Our car’s powertrain, which also delivers 207lb ft of torque, pulls nicely from low revs, responding eagerly from 1500rpm, and feels sparky on runs around town. Achieving 0-62mph in 10.7sec, it sits between the Kona’s two petrols for acceleration and is perfectly happy hitting motorway speeds. It more naturally cruises at 60mph rather than 70mph but doesn’t struggle to keep up with other vehicles.
Probably the biggest criticism of the Kona diesel is how unrefined the diesel is. It’s noisy throughout its range and at low speeds, with a galling rattle that is hard to ignore. On this front, the Seat Arona diesel easily wins.
Noise aside, the Kona is a comfortable, enjoyable place to be. The handling far exceeds what you expect – or need – from a compact SUV, with good cornering and little to no body roll, making this as fun as plenty of superminis out there. That’s helped by accurate steering and gearchanges which have been influenced by Hyundai’s popular hot hatch, the i30 N. R&D chief Albert Biermann told Autocar earlier this year there had been “many transfers” from the i30 N to other cars in the range: “The Kona – it’s fun to drive, the driving position is changed, the steering ratios are a little bit more direct. It’s not like an N car, but there’s a little bit of N in the Kona.”
This front-wheel-drive Kona (four-wheel drive is available on the higher-powered petrol), which uses a torsion beam set-up, is just on the right side of firm, but becomes easily unsettled on imperfect roads, and has a tendency to crash over speed bumps.
Inside, the Kona is a little cramped in the rear for adults and boot space is less than in the Seat Arona. However, on both fronts it does beat its in-house rival, the Kia Stonic. The other let-down is the interior plastics, which are hard and scratchy to touch.
Otherwise, the interior is well-designed, with good functionality throughout the infotainment system, particularly when interacting with Apple CarPlay.
The diesel is only available from the mid-range SE trim and up, and we had the Premium SE, which gets everything but the kitchen sink. Included are heated and cooling seats, heated steering wheel, electric driver’s seat and rear parking camera.
There’s also a host of safety systems, the most notable of which is the rear cross traffic alert and the lane-keep assist. The latter, which steers the car to keep it in lane, worked well during our test on the motorway.