Review: 2020 Hyundai Kona - the Korean alternative to the Proton X50

Eric · Sep 30, 2020 02:58 PM

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Just recently, Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors (HSDM), the official distributor of Hyundai vehicles in Malaysia, organized a media preview of the 2020 Hyundai Kona ahead of the model's introduction.

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Let's take a look at how well the Hyundai Kona fares in Malaysia, as we've driven the Kona in New Zealand a couple of years ago.

2020 Hyundai Kona Exterior

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Despite being a three-year-old model (Hyundai also just introduced the facelifted model overseas), the Hyundai Kona still looks fresh. Nothing else in the B-segment, be it the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, or Proton X50 boast the same eye-catchiness design of the Kona.

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Its two-tier front-end and rear-end are enough to help the 2020 Hyundai Kona to stand out in the sea of Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3, as well as the upcoming Proton X50.

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Couple that with the flared fender arches and sharp-looking alloy wheels, there's no mistaking the 2020 Hyundai Kona for anything else on the road.

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The lower spec 2020 Hyundai Kona 2.0 Standard gets halogen project headlights and bulb-type tail lights, which are good enough for day-to-day use. Upper variants (2020 Hyundai Kona 2.0 Mid and 2020 Hyundai Kona 1.6 TGDI) get LED headlights and LED tail lights.

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2020 Hyundai Kona Interior 

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2020 Hyundai Kona Interior Design

Unlike its exterior, the interior of the 2020 Hyundai Kona is plain by comparison.

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Never mind the Proton X50 and its upmarket cabin, the Hyundai Kona's interior does not feel as expensive as the Honda HR-V or Mazda CX-3.

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While Hyundai has practically gone all-out with the exterior of the Kona, they played it safe with the interior design. While there are no surprises or fancy design elements on the inside, at least the controls are laid out in a logical and easy-to-reach manner.

2020 Hyundai Kona Space Inside

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On top of that, the Hyundai Kona's interior feels more spacious and airy when compared to the Mazda CX-3, which probably has the least practical cabin in the segment.

The seats in the Hyundai Kona also offer better comfort and support than the other two Japanese rivals.

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The saving grace is the inclusion of contrasting colours on the seats, air vent and gear shifter surround, and engine push start button. Even the seat belts have matching colours, adding some excitement into the cabin.

2020 Hyundai Kona Infotainment

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Where the Hyundai Kona claws back is its inclusion of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support, as well as a Qi wireless charging pad - features that are lacking on the highly-anticipated Proton X50 as well as the Honda HR-V. 

2020 Hyundai Kona Safety features 

HSDM played their cards well with the Hyundai Kona, opting to equip the range-topping variant with the full Hyundai Smart Sense ADAS suite. Only the Proton X50 can match the Kona's offering. 

Nevermind its segment rivals, the Hyundai Kona has better safety features than even a BMW X1. There's a full suite of ADAS includes the complete alphabet soup of acronyms. FCW, AEB, BSM, LKAS, LDW, ACC, RCTA. There's also a colour Head-Up Display. All are features that you don't even get in a BMW X1 or a Mercedes-Benz C200

2020 Hyundai Kona Driving Performance 

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When we sampled the New Zealand-spec Kona back in 2017, we noted that it handled the paved roads of Wellington and Auckland just fine.

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But back home in Malaysia, the Kona's firm suspension is far from pleasant. It feels as though the suspension is under-damped, as it fails to absorb road bumps that well.

Smaller bumps are dealt well enough, but bigger bumps can feel crashy, which is rather unpleasant for passengers.

2020 Hyundai Kona Powertrain: 1.6L+7speed DCT

Putting aside its poorly-tuned suspension, the real charm of the Hyundai Kona is its turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine – mirroring the Hyundai Elantra Sport.

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With 177 PS and 265 Nm on tap, the Hyundai Kona 1.6 TGDI is one of the most powerful B-segment SUVs on sale right now. It even has 10 Nm more torque than the Proton X50 – the current talk of the town.

However, behind the wheel of the Kona, the driving experience is far from exciting.

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It's the same problem with the Proton X50. You just don't feel the shove of power, nor does the DCT behave like you'd expect.  Although the on-paper figures are impressive, but behind the wheel, it does not feel as powerful as the numbers suggest. 

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This is mostly due to the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic that's geared (sorry) towards fuel efficiency, lower emissions, and smoother stop-go traffic driving. In fact, the DCT in the Kona behaves just like a regular torque converter automatic.

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That's not a bad thing because this setup is better for stop-go traffic, a very common driving condition in Malaysia. Not only does this prolong the lifespan of the DCT, it also cuts down on the DCT judder that is noticeable on other marques. 

HSDM also offers the Kona with a less potent naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre mill. While it lacks the outright grunt of the turbocharged unit, the 2.0-litre unit delivers sufficient power for most buyers.

2020 Hyundai Kona Sound Insulation

In terms of sound insulation, we noticed that the rear tire well's sound insulation is rather poor, as the sound of water gushing is apparent. At least the audio quality from the stock sound system is decent.

Conclusion

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The 2020 Hyundai Kona, despite its shortcomings, still has a lot going for it.

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It may not offer the practicality of the Honda HR-V or the driving experience of the Mazda CX-3, but where the 2020 Hyundai Kona shines is its safety suite. The range-topping Kona 1.6 TGDI gets Hyundai's Smart Sense ADAS suite, one upping the Honda and Mazda.

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In fact, the 2020 Hyundai Kona is even more feature-packed than the upcoming Kia Seltos - something we couldn't say one year ago.

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The main challenger that HSDM needs to deal with is the upcoming Proton X50. Not only is the Proton X50 considerably cheaper than the Kona, the top-of-the-range X50 is feature-packed, encompassing a Level 2 ADAS suite, a sophisticated 1.5-litre TGDI powertrain, as well as a very upmarket interior. It even gets Auto Park Assist.

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Stay tuned for the in-depth review once we get our hands (and test equipment) on the 2020 Hyundai Kona.

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Up to 20% higher than average trade-in price

2021 Hyundai Kona 2.0 Standard

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