On the road

0-100 review: Hyundai Kona Highlander TTR

Since we last reviewed the Kona in Journeys, Hyundai has delivered a timely overhaul of its compact SUV to keep it at the pointy end of this ultra-competitive group.

With a fresh facelift earlier this year, the 2021 Hyundai Kona is tasked with gunning for gold in the hotly contested small SUV segment.

It’s a field studded with quality competitors, including the market-leading MG ZS – along with the Mazda CX-30, Nissan Qashqai and Kia Seltos, to name a few. This update sees the Kona’s basic underpinnings and proportions carry-over unchanged, but fresh front and rear styling ensure it won’t be confused with its predecessor.

Driveaway pricing for the eight-variant model range starts from $28,990–$48,684 for the Kona, with the Kona Highlander EV rising to $64,242–$69,957, including two new sporty N Line models, with 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol engine and all-wheel drive. Other models, including our test vehicle, are powered by a 2.0-litre petrol four-cylinder engine, driving the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Credit: Mark Bramley

Credit: Mark Bramley

Credit: Mark Bramley

Credit: Mark Bramley

Credit: Mark Bramley

The move from a torque-converter automatic to CVT is the biggest change to the Kona’s mechanical package, delivering a significant 14 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency. With its eight virtual gears and a sequential manual mode, the CVT is thankfully without the droning, elastic feel of some equivalents. Other than this, the interior has had a major overhaul and now looks more stylish, thanks to the addition of classy two-tone leather finishes, and a pair of 10.25-inch displays. The new digital instruments mimic analogue dials but cleverly change colour according to which of the four drive-modes are selected. The handsomely finished cabin features a generous list of standard features including wireless smartphone charging, satellite navigation, and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity.

Other luxury touches include a heated steering wheel, keyless entry and go, heated and cooled front seats, reversing camera, tyre-pressure monitoring, and head-up display [which projects driving information onto a transparent panel in the driver’s line of sight]. Safety-wise, the Kona boasts six airbags plus a swag of advanced ‘SmartSense’ safety features, earning it an ANCAP five-star rating.

With its above-average ride and handling, thanks to extensive local chassis tuning, updated drivetrain, fresh looks and new tech, the Highlander remains a sophisticated stand-out in this dynamic category.

The specs

Pricing: Driveaway $42,448

Safety: ANCAP 5 Stars (2017)

Engine type: Transverse, in-line 4-cylinder petrol, DOHC, with dual continuously variable valve timing (D-CVVT), Atkinson cycle

Engine capacity: 2.0L (1999cc)

Max. torque: 180Nm @ 4500rpm

Max. power: 110kW @ 6200rpm

Transmission: CVT SmartStream Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT) with sequential manual mode

Fuel consumption: 6.2L/100km (Combined); 8.3L/100km (Urban)