Hyundai Kona Hybrid review

The Hyundai Kona Hybrid is a stylish and efficient small family SUV, but it’s not the most practical car of its size

£22,495 - £27,195
Hybrid

Pros

  • Great fuel economy
  • Quiet at steady speed
  • Stylish design throughout

Cons

  • Not fun to drive
  • Not hugely practical
  • Noisy when you accelerate
Car type Fuel economy  CO2 emissions  0-62mph 
Hybrid 52-56mpg 90-99g/km 11.2-11.6s

When you think about it, there are surprisingly few hybrid SUVs on the market: there’s the likes of the Kia Niro, Toyota C-HR and Honda CR-V, but the rest of the competition is out of reach for most, in the vastly more expensive premium sector.

With SUV sales booming and hybrid technology offering a clear alternative to diesel, Hyundai has introduced this: the Kona Hybrid. It’s the fourth powertrain type to find its way into a Kona, following the petrol, the (now defunct) diesel and the electric.

In the Kona Hybrid, a 1.6-litre petrol engine is married to a 43bhp electric motor for a combined 139bhp. The small 1.56kWh battery can’t be charged by plugging in; it’s topped up using power from the engine itself and the car’s regenerative braking system, which captures energy when you slow down.

This allows the Kona Hybrid to run for short distances – no more than a mile or two – under electric power alone, conserving fuel while the engine is switched off.

The headline figure then is fuel economy: officially, the Kona Hybrid returns between 52 and 56mpg (trims with larger tyres are slightly less efficient), which is a big improvement on the 44mpg offered by the 1.0-litre petrol. It isn’t quite as good as the hybrid Niro, but it’s still commendable for a car that’s ultimately powered entirely by petrol.

The better news is that you’re likely to replicate the official figure in the real world: on our first drive in the Netherlands, the Kona Hybrid comfortably hit 50mpg on the motorway, rising to almost 60mpg on slower, rural roads. It’s worth noting that our test route was smooth, quiet and flat, but the indicated fuel economy was impressive all the same.

Regardless of where you are, the Kona Hybrid is pleasingly quiet at a steady speed. But this changes when you accelerate hard: the six-speed automatic gearbox is slow to respond, and when it does drop down a couple of ratios, it forces the engine to rev loudly and coarsely. Despite the noise, there’s almost no urgency as the Kona gathers pace: it’s little wonder that 0-62mph takes well over 11 seconds.

There’s no fun to be had in corners, either: while the steering is light, there’s little in the way of feedback. Coupled with the amount of body lean during a turn, you’re not going to relish any road in the Kona Hybrid. Mind you, the ride quality is decent – even on the larger, 18-inch alloy wheels. We’re keen to see how the car stacks up on harsher roads in the UK.

Inside, the interior styling lives up to the promise of the sharp, appealing exterior. White stitching and white accents on the driving mode lever and air vents are standard, and customers can personalise the Kona Hybrid further with the option of three other colour schemes: Orange, Lime and Red.

Although the doorbins are a bit small, there’s plenty of storage space otherwise and a comfortable driving position with good visibility is easy to find. Large families may be disappointed with the practicality, however. With the front seats pushed back, legroom is only really suitable for small children, while the 361-litre boot is far from the largest in the class.

Hyundai offers its SmartSense suite of active safety packages; these include adaptive cruise control and rear cross-traffic alert systems, plus more besides, and cost £550, £950 and £400 across SE, Premium and Premium SE cars respectively, adding features that aren’t available as standard on each trim.

Elsewhere, BlueLink is the smartphone app that Hyundai has developed to add connectivity to its cars. It’s free to download, and has various convenience features such as remote door locking and a GPS locator should you lose the Kona in a busy car park.

The Kona Hybrid is usefully cheaper than the hybrid Niro, and while its CO2 emissions of 90-99g/km are higher than its main rival, the Hyundai's lower list prices should make it marginally cheaper for company-car drivers. If you can afford it, though, the Niro is the better of the two, especially in terms of practicality.

For a more detailed look at the Hyundai Kona Hybrid, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.