City SUV. It’s another terminology slowly yet inexorably making its way into the automotive language. In 2019 Hyundai unveiled the Kona, a slightly oddly styled machine and, at just over four metres in total length, ideal for city-based driving.Early 2021 and a mild facelift has given the range fresh looks without diminishing its funky appeal. Hyundai also added the N-Line variants, the upper end and luxury trimmed versions.
The N-Line Premium review vehicle kindly supplied by Hyundai Australia is priced at around $46,340 on a drive-away price point. That’s a big ask for something that covers less real estate than a Corolla or i30, however there is plenty on board to balance the books.Power is courtesy of the company’s familiar and proven 1.6L turbo four. 144kW and 265Nm of torque drive a seven speed dry dual-clutch auto driving the front wheels.
Unusual here is a centre differential which can be electronically locked for all-wheel drive. It’s a feature that had real benefit during its time with us as it coincided with the big wet that hit the south-eastern corner of Australia in mid-March.The exterior sees mild but noticeable changes to the front and rear in comparison to the standard Kona, with a more pronounced curve to the bonnet’s leading edge, three faux inlets, a broad grille in black chrome, and a pair of triple-lensed LED headlights.
A diffuser style insert for the rear adds a sporting finish and retains the lower set indicators. Wheels are 18 inch multi-spoke dark grey painted and machined alloys, wrapped in Continental Premium Contact6 rubber. They’re a truly distinctive design and accentuated the flame red painted exterior with black body panels perfectly.Inside, passengers sit on cloth seats with leather bolstering. The front seats are heated AND vented, something more companies should offer. The rear seats are also heated in the bolsters, a handy touch, and welcomed in that same cool period. No, the tiller isn’t overlooked for heating either and does so quite quickly.The driver faces a full colour 10.25 inch LCD widescreen that changes the look of the dials depending on drive mode. There is Sport, Smart, Eco, and Normal, chosen via a centre console jog dial to the front and right of the standard looking drive lever.Above the driver’s display is a colour Head Up Display, and there’s a sense of real 3D depth here, not normally seen in a HUD. It’s super crisp and clear, and by 3D we mean that literally. Image three levels of information, one above the other, and each seems closer or farther away than the one above or below it. For the rearward look, a crystal clear reverse camera and screen comination add plenty of safety.Sounds, driver controls, and extra info is found inside the 10.25 inch touchscreen for N-Line Premium. DAB audio, Bluetooth streaming, Android and Apple compatibility are all standard. Sounds are from a Harman Kardon eight speaker system. Below the screen and ahead of the drive lever is a nook for the smartphone charge-pad. Alloy pedals are standard.Head and leg room up front will suit most drivers that opt for the city SUV. Rear leg room isn’t quite as accommodating with Hyundai quoting 893mm. Like most vehicles of its size, it’s ostensibly a five seater but with 1,326mm hip room, it’s best for two or two baby capsules/toddler seats. cargo space is average-ish at 374L to 1,154L. A cargo net is standard with the N-Line Premium.
Safety comes from front, side (thorax), and curtain airbags. Notable is the omission of either a driver’s knee or a centre console airbag, with the latter slowly growing in popularity with manufacturers. The full SmartSense package is available as standard on all but the entry Kona and second level Active. They miss out on Blind Spot Collision Avoidance, Rear Cross Traffic Avoidance, and Safe Exit Warning. The Elite joins them with no front park sensors, and entry level Kona dips out on reverse sensors.Otherwise it features Forward Collision Avoidance Assist with Cyclist and Pedestrian Detection, and uses radar and camera sensing. Lane Following Assist, Lane Keeping Assist – Line/Road-edge (LKA-L/R in Hyundai speak), and Smart Cruise Control with Stop/Go Function are standard.
On road the Kona N-Line Premium displays the good and not-so good of a small turbocharged petrol engine with a DCT. The dry dual-clutch autos have time gaps in engaging drive; from Park to Drive or Reverse, from Drive to Reverse and vice versa, and from a stand-still. Combined with a turbo that needs time to spin up and provide boost to an engine, getting going is rarely a thought instant move. Then there’s the economy. It’s rated around town at 8.2L/100km, 6.9L/100km on the combined. We saw a final average of 7.9L/100km.
Once underway and the turbo is spinning, the N-Line Premium is a delight to drive. It’s a rocketship in overtaking, a rocketship in the sense that speed builds upon itself. It’s a process where acceleration grows in a linear manner, a prime example of the metres per second per second we learned of at high school. Engaging the centre lock diff, as needed during the torrential rain at the time, enhances grip levels and added that seat of the pants feeling that the extra grip made movement quicker.
Dry grip levels, such as we had the chance to experience thanks to Mother Nature, is prodigious. Continental PremiumContact 6 is the rubber of choice, and the 235/45 tyres on the 18 inch alloys have some tenacious hold on tarmac. They’re pretty good at pumping out water too, and brought a lot of confidence to the handling abilities of the pert Kona.
Ride is firm, with a bent towards the sporting style as befits the performance of the turbo engine. MacPherson struts and a multi-link underpin the Premium and the Konas with the 1.6L turbo. Exhaustive Australian testing has the setup tuned for our varying roads and surfaces, and it shows. It’s pliant enough for the comfort people expect, hard enough to quickly damp out intrusions, and responsive enough in cornering and lane changing to delight the demanding driver. Body roll is invisible, and that brings extra confidence to the drive.The same is said of the brakes. They’re almost breath-on for response, and at 305mm x 20mm and 284mm x 10mm there is plenty of swept area for the pads to grab the discs and haul down the Kona’s 1,900kg (with fuel and passengers) mass.
Warranty is Hyundai’s standard five years and unlimited kilometres. A prepaid servicing plan is available, and you can lodge an inquiry with Hyundai as well as inquire as to their standard servicing costs.
At The End Of The Drive. The Kona sits in the same class as the Venue and its Kia siblings, Seltos and Stonic. The Venue is a willing performer and we grew to truly appreciate its charm. the Seltos has a different drive package and is perhaps closer to the Kona range in specification. The Kona N-Line Premium does ask a lot in regards to the price however its perky engine, solid equipment and safety list, and yes, the economy given its driveline, balance the ledger nicely.