The 2020 Hyundai Kona was launched earlier this week with an introductory price of RM 115,888 to RM 143,888 for three variants – the naturally aspirated 2.0 Standard and 2.0 Active, and the range topping 1.6 Turbo, all imported from Korea (CBU).
The introductory price will expire on 31-Dec 2020, when the government’s 50 percent discount on SST for imported cars end. After that, prices for the 2021 Hyundai Kona will be increased to:
- Kona 2.0 MPI Standard: RM 123,888
- Kona 2.0 MPI Active: RM 138,888
- Kona 1.6 Turbo: RM 151,888
The B-segment Hyundai Kona 1.6 Turbo is a close rival to the Proton X50, producing identical power output, but with slightly more torque, and it’s lighter too, thus giving it superior power-to-weight ratio.
Curiously, the Kona 1.6 Turbo has a claimed 0-100 km/h time of 7.9 seconds, which is identical to the Proton X50’s claim.
However as the Kona is imported from Korea, it is of course priced at a disadvantage.
As such, there is no way for the Kona to measure up against the Proton X50’s price, which stops at just RM 103,300 (SST exempted for locally-assembled CKD cars, until 31-Dec 2020). Nevermind the Proton X50, the Kona is also priced at a disadvantage against the locally-assembled Honda HR-V. There's also Japan-made the Mazda CX-3, but it's an ageing model and sells too little to be of any influence here.
It's a shame that our tax structure penalizes the Kona because it's better looking than any of its rivals.
Many also opined that Malaysian customers are being shortchanged because the Kona that is launched here is pre-facelift model. But there’s nothing much that Hyundai Sime Darby can do about that.
The reason is very simple – there are no right-hand drive versions of the new Kona facelift yet.
Korean manufacturers pay very little attention to right-hand drive markets apart from India (whose huge domestic car market operates almost independently from international markets).
So little does Hyundai care about right-hand drive global models that Malaysia is actually the first right-hand drive market to launch the DN8 generation Hyundai Sonata, so it’s not true that HSDM is slow in introducing new models here. If the manufacturing principal doesn’t bother with our market, there’s nothing much that the local distributor can do.
In contrast, Malaysia is the first country outside of Japan to sell the Honda HR-V Hybrid, and the Proton X50 is the first right-hand drive version of the Geely Binyue.
The Japanese (and the Chinese in Geely) are a lot more serious in growing their business here, and thus explains why Korean brands have failed to crack not just Malaysia, but also Thailand and Indonesia.
With the background established, let’s go back to the Hyundai Kona.
For fashion conscious fans of Hallyu who are willing to pay more to stand out from the crowd, the Hyundai Kona is a recommended buy, just go straight for the range topping 1.6 Turbo.
After all, you are already paying a premium so why settle for the standard, plain vanilla naturally aspirated variants? If you are looking to save money, then the decision is very simple, go for the Proton X50, and blend in with everyone else.
We have driven the Hyundai Kona briefly (detailed review to follow once deliveries begin) and it’s pretty decent. It’s not the most comfortable nor the best handling SUV, but neither is the Proton X50 or Honda HR-V.
If comfort is what you are looking for, we suggest that you wait for the TNGA platform Toyota Corolla Cross that’s coming next year. It will be locally-assembled, with hybrid, but it will still be a lot more expensive than the Proton X50 so bargain hunters can skip this.
So far, we have been impressed with every single Toyota model that rides on TNGA – Corolla Altis, Camry, C-HR, RAV4 – they all ride and drive better than an equivalent Mazda or BMW. However, the Corolla Cross is not a pretty looking car. It has the looks that only a mother could love, so fashion conscious buyers need to look elsewhere.
Hyundai didn’t published claimed fuel consumption figures for the 1.6-litre T-GDi front-wheel drive Kona, but we know that the all-wheel drive variant with the same engine (not sold here) has a claimed figure of between 6.8-litre to 7.1-litre/100 km.
The Proton X50 has a claimed fuel consumption of 6.4-litre/100 km, versus the Honda HR-V’s 6.5-litre/100 km.
Of the three, we have only tested the HR-V RS in real-world driving conditions, and found it to average around 7-litre/100 km, even after driving it in a lot of rush hour traffic driving, something which we doubt the turbocharged engines (which tend to perform significantly poorer in real-world driving conditions) in the X50 can match.
What about the Kona? Interestingly, the Kona's 1.6 Turbo engine is able to operate in two engine cycles – the conventional Otto cycle when driving in high load conditions, and fuel saving Atkinson cycle when cruising, so that’s an added fuel saving feature.
There used to be a HR-V Hybrid variant too but Honda has sold out all of its 2020 allocations for the HR-V Hybrid and prices for 2021 models have yet to be announced.
Where the Kona excels better than any of its rivals is the way it marries style and practicality. It’s still nowhere near as practical as the Honda HR-V though, but what we are saying is that the Kona is more practical than the Proton X50, and looks better than the ageing Honda HR-V.
The Hyundai Kona has a 361-litre boot, bigger than the Proton X50’s 330-litre but nowhere close to matching the Honda HR-V’s 437-litre (non-hybrid models) boot.
The Kona is also noticeably more comfortable than the HR-V, but on par with the X50.
The Kona also packs more safety features than a BMW X1 (but on par with Proton X50). A full suite of advanced driving aids (ADAS) is available, and it adds a Head-Up Display, which is not available in the Proton X50.
However the Proton X50 adds semi-automatic Auto Park Assist that automatically adjusts the steering to park the car for you. It’s cool to showoff to your friends but it works too slow in real life and will test the patience of drivers waiting behind. We would gladly trade it for the Kona’s HUD instead.
We also like the fact that the Kona’s infotainment comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, something which Proton stubbornly refuse to offer, forcing users to make do with Chinese apps instead. However, both the Kona and X50’s infotainment are still miles ahead of the Honda HR-V’s.
The Honda HR-V claws up some ground by offering LaneWatch blind spot detecting camera. It only works on the passenger-side (it will be confusing for the driver to look to the centre screen to turn right) but compared to regular blind-spot monitors, which is rendered useless in the dark or when it’s raining heavily (common driving conditions here), LaneWatch offers much better visibility. What about the driver’s side then? Well, blind spot is less of an issue on the driver’s side, more on the passenger’s side.
In summary, buy the Proton X50 if value for money is what you’re looking for, and you don’t mind the tiny boot.
If practicality and interior space is important to you, and you don’t mind the mediocre infotainment, buy the Honda HR-V.
Of course, the curve ball here is that you can also buy the much bigger (but a lot poorer fuel consumption) Proton X70 that does all of the above for the same price, but that's making the topic more complicated so let's stay focus on these more compact SUVs/crossovers.
Due to its pricing, the Hyundai Kona won’t be a volume seller. But because of its BTS-approved styling, exclusivity is guaranteed and you won’t be mistaken for anyone else. As a daily car, it’s practical enough, is reasonably comfortable, and comes with more than enough gadgets and safety features to meet the requirements of discerning buyers who want to stand out from the crowd.