We hear from friends and colleagues that if not for the price, they would have been receptive to the idea of getting the latest SUV from Hyundai.
Alas! The B-segment Kona is a fully imported model from South Korea and so the price is what it is. Much higher than some of its other rivals at RM144,000.
But if the sticker price doesn't faze you, the Kona will surely attempt to beguile you.
The styling of the SUV that's named after a Hawaii locale is distinctive and the exterior illumination stands out for taking a two-tier design approach.
Check out the separated daytime running lights/indicators from the headlights positioned below and flanking a large mesh grille ala Hyundai's Cascading Grille. A fake air intake in the form of a bonnet slit adds stylistic flair.
At the back, brake lights are atop while reverse lamps and indicators sit below. Typical of crossover design, the black plastic cladding stretches across the sides of the car and around the wheel arches. In the Kona however, it also wraps around the headlights and the reverse lamps/indicators.
The 1.6T's stance and numerous quirks aim to project a youthful zest.
Its bold design will draw accolades - and brickbats from some quarters who prefer lights in single housings.
A black roof and a choice of other body colours show off a two-tier colour scheme as well such as this test unit in Pulse Red combo, which looks fetching.
The body colour is echoed in the seats belts and leather seat stitchings as well as plastic trim surrounds in the cabin to add a little playfulness to the interior. Only the 1.6T gets a 2-tone colour.
The dash looks neat and functional but unexceptional; splashes of red trimmings add vibrance to an otherwise grey interior.
Thankfully, the cabin doesn't look cheap and manages to feel like quality stuff especially on the go where NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) is generally subdued.
The leather seats feel firm and supportive. No complaints on space even in second row where it is decent. At 361 litres, boot space is at best moderate.
With the Kona being so expensive, Hyundai figures if you can't beat 'em on price, make it enticing with plenty of goodies. And the Kona delivers on that count.
The infotainment system offers connectivity features, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The standard seven-inch colour LCD display includes AM/FM/MP3 touchscreen audio, auxiliary input jacks, voice-command recognition and Rear View Monitor.
It also comes with a heads-up display unit and Qi wireless charging for compatible smartphones. More phones now support wireless charging and this is a desirable item to have in a car.
Roof rack, anti-glare rear view mirror, auto start/stop and 18-inch alloy wheels are among some of the standard equipment for the Kona 1.6T.
Safety kit are among some of the best there is. Its suit of safety features called Hyundai Smartsense endows the car with blind spot detection, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert and lane keeping assist. It can even make sure the driver takes a break.
With Driver Attention Warning (DAW), it tracks and analyses driving patterns through data inputs such as the steering angle, steering torque and vehicle position in the traffic lane. When it senses a pattern of fatigue or distraction, DAW gets the driver’s attention with an audible alert and pop-up message to suggest it is time to take a break. This system operates between 60kph and 180kph.
The 1.6T is the most powerful of three variants; the others are the base Standard and mid-range Active using a 2.0-litre NA engine.
The 1.6l Gamma T-Gdi mill reels out 177hp at 5,500rpm and 265Nm of torque from 1,500-4,500rpm. The turbo engine is coupled to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
With ample torque available down low, this makes for a very usable drive in an urban setting.
Out on the highways, the 1.6T proved itself to be a spirited SUV.
The gearbox rows through the cogs quickly in most cases but is a bit hesitant when crawling in jams. The steering is light and muted but the handling is still agile with a ride that's compliant even on patchy road surfaces.
Launched last October, the Kona arrived late to the party. A facelifted version is already due this year. But Hyundai Malaysia has kept mum on whether the 1.6T would still be brought in.
For what it's worth, the current 1.6T earns kudos for being a feisty B-(segment) fighter despite the keen competition. Its styling stands out, it drives well and brings its own take on SUV allure.
Hyundai Kona 1.6 Turbo
Engine: 1,591cc Gamma 1.6 T-Gdi, turbocharged petrol
Maximum power: 177hp at 5,500 rpm
Maximum torque: 265Nm from 1,500-4,500rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual clutch (dry)
Features: Six airbags, front-wheel drive, three drive modes (Comfort, Eco, Sport), auto start/stop, Down Hill Brake Control, Smart Cruise Control, two USB ports, wireless charging, Parking Assist System (front and rear), LED headlights, LED combination taillights, front and rear foglamps, roof rack, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support, 60:40 split back folding, 7-inch touchscreen with MP3 playback, AUX-in, USB, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and voice recognition, six speakers, navigation, four cupholders, rear-view camera with dynamic parking guide, 18-inch alloy wheels, rear ISOFIX mounts
Suspension: Front McPherson struts, rear coupled torsion beam axle
Acceleration (0-100kph): 7.7s
Top speed: 204kph
Fuel consumption (combined): 6.3l/100km (NEDC)
Price: (OTR without insurance, SST exemption): RM143,888