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Hyundai Kona Hybrid Review: As Cool As a Light Sabre

The Kona's distinctive looks continues on in the 2nd generation, taking on a sci-fi, post-modern disposition.
James Wong
James Wong
09 Nov 2023
The seamless LED horizontal strips on the front and rear of the car look super sci-fi, and very cool.
What we like:
Spacious interior
Cool exterior looks
Pleasing drivetrain
Fantastic ergonomics
What we dislike:
Interior can feel cheap in some parts

The new Kona is unusual in its development approach - it was first envisioned as an EV, while also adaptable for other applications, like the hybrid variant tested here.

How does the Kona Hybrid feel like, being developed first as an EV?

Somehow, this EV-centric thinking filtered through to the drive experience. Outputs are impressive - 130 PS and 265 Nm - but the way it is delivered is even more so. It feels more electric than it does ICE, sometimes, offering torque-rich power delivery that’s most welcome in a Cat A COE car. The dual clutch gearbox is tuned for smoothness and does its work without being noticed. The car does seem to make use of its electric power more so than in most other hybrids I have tried.

Could it be some new technology in the Kona Hybrid?

I’m guessing part of the reason for this ‘EV-like’ experience is what Hyundai calls e-Motion Drive. It uses the drive motor to manipulate braking, shifting and torque, focusing on uninterrupted acceleration and stability while cornering. It really works to give soothing, refreshing progress.

Woah, the car looks stunning!

The car’s exterior looks match its futuristic drive. The seamless LED horizontal strips on the front and rear of the car look super sci-fi, and very cool. It’s some feat of engineering to get the brightness levels required from such a thin strip, and commands a lot of attention on the road. Light strips are trendy nowadays, but this must be one of the most striking applications of its form out there.

Another high-tech feature of the Kona is its active aerodynamics at play, a rare feature for this class of car, allowing the Kona Hybrid to have a drag coefficient of just 0.30.

Is the Kona Hybrid bigger than its predecessor?

For anyone who has driven the first generation Kona, the new car would feel humongous inside in comparison. There is a 60 mm longer wheelbase that provides 77 mm more leg room and 11 mm more headroom in the second row. By moving the gear selector to behind the steering wheel, space has been freed up in the centre console for more storage as well. The Kona no longer feels compact on the inside.

How is the interior technology of the Kona Hybrid?

There’s no shortage of technology either. There is a 12.3-inch dual screen that is easy to use and dominates most of the front dashboard. Yet there are also plenty of buttons that allow easy access to the most critical functions. This is a big win for ergonomics, in my book.

The Kona Hybrid has certainly grown up, and feels altogether more substantial and polished.

Photos by James Wong


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