We like the Hyundai KONA, having tested it with petrol and electric powertrains – but is the diesel equally as good?
We tested the petrol KONA and thought it was agile and fun to drive. We reviewed the electric KONA and thought it was one of the best electric cars on sale. Now Hyundai has brought out the diesel KONA so we had to test it to compare petrol v electric v diesel. And the verdict is…?
We like the KONA’s styling – it looks fun. The appearance of our test car was helped by its 18-inch alloy wheels, which look better than the wheels on the petrol KONA that we tested. It also has a practical ‘SUV’ body shape for its size. However if you need a large boot, you may have to look elsewhere.
The interior features a clear, practical dashboard – although in our test car it was somewhat dark and less interesting than the exterior.
Our test car had a 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine and 6-speed manual gearbox – and front-wheel drive.
We’ve already established that we like the petrol-powered KONA; it feels light, agile and fun. And the electric KONA is quiet, refined, smooth and pretty rapid. So what about the diesel? Well, the main benefit is the promise of good economy (see below); but with this diesel powertrain comes noise, especially when the engine is cold; turbo lag; lack of responsive, flexible performance; and added weight, which impacts on the handling.
So if you drive lots of motorway miles, then you could enjoy decent economy. But this isn’t a car designed for lots of motorway miles. Although there’s nothing wrong with the ride, there are much more comfortable cars out there for motorway driving. And quieter cars. And cars with more performance. And cars that are more aerodynamic for high speed motorway use.
So we’ve probably established that the KONA isn’t really designed for motorways. So that suggests it’s better in an environment such as suburbia. But the diesel engine isn’t as good as the more responsive petrol engine – and it’s nowhere near as good as the electric powertrain in such driving conditions.
The interior is easy to live with. All the controls are clear, there are shortcut buttons for the touchscreen, and there’s a rotary dial that allows you to easily zoom in and out of the map. However we did have a few issues with the satnav trying to take us down roads that didn’t exist, and it didn’t predict traffic queues.
The official NEDC combined fuel economy for the Hyundai KONA 1.6 CRDi is 67.3 mpg with CO2 emissions of 112 g/km. This sounds impressive, but how did it perform in real-world driving? Well, we drove from Manchester to the South coast and back during our week with the KONA, giving plenty of opportunity to test real-life mpg. The result was impressive; over many, many miles of 50mph motorway stretches, the Kona averaged 82mpg. At 70mph motorway speeds it returned 54.4mpg. After a week of mixed driving, but with over 80% on long journeys, the Kona averaged 52.4mpg. One advantage of the diesel KONA is that it covered the 500 miles from Manchester to Bournemouth and back without refuelling. That’s something that both the petrol and electric KONAs couldn’t do. And the return journey took place in the midst of Storm Erik, as evident in the photos on Bournemouth beach, so the KONA was fighting against high winds and flooded roads – something that doesn’t aid economy.
The Hyundai KONA Premium 1.6 CRDi costs £21,765, although KONA prices start from £17,100. There are three engine choices: 1.0 T-GDI, 1.6 T-GDI and 1.6 CRDi, with a 6-speed manual transmission or a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) – plus the KONA Electric of course. There are five trim levels – S, SE, Premium, Premium SE and top of the range Premium GT. The KONA Premium GT offers 4WD.
Having tested the petrol KONA and the electric KONA, we were curious to try the diesel. Our curiosity has been satisfied. As stated above, we like the petrol KONA, as it feels light, agile and fun to drive. The electric KONA is truly a game changer: refined, rapid, and with a 300 mile range for £30,000.
And so we were surprised that Hyundai launched a diesel KONA in the UK. The negative impact that diesel emissions have on local air quality is well documented, however we do believe that diesel cars have their place. If you drive 30,000 miles each year up and down the nation’s motorways, a car such as a BMW 335d with its incredibly rapid yet also economical 6-cylinder diesel engine makes a lot of sense. But we’re struggling to see what driving patterns the KONA might be expected to carry out for the diesel engine option to make sense. For the vast majority of people, as long as they can charge an EV, then the KONA Electric, with its 300 mile range, would be a much nicer car to drive, with much lower running costs. If you like the idea of a KONA, but believe that you would have challenges with charging an EV, then the petrol engine is a better bet than the diesel.
So the KONA remains one of our favourite cars, but we’re just struggling to find a reason to recommend the diesel over the petrol or electric models; so the Hyundai KONA 1.6 CRDi gains a Green Car Guide rating of 7 out of 10.
Perhaps the big issue here is that once you’ve driven an electric car it’s very difficult to go back to a diesel; the noise, the turbo lag, the clutch, the gear changing and of course the emissions make the diesel model feel very old fashioned.