lighting, intersection assistance for its auto braking system, remote start, a centre airbag and a larger touchscreen with wireless smartphone mirroring, though the Kia does add inbuilt satellite navigation over the Kona. Over the Mazda, the Kona adds rear charging ports, intersection assistance, a centre airbag, a larger touchscreen with wireless smartphone mirroring, smart key entry and remote start, though the Mazda adds a heads-up display, two extra speakers, automatic wipers and satellite navigation. Overall, we think the Kona presents pretty good value in the segment, though we’d like to see a cheaper model added.
Performance & Economy: 7.5/10
Under the bonnet of the 2023 Hyundai Kona 2.0 MPi is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that’s from the ‘Smartstream’ engine family in the Hyundai Kia Group. In the Kona, it makes 110kW of power (at 6,200rpm) and 180Nm of torque (at 4,500rpm) and is mated to a CVT automatic transmission with eight stepped ratios for a more natural driving feel. Funnily enough, the same engine features in the Seltos and feels peppier in that car thanks to its lesser tare weight than the Kona (1,375kg versus 1,427kg). The CX-30 feels quicker than that thanks to its lesser weight (1,360kg), more power and torque (114kW and 200NM) and six-speed automatic transmission.
The engine in the Kona is one of the few carryover parts from the previous generation car, and because of the size – and weight – increase over the old car, it doesn’t feel quite as peppy as the old car. Because of that, you do have to floor it a bit if you need reasonable acceleration, but keeping up with traffic is no problem for the Kona. When accelerating hard to its red line, the engine can be quite loud, but in regular driving, we quite like its refinement.
The only transmission available for the Kona 2.0 MPi is a CVT automatic with eight stepped ratios for a more natural driving feel. We’ve been quite positive about Hyundai’s CVT before and this version impressed us further because of its more natural feel than a lot of other CVTs we’ve driven. In manual shifting mode, it offers quite a difference in ‘ratios’ and won’t shift up at the red line.
The claimed fuel consumption for the 2023 Hyundai Kona 2.0 MPi is 6.6L/100km on a combined cycle, with CO2 emissions rated at 149g/km – the Seltos is rated at 6.9L/100km and the CX-30 6.5L/100km. In purely urban driving, we used 8.4L/100km, which actually beats Hyundai’s urban claim of 8.6L/100km. It can run on 91RON regular unleaded and has a 47-litre fuel tank.
Ride & Handling: 7.5/10
Based on the same platform as the second-generation Kia Niro, the 2023 Hyundai Kona 2.0 MPi is more mature, refined and better to drive than the first-generation model. Now 145mm longer overall, the Kona is much larger than before, and its wheelbase has grown by 60mm as well, which has resulted in a better ride quality than the first Kona. Having said that, it’s still a touch too firm around town and we think some extra tuning is needed. At highway speeds though, the Kona’s ride is excellent. The steering offers reasonable feel and good weighting, while the handling is solid for the class – though both the Seltos and, particularly, CX-30 are more fun to drive if that’s what you’re after.
Elsewhere in the driving experience is a mixed bag. There have been improvements in the Kona’s refinement, and it’s now much quieter at speed than before. The visibility has also improved, thanks to the larger body and its larger windows. But like we’ve seen with other recent Hyundai Kia products – including the updated Seltos – the speed sign recognition and warning system is infuriating. It dings at you to tell you that you’re speeding – but, for example, it doesn’t know what day it is, so it warns you on a Sunday driving through a school zone. In addition to that is a driver monitoring system that also dings at you for looking anywhere but in front of you and the worst part is that these systems are difficult to switch off – they revert to on each time the Kona is started. We’ve heard that an over-the-air fix is coming, and we hope it’s soon because both systems spoil an otherwise pleasant driving experience.
Interior & Practicality: 9/10
The interior of the 2023 Hyundai Kona has seen a big improvement over the car it replaces. It’s now a lot more practical thanks to its growth spurt and it’s also more comfortable, while there’s also more practicality, better tech integration and a lot more features even in this base model. One area we still think needs improvement, however, is the quality of the materials used, which are still quite plasticky and the only bit of soft touch is on the door cards – a softer-touch dashboard would help a lot. Having said that, the ambience of the Kona’s interior is far superior to the basic Seltos, though the CX-30 feels like a luxury car in comparison to both competitors.
Centre of the Kona’s cabin is a 12.3-inch touchscreen with Hyundai’s new infotainment software. It’s a fairly impressive system that improves on the already-solid system that’s used in the previous Kona and a lot of other current Hyundai products. While it doesn’t feature inbuilt satellite navigation, it does offer wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, which was seamless in our time with it. We wish the colours used were a bit brighter – especially in the daytime – but it’s otherwise pretty good.
Storage inside the new Kona – even this base model with its traditional gear lever on the centre console – is also a big improvement on the last model. We love the S-shaped centre console storage, big cup holders and that even the base model is equipped with a – very effective – wireless phone charger. Further back is a centre armrest with storage underneath it (which is open, not closed), while there are also reasonable door bins, a nicely-sized glovebox, an open tray above the glovebox and an open area where the wireless charger is. Pleasingly, the AC controls are separate from the touchscreen.
The back seat is a nice improvement over the previous Kona, and is now one of the roomiest in the segment, more so than the CX-30. Two six-footers will be more than comfortable thanks to good knee- and headroom, while the seatbacks recline for greater comfort. In addition to that, all grades receive two USB-C ports, as well as air vents, while there is also a centre armrest with cup holders, two map pockets and reasonable door storage too. There are two ISOFIX points and three top-tether points for child seats.
As with the back seat, the boot of the Kona has seen a nice boost in space to 407-litres with the seats up, and 1,241L with them folded – identical with the seats up to the Seltos, but 23L smaller than the CX-30. There are handy features like hooks, a boot net, an adjustable floor height and under floor storage. Plus, a space-saver spare wheel lies underneath the boot floor.
Service & Warranty:
As with other new Hyundai products, the 2023 Hyundai Kona 2.0 MPi is covered by a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with lifetime roadside assistance if serviced through a Hyundai dealer. The first five services or up to 75,000km cost $1,995 ($399 per visit) and the Kona has 15,000km service intervals.
Hyundai’s sister brand Kia offers two more years of warranty, though its roadside assistance can only be extended to eight years in total. Mazda also offers a five-year warranty, though with five years of roadside assistance (regardless of where the car is serviced). At the time of writing, the Seltos uses the same 15,000km intervals as the Kona, though the CX-30 uses inferior 10,000km intervals but other Mazda models have moved to 15,000km intervals so we’re expecting the CX-30 to do the same soon. Five years/75,000km of servicing the Seltos costs $2,082 ($416 per service) and five years/50,000km of servicing the CX-30 costs $1,766 ($353 per service), but that’s to 5,000km less annually.
The 2023 Hyundai Kona 2.0 MPi DiscoverAuto Rating: 8.3/10
Overall, it’s clear that the 2023 Hyundai Kona 2.0 MPi is a genuine improvement over its predecessor, thanks to its growth in size, modernisation, added refinement and added features over the old generation model. That’s in addition to the old model’s qualities like good value for money, solid aftersales program, reasonable quality and comfortable driving experience.
It’s not perfect, however. The entry-level 2.0-litre petrol drivetrain isn’t hugely efficient and can be thrashy at full throttle, the interior quality could be better, its active safety systems can be infuriating and its starting price has risen sharply thanks to entry-level models being cut from the lineup. But those issues aside, the Kona is quite competitive in the small SUV segment and if you’re searching for one, we think you’d be silly not to consider it because it offers a lot to a lot of people.