2021 Hyundai Kona Hybrid review: Efficiency Rules



Hyundai Kona Hybrid in Singapore

A cosmetic makeover gives Hyundai’s efficient Kona Hybrid crossover SUV a fresh new look


SINGAPORE

Hyundai’s Kona crossover SUV platform is one of the most versatile cars in the South Korean brand’s stable. It was sold here with a basic 1.0-litre turbo engine and a manual gearbox in 2018, then an electric version appeared in 2019, and a petrol-electric hybrid arrived in 2020. There’s also news of an upcoming, high performance Kona N in the works.

Meanwhile given the current automotive trend and climate in Singapore, the petrol-electric hybrid is the best seller of all the variants, helped by the fact that it’s just been given a mid-life-cycle refresh alongside its all-electric sibling.

Hyundai Kona Hybrid in Singapore

It gets a new front end design, with an even wider front intake grille than ever and main headlight housings so slim that they are almost letterbox slots. The secondary lights are housed in another more normal looking pair of assemblies situated lower on the front, but are also noticeably slimmer in size than the earlier model. The car’s rear end gets a minor restyling, but the general outline is just about the same as the launch model version.

Hyundai Kona Hybrid in Singapore

Mechanically, it’s largely identical to the earlier version with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine helped along with a 43.5hp electric motor. Total system output is a respectable 130 horsepower, all sent to the road through a six-speed twin-clutch transmission driving the front wheels.

Hyundai Kona Hybrid engine

It’s not very quick on paper, with an official 0 to 100km/h sprint time of 11.3 seconds. As an all-round family commuter car, there’s little to complain about though. The trendy body style, smooth drivetrain, well-packaged cabin, and ample boot space makes this a vehicle that’s as easy to drive as is easy to live with.

Hyundai Kona Hybrid in Singapore



The Kona Hybrid has a mechanical twin in the form of the more dramatically styled Kia Niro Hybrid, as both are built on the same platform and cabin architecture. The Hyundai is the pricier car though, and the sunroof package option driven here also costs an additional S$8,000 over the basic variant. 

Hyundai Kona Hybrid meters

That’s partially because the Kona Hybrid comes with a lot of active safety features as standard, plus a heads up display. Hyundai’s active cruise control with stop & go is one of the best you can find in a car at this moment, outclassing even the system found in some luxury continental brands. Blind spot assist, forward collision avoidance, lane keeping assist, rear cross traffic collision avoidance assist, they’re all integrated into the car and while that really shoves the price up a step it also delivers the goods where it counts.

Hyundai Kona Hybrid in Singapore

That’s surely better than spending that extra budget on a bodykit and some bigger wheels. 

Fuel economy is also above expectations. The official specifications say 3.9l/100km, and we got 4.1l/100km after two days of mixed driving all around Singapore. To put it in perspective, that’s just about on par with the legendary Toyota Prius Hybrid, and by extension the Prius+, in real world use. For the most part, the engine seamlessly switches off readily during highway cruising and electric power takes over. That happens at car park speeds often too, but the most fuel savings come from constant high speed driving above 70km/h or so.

Hyundai Kona Hybrid boot

Perhaps the only big critique is that the car isn’t very engaging to pilot, with a very calm, sensible demeanor that’s clearly more suited for people who like their drives to be safe and comfortable over engaging and exciting. The twin-clutch automatic transmission can be sequentially shifted with the paddle shifters on the steering wheel, and when you really lean into it the car can kind of do sporty, but that’s not its main selling point. 

Hyundai Kona Hybrid in Singapore


Hyundai Kona Hybrid in Singapore

The segment that the Kona Hybrid sells in is now a very big one, and perhaps the dealers are banking on the fact that having more viable choices make for better diversity. The new Honda HR-V is still some time away, but for now Toyota’s stunningly good Yaris Cross Hybrid is the car to beat despite being slightly smaller than the Kona. For the money, the Hyundai Kona Hybrid is a sound drive, but once again swimming in a very crowded, despite popular, automotive class. 

Hyundai Kona Hybrid in Singapore

Hyundai Kona Hybrid 1.6 S/R

Engine 1,580cc, inline 4 
Power105hp at 5700rpm
TorqueNot stated
Gearbox6-speed dual-clutch 
Electric Motor43.5hp
BatteryLithium Ion, 1.56kWh
System Power130hp
System Torque 265Nm at 1500rpm (combined)
0-100km/h11.3 seconds
Top Speed161km/h
Fuel Efficiency3.9L/100km 
VES Band / modifierA2 / -S$15,000
AgentKomoco Motors
Price$120,999 with COE
Availability Now
Verdict An efficient car that is packed with tech and active safety features, with a safe and predictable drive experience

about the author

Lionel Kong
An old hand from the bad old days of crazy COEs, the straight-shooting, ex-CarBuyer editor is back in the four-wheeled world. Rumours that he went to another country to start a Judas Priest tribute band are unfounded.