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Hyundai Kona Elite 2023 review


Ahead of the all-new Hyundai Kona arriving later this year, we test the popular small SUV in Elite guise to see if the current generation is still worth consideration

Good points

  • Fun and engaging to drive
  • Bold styling versus bland rivals
  • Smart, solid cabin
  • Safety kit is lengthy
  • Eilte grade is well specc’d
  • Cheap to service

Needs work

  • Interior needs jazzing up
  • New generation coming mid-year
  • No rear air vents
  • Quite thirsty in town
  • Engine lacks meaningful shove
  • Lane keep assist is too invasive

Who remembers run-out specials? Just ahead of a model being replaced by a shiny, flashy new generation, the outgoing one would see tempting driveaway price cuts. The choice was yours: order the all-new one or settle for the oldie and save thousands.

With demand outstripping supply for practically any and every new vehicle these days, can buyers expect run-out joy on the ever-popular Hyundai Kona?

Hyundai Kona Elite 2022 rear 3/4

We’ll only know when the new-gen Kona hits showrooms from mid-2023 with a hybrid version in tow, but discounted or not, the fresh Kona’s likely to arrive with a decent RRP jump over this current one.

In short, if you want a Kona for less than $30k before on-roads, you need to buy soon. Sure, the new model brings larger dimensions, smarter tech, better safety and a seemingly Mandalorian-inspired face, but it’s not going to be quite as affordable.

Kona sales remain strong. Last year we bought almost 12,000 of them, trailing only the MG ZS, Mazda CX-30 and Mitsubishi ASX in the small-SUV segment.

Hyundai Kona Elite 2023 front 3/4 hidden

Reasonable value and all-round talents help matters, but the breadth of choice plays a large factor. There’s a budget Kona, pricier ones filled with luxe, a track-ready ‘Hot SUV’ N version and, of course, the battery-powered Kona Electric.

There are in-betweeners too, with this Kona Elite slap bang in the middle. Could this be the cliched sweet spot in the range for buyers to target?

What are the Hyundai Kona Elite FWD’s features and options for the price?

The Kona range is exhaustive, and the Elite grade, two up from base, moves you firmly out of rental car spec and into a car that’s quite flush with desirable equipment.

Standard is a 110kW/180Nm non-turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol, mated to a CVT auto gearbox and driving only the front wheels.

Hyundai Kona Elite 2022 taillight

This drivetrain is found in the bulk of the Kona line-up, with only N Line and N Line Premiums fitted with a turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder, dual-clutch auto and all-wheel drive. They’re your pricier pick for a more dynamic drive experience without moving up to the full-fat N version..

The entry-level Kona is $26,900 plus charges, and boasts an 8.0-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, wireless phone charging, 16-inch alloys, LED daytime running lights, radar cruise control and a reasonable suite of safety kit and driver aids.

Many positives there, but the cabin finish and materials feel quite cheap.

That’s why you’d move into the next grade Active for $28,500 plus on-roads. There are larger 17-inch alloys, leather-appointed seats, steering wheel and gear knob, power and heated mirrors and a second-row fold-down armrest.

Hyundai Kona Elite 2022 interior 2

Our Elite here on test? Primarily, for $31,900 plus charges, this variant really ups the safety game (full details in the safety section below).

Elsewhere, the cabin’s flasher, with widescreen 10.25-inch infotainment and built-in sat nav, Harman Kardon eight-speaker audio, smart key and start, remote start, climate control, auto wipers and front fog lights. Style-wise it differentiates itself with a gloss black front grille and carbon grey exterior cladding.

A Highlander grade ($38,300 plus on-roads) gets really fancy, but the price jump over our Elite is substantial.

These get 18-inch alloys, LED lights, a head-up display, heated and ventilated power front seats, heated steering wheel and rear seats, a 10.25-inch digital driver display, ambient lighting and glass sunroof. Proper plush.

Hyundai Kona Elite 2022 front 3/4 far

The N Lines bring sporty aesthetics to match the more muscular engine. Over the Kona Elite, the base N Line ($37,100 plus on-roads) offers independent rear suspension, an N Line body kit, 18-inch alloys, N Line sports seats, alloy pedals and red stitching.

The N Line Premiums have the above, but add much of the Highlander’s kit too, but by this stage you’re asked for $43,200 plus charges.

More? The SUV-bodied hot-hatch that is the Kona N – and tree-topping Kona N Premium – offers red-hot 2.0-litre turbo performance and other upmarket trappings, wanting for $49,200 and $52,200 respectively before on-roads.

Electric? Kona is also available in a variety of EV favours that start from $54,500 list and top out at $64,000.

How does the Hyundai Kona Elite FWD drive?

It drives with the fun and panache promised by its quirky looks. Hyundai Australia does a grand job setting its cars up for our market, ensuring driving joy isn’t overlooked in the pursuit of outright comfort over all surfaces.

It’s a relaxed, well-insulated thing in town, proving easy to manoeuvre with a ride comfort that absorbs most road imperfections very well for a small SUV.

Hyundai Kona Elite 2022 rear driving

The steering has an impressively direct feel. Find a string of decent corners and the balance and handling bring a good dose of driving engagement and reasonable fun factor.

It’s a bit of a hoot to fling around, until you get too eager and the tyres begin to protest in all of the understeery excitement. Best save the heroics for those N-Line versions.

It’ll cruise in quiet comfort too and bests many small SUVs at highway speeds by feeling settled and size-belying at 110km/h.

Hyundai Kona Elite 2022 front driving

At this speed the engine’s larger 2.0-litre displacement helps and feels very under-stressed, while the radar cruise control is a winner, settling you into relaxation mode.

Wind and tyre noise suppression aren’t class leading but are certainly not bad. However, the trade-off for the fun dynamics are a few sharp edges felt on less than perfect bitumen. Ride’s firm rather than plush, but again, not enough to spoil the enjoyment.

On paper, the engine and CVT transmission combination should be joyless. But credit where it’s due: this particular CVT auto actually works very well with the petrol four-cylinder.

Konas spend a lot of time in town and suburbia and in these situations the CVT keeps the engine well armed for quick responses in and out of traffic. It’s only when you pin it that the engine feels gruff and the transmission has a little whine, but really, that’s not how this Kona will be driven too often.

Hyundai Kona Elite 2022 engine

Yes, the 1.6-litre turbo and dual-clutch transmission would offer more personality – and independent rear suspension would make this a proper corner-carving SUV – but horses for courses and all that.

This Kona Elite is aimed more at the everyday Australian buyer; it’s the pragmatic choice on the driving front, and absolutely fit for purpose for its core market.

What is the Hyundai Kona Elite FWD’s interior and tech like?

If you’re looking for a jazzy, special-feeling cockpit you’re going to need to look elsewhere. Or bide your time and plump for the next-gen Kona with its fancier looking cabin.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the current Kona Elite’s interior, it’s just a bit black on black on black everywhere you look. A beige interior ($295) is optional only on the pricier Highlander grade. Shame.

Hyundai Kona Elite 2022 front seat

Perhaps it’s the Kona’s extrovert exterior styling – stacked headlights, sharp wheel design and those big slabs of protective plastic – that has you expecting a bit more verve inside.

It all feels well screwed together, and the widescreen infotainment and circular air vents are pleasing inclusions, but the dark hues and too many hard plastics for the doors let the side down.

Despite its diminutive size, front space feels ample. Leather-appointed seats are a strong selling point, and while they’re comfortable, don’t expect Bentley levels of opulence here. This Hyundai feels a bit basic.

Hyundai Kona Elite 2022 touchscreen

Maybe we’re getting picky, but the lack of electric seat adjustment – or heating – in the Elite grade is a shame, demonstrating that spoil-yourself luxury is really reserved for the Highlander grade.

Importantly for older, less-mobile owners – retirees really don’t mind a Kona – the front passenger seat, like the driver’s, has a height adjuster. Many small SUVs that lack this facility these days really don’t understand their buyer demographic.

In typical Hyundai fashion, the layout’s smart and simple, storage is great, switchgear feels good and there’s a quality feel to your main touchpoints: the steering wheel and transmission selector.

Hyundai Kona Elite 2022 back seat

Climate, too, is just how we like it: two knobs to rapidly change fan speed and temperature. No fiddling through a screen. There’s just the one USB port (older type) up front, but the wireless charging pad is compensation.

There’s a USB port for rear passengers, but criminally for a vehicle that could be bought by young families, no rear air vents. Our test (with two kids) returned the usual grumbles of them getting too hot in the back.

At least rear space is half decent on the head and leg room fronts; the seat backs nicely reclined and the fold-down armrest making it all very agreeable.

Hyundai Kona Elite 2022 boot

If you want three passengers across the back, be prepared for the centre occupant moaning about the hard, raised seat base.

The boot’s an average-for-class 374L and somewhat shallow, with a false floor freeing up space for valuables. Only a space-saver spare under here by the way, but Hyundai chucks in a very useful cargo net.

Is the Hyundai Kona Elite FWD a safe car?

All Kona variants were awarded a maximum five stars with ANCAP, but this test was conducted in September 2017, long before the current, and stricter, testing regime.

In the frontal offset test it managed 14.07 out of 16; it aced the side impact test with 16 out of 16 and returned 2.0 out of 2 for the pole test. All reassuring there.

Hyundai Kona Elite 2022 front close

Whiplash protection was deemed Good and pedestrian protection Acceptable; it all culminated in a 35.07 out of 37 overall score.

Unlike these days, back in 2017 ANCAP didn’t test or return results on the effectiveness of driver assist systems.

Our test found that, although effective at keeping you between the white lines, the Kona’s desire to do so often proved overwhelming. This phenomenon is shared with many other Hyundais.

The lane keep assist rather aggressively tries to tug you back in line, while lane follow assist feels too controlling on the steering wheel as it rather unnecessarily endeavours to centre you in your lane.

Hyundai Kona Elite 2022 dash close

It’s invasive enough to have you switch the whole system off, which defeats the purpose of its safety benefits.

Standard safety equipment is strong once you’re in this Elite grade, although absent is junction assist for forward AEB, and front sensors. Included are:

  • Six airbags
  • Driver attention warning
  • Forward collision avoidance assist (AEB)
  • Lane following assist
  • Lane keeping assist
  • Rear occupant alert
  • Hill start assist
  • Smart cruise control with stop and go.
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • Rear view camera with park assist sensors
  • Blind spot collision avoidance assist
  • Rear cross traffic alert with collision avoidance (AEB)
  • Safe exit warning

What are the Hyundai Kona Elite FWD’s ownership costs?

Services are a low $1595 for the first five visits if you pay upfront as part of a plan. Unlike some rivals, which demand visits annually or every 10,000km, the Kona can handle 15,000km between its yearly services.

The Kona’s naturally-aspirated engine drinks cheaper, standard 91RON unleaded. We’re seeing ever more ‘everyday’ cars demanding pricier 95RON (hello, Nissan) today. Premium fuel used to be the reserve of fancy Euros or high-performance engines.

Hyundai Kona Elite 2022 side

As for economy, Hyundai claims a fair 6.2L/100km fuel use overall, with 8.3L/100km guzzled in town. Our test over a range of roads and speeds returned 6.8L/100km.

With its 50L fuel tank, judging by our testing figures (across almost 1000km of mixed driving), a tank would last 735km.

Warranty-wise, the Kona’s covered by Hyundai’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre plan. Average indeed, but it must be noted, this is two years less than sister brand Kia offers.

The honest verdict on the Hyundai Kona Elite FWD

Hyundai’s Kona is the perennial crowd pleaser, hence why you see so many on our roads.

It does so much very well – the drive experience, smart cabin and affordable running costs – and in mid-spec Elite grade it ticks all the safety boxes while chucking in a few luxury goodies too.

Hyundai Kona Elite 2022 rear 3/4

The cabin design and engine/CVT gearbox combo are vanilla, but the bold exterior design and overall fun-to-drive nature ensure it’s never dull. Higher grades with turbo engines are more thrilling, but most of us don’t want or need our small SUVs to be back road heroes.

Competition is long and strong in the Kona’s segment, but this Hyundai remains a solid choice. Yes, it’s showing its age, but the new generation will remedy that by mid-year, although it’ll be at a higher price, and potentially by a lot.

If Hyundai starts doing deals to shift these outgoing Konas there are far worse places to put your money.

Overall rating
Overall rating
Running costs
Overall rating
Running costs
Approximate on‑road price Including registration and government charges

Key specs (as tested)

1999 cc
110kW at 6200rpm
180Nm at 4500rpm
Power to weight ratio
Fuel type
Fuel capacity
50 litres
6.2L/100km (claimed)
Average Range
806km (claimed)
Front Wheel Drive
Single gear
4205 mm
1800 mm
1550 mm
Unoccupied weight
1280 kg

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