The Hyundai Kona Hybrid is a ‘sub-compact SUV’, in other words it’s a body style that’s in big demand from car buyers, and the Kona is now available with a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, which means that this promises to be more efficient than the petrol model.
The Hyundai Kona is a ‘sub-compact SUV’, which basically means it’s a small hatchback with a slightly raised ride height. The Hybrid model combines a 1.6-litre petrol engine and a 6-speed dual clutch automatic transmission with a small battery and electric motor. This isn’t a plug-in hybrid, so you won’t be driving very far on battery power; the battery just captures energy that would otherwise be lost when braking, and this energy can be re-used to power the electric motor, rather than use the petrol engine, at standstill or when coasting/decelerating.
The Hyundai Kona is basically a good car to drive. It’s small, relatively light, and has very short front and rear overhangs. It also has a slightly higher ride height than a regular hatchback. The result is that the handling is fun – for a front-wheel drive car. It also has fairly soft suspension which means a comfortable ride. And the steering wheel has reach adjustment so you can also find a good driving position.
The Kona Hybrid doesn’t have a range of driving modes, but when the automatic transmission selector is positioned to the left, you’re in Eco mode (engine revs are on the low side), and if you pull it to the right, you’re in Sport mode (engine revs are on the high side). This means that there’s no ‘Normal’ mode (ie. where the revs are also ‘normal’), but it’s easy to live with Eco mode in normal day-to-day driving, and if you want something more responsive, then Sport will deliver this. You can also change gear manually using the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
Because the Kona Hybrid has automatic transmission rather than a CVT, as is found in Toyota hybrids, there’s a more direct (and less revvy) driving experience.
The Kona operates on its petrol engine most of the time, but at standstill there will hopefully be enough energy in the battery to keep the car running on its electric motor. The motor also supplements the petrol engine with more torque and power. The system generally works well but the powertrain is occasionally slightly hesitant, particularly at low revs.
The Kona is perfectly designed for use around town, but it can also easily handle longer journeys at higher speeds such as on motorways, when it’s generally quiet.
If you find yourself on twisting B-roads then Sport mode will enhance the fun, but remember the Kona is front-wheel drive, so lots of torque going through the front wheels especially on wet surfaces can result in wheelspin.
The Kona has a typical common-sense Hyundai interior. All controls are clear, and the infomedia system, including satnav, is user-friendly, with good graphics on the wide central touch screen, and shortcut buttons under the screen (although the home button is actually at the top left on the screen). There are separate controls for the heating and ventilation, rather than these being hidden in the touchscreen, which is good.
As with virtually all new cars, the lane departure warning system can be annoying, but it can easily be switched off with one button (every time you start the car), which is much better than having to press five separate buttons in the touchscreen, as is found with some manufacturers.
The Kona Hybrid features Bluelink, a connected vehicle system which uses embedded telematics to allow drivers to remote lock or unlock their vehicle via a smartphone app.
The official WLTP combined fuel economy for the Hyundai Kona Hybrid is 72mpg, with CO2 emissions of 90-99 g/km (low to high NEDC).
After a week of mixed driving with the car we averaged 51.4mpg. This is quite a lot lower than the official 72mpg, and we’d put this down to more frequent use of Sport mode in the absence of any ‘Normal’ mode on the car.
The Kona Hybrid was displaying a useful 416 mile driving range with a full tank.
The top of the range Hyundai Kona Hybrid Premium SE 1.6 GDi 141PS 6-speed DCT, as tested, costs £27,195. Trim levels also comprise of SE (£22,495) and Premium. Powertrains include Petrol, Diesel, Electric and now Hybrid.
We like the Kona. It’s basically good to drive and it has a practical, compact body style. However there are variations depending on the powertrain that you choose. We firstly drove the Petrol model, which felt light, agile and fun. We then drove the Electric model, which was a revelation: around 300 miles of real-life range for around £30,000 – and instant torque meant a great driving experience. We then drove the Diesel model. This felt like going backwards compared to the Electric version, and the Petrol version was certainly better to drive.
So what about the Kona Hybrid? It’s once again essentially good to drive, although heavier than the Petrol model, so not quite as agile, but it should deliver better efficiency. The Hybrid is also likely to be as economical as the Diesel in many situations.
Overall the Hyundai Kona Hybrid gains a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10. This is good, but not as good as the Kona Electric, which we awarded a 10/10. So our advice is, opt for the Kona Electric if you can (and if you can get one – availability in 2020, like other EVs, is likely to be better than in 2019). However if for some reason a pure EV doesn’t work for you (for example you may not have any way to charge at home) then for use in built-up areas the Kona Hybrid will be cleaner than the Petrol or Diesel models.