Did You Know? The Hyundai Kona Launched In Singapore With a Manual Gearbox

Text by James Wong; Photos by James Wong and Clifford Chow
21 Apr 2022

Kudos to Komoco Motors for tastefully specifying an entry-level car. 

I borrowed a family member’s Hyundai Kona 1.0 turbo recently while my car was stuck in the workshop, and posted on social media about how refreshing it was to drive with a manual transmission. 

I received some positive feedback, ranging from the quizzical to the knowing, about a stick shift in a relatively modern car. Apparently, many people did not realise that the Kona was ever offered as such, especially among the younger set. One can’t blame them, for the vast majority of Konas we see on the road now are either of the electric or hybrid variety, both of which don’t have a manual gearbox. The plain petrol-driven model isn’t offered any more. 

So let’s rewind time a little. It was early 2018 and the Singapore Motorshow was where the Kona was first unveiled in Singapore. 1.0-litre turbo and 1.6-litre turbo models were offered, the latter producing a fairly warm 176 bhp that was put to the road with all-wheel drive. It always felt like an overkill (as was its price), but the 1.0-litre base version was anything but. 

Yes, it did 0-100 km/h in 12 seconds on paper, but it always felt faster in the real world. There is a lovely 3-cylinder thrum to the exhaust note, and there is a nice mid-range as is the case with these triples. 120 PS may sound little but it did have 172 Nm from 1,500 rpm, which made the car very usable in the city. Despite its rear torsion beam setup, it was the car’s steering feel which was more of a dampener than anything else. It was a tidy handler if you dared to read the steering’s numb responses.   

Alas, shock and awe, it was offered with a manual gearbox! But there was precious little about it that was pared down - in our review of the car, we found it to be well-equipped with a full-suite of safety assistance systems (for the era), automatic xenon headlights/wipers, curtain airbags and even Hyundai’s in-house infotainment system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. It felt like a very complete package. And all that for a sub-$80k price, including COE. Kudos to Komoco Motors for tastefully specifying an entry-level car. 

I won’t labour on the do-it-yourself gearbox, as it wasn’t the best of its kind, but it is also far from the worst. What’s perhaps more remarkable is how every single one of the manual Konas found buyers rather quickly, indicating that maybe there is genuine interest out there, notwithstanding the fact that the Kona 1.0 turbo was also a staggeringly good deal. 

If you’re looking for an entry-level yet well-equipped city runabout with more driver involvement than the usual commuter car, the Kona 1.0 turbo ranks pretty high. Check out Carousell for the latest listings



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