2021 Hyundai Kona review

By Tim Pomroy
2021 Hyundai Kona
2021 Hyundai Kona

Revitalised looks and engine choices see the 2021 Hyundai Kona come out fighting

When Hyundai launched the all-new Kona in 2017 it entered a small SUV segment that was already chock-full of established stars. We speculated that it could well have left its run too late, but more than 40,000 Kona sales – accounting for 23 per cent of Hyundai’s total volume – have since proved our musings way off the mark.

What tech does the 2021 Hyundai Kona come with?

This first major upgrade since the Hyundai Kona's launch heralds a raft of changes and aims to capitalise on the success of the brand's sporty N Line nameplate. Highlighting the facelift are a redesigned front grille and bumper, plus ‘stacked’ headlights and signature LED daytime running lights.

The revisions alter the Kona's appearance substantially, giving it a wider, more grounded road presence. Alloy wheels feature across the range, up to 18-inch for the Highlander and N Line.

Standard features in the base Kona and Active include a revised eight-inch multimedia screen with wireless Apple CarPlay, while the Highlander and N Line have a 10.25-inch touchscreen with sat nav and split-screen functionality.

A Harmon Kardon audio system is fitted to the Elite, Highlander and N Line, while wireless smartphone charging is standard on all models. The Highlander and N Line gain a configurable electronic instrument cluster, head-up display, and powered front seats.

How much does the 2021 Hyundai Kona cost?

With the additional spec comes a price rise. The $26,600 Kona is a $2300 jump over the old entry-level Go, the Active is priced at $28,200, the Elite is $31,600, and the Highlander is $38,000. The new N Line slots in between the Elite and Highlander at $36,300, while the N Line Premium rounds out the range at $42,400.

New powertrains feature across the range. The 2021 Hyundai Kona, Active, Elite and Highlander get a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and CVT, delivering a 14 per cent improvement in fuel consumption over the old combo. AWD is exclusive to the new N Line variants, which gain a zippy 1.6-litre turbo and seven-speed DSG. This engine develops 146kW and 265Nm from 1600-4500rpm and has a claimed fuel figure of 6.9L/100km.

2021 Hyundai Kona safety

Hyundai’s SmartSense safety tech has been upgraded and now features forward collision-avoidance assistance, lane following assistance, smart cruise control with stop/go, and rear occupant alert (to avoid unintentionally leaving children or pets in hot cars).

At the launch in Orange, we sampled both the FWD 2.0-litre and turbo N Line versions over motorways and challenging sections of second-class road. Both models impressed, but the N Line was the highlight.

How does the 2021 Hyundai Kona drive?

The 2.0-litre has more than enough grunt by class standards and the CVT has eight ‘virtual gears’ designed to mimic a conventional auto transmission. It’s a refined package when driven leisurely, only becoming busy above 4000rpm when the stepped CVT changes engine revs. The extra torque the 1.6-litre turbo delivers in the N Line provides additional oomph, with the DSG sharper and more defined at shift points. The N Line actually feels a lot like Hyundai’s sporty Veloster coupé.

Overall the updates add a touch of sophistication missing from the Kona range, while the N Line gives it a sporty cachet. We’re eager to sample the full-blooded N Performance version due out later in the year – if it’s anything like the i30 N Performance hatch, it will be worth the wait.

The 2021 Hyundai Kona at a glance

Pros: More integrated styling; fuel efficient powertrains 
Cons: No paddle shifters for the N Line

Thinking of hopping into a Hyundai Kona?

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