With spaceship styling and a more cavernous cabin, the second-generation Hyundai Kona could just be the right way to stand out from the rest of the small SUV-buying crowd.

In the ever-crowded small SUV segment, it takes a lot to stand out, but it seems that standing out is almost the sole aim of the all-new 2024 Hyundai Kona. Previously based on the i30 Hatch yet smaller than it in almost all dimensions, this new model rides on the platform of the Kia Niro and is substantially larger than the model it replaces. Despite the old model’s funky styling, this second-generation model arrives wearing an even more bold look.

The new range consists of four trim levels and has also been expanded to include a hybrid drivetrain in addition to two petrol engines and a fully-electric version, but here we’re looking at the N Line 1.6T AWD which sits around the middle of the pack, pairing the sportiest engine with the sportiest trim and design features at an even $40,000 before on-road costs.

Even if my tester wasn’t finished in this tennis ball paint scheme which turned plenty of heads during my week with it, the new Kona’s styling clearly stands out. Somehow managing to be angular, rounded, and slightly boxy at the same time, it genuinely looks unlike anything else on the road. The full-width light bars on both the front and back of the car only amplify the futuristic vibes, while the N Line version’s body-coloured cladding and surprisingly aggressive rear spoiler makes it look cohesive and more hatchback like.

That’s also despite it managing to feel large within a fairly compact 2660mm wheelbase. It has a good presence perhaps thanks to its 1825mm width, but it’s still ideally sized for squeezing into tight carparks and darting down narrow city laneways like its compact predecessor. I’m sure the styling could be too out there for some, but I dig the looks and think the design works ideally from a practicality standpoint.

The sense of size carries over to the interior which feels cavernous for this segment. With a wide centre console that’s solely for storage thanks to the electronic column shifter, there’s a real sense of space inside, although you still feel catered for as a driver thanks to the wraparound dashboard with two 12.3-inch digital panels splayed across it.

There’s a new operating system for the infotainment system as well which has a minimalist layout across the gauge cluster (with the dials reminding me a bit of Apple’s Fitness application) while the central screen’s layout is more akin to that seen in Genesis models. It’s a slick and easy system to figure out, and although there’s no integrated sat nav in this model it does have wireless Apple CarPlay to account for it.

Complimenting the N Line’s sporty exterior touches are some equally sporty interior touches including Alcantara seat upholstery with red piping and stitching, black headlining, a sportier steering wheel which feels nicely sculpted, some splashes of dark metal and red trim, alloy pedals, and scuff plates with a chequered flag motif.

Even if the sporty trimmings aren’t a priority, there’s still plenty of merit to opting for the N Line over a base Kona thanks to the addition of LED headlights and taillights, automatic wipers, a powered tailgate, the aforementioned digital instrument cluster, and an auto-dimming rear view mirror.

Admittedly, you can still do better with the Premium and Premium N Line trim levels which add items such as a Bose premium audio system and powered front seats with heating and ventilation, but this standard N Line ticks most of the boxes you’d be after.

Thanks to the larger design, boot space has grown by 33 litres, now taking it to a more usable 407 litres with the rear seats in place, while folding them flat increases that to 1241 litres. Towing capacity is limited to 1300kg with a 130kg tow ball download.

Priced identically to the 1.6-litre hybrid and above the 2.0-litre atmo petrol, both of which are front-wheel drive, the version tested here pairs a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine making 146kW and 265Nm with a new eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.

As with its predecessor, this updated engine retains a willing and sporty character, with its low-down torque available across a broad 1600-4500rpm plateau helping it feel strong whenever you put your foot down. It makes a decent noise as well, although you’ll hear the best of it from outside rather than in the cabin. Factor in the on-demand all-wheel drive system and it handles the power confidently as well.

What I’m less of a fan of, however, is the new transmission. While I can understand that a dual-clutch like the seven-speed of yore isn’t to everyone’s tastes, and it’s clearly oriented more towards sporty driving than city streets, there’s a feeling of directness it offered which the torque converter lacks. While its shifts are smooth, the eight-speed feels hesitant on occasion and there’s a somewhat restrained feeling for a moment when you want to give the throttle a quick stab.

The ride finds a good balance between tight handling and comfort, with it feeling nicely planted through corners and stable over most bumps. Admittedly, it does feel a bit heavy through the wheel when you’re pitching it at some corners despite a circa 1500kg kerb weight, but there’s no lack of composure to its handling despite this.

Combine the performance and the solid handling, and the Kona does live up to the prodigious badging. Considering there’s no replacement for the old full-fat Kona N, this is all the performance you’re getting now, and while it’s not quite a hot hatch rival like that was, this will offer more than enough power for most people.

Mind you, it does come at quite the cost in terms of fuel consumption. Although Hyundai claims 7.6L/100km on the combined cycle, I saw a return of 9.6L/100km after around 600km of testing. Keep in mind that Hyundai claims 10.0L/100km on the urban cycle, so if you’re living and driving in the city primarily, you’ll be far better served by the hybrid.

As with all Hyundai models, the 2024 Kona N Line is covered by a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, along with lifetime capped price servicing and 12 months of complimentary roadside assistance which is renewed after each visit. Servicing is required every 12 months/10,000km for this turbo model, with the first five services capped at $399 each.

Certainly, if you’re looking for an SUV that stands out, you’d be hard pressed to find anything more fitting than this. With spacecraft styling, a much roomier interior than before, and solid performance, it offers good value for money and feels like even more of an ideal city-centric SUV than its predecessor which was already a good fit for the urban jungle.

What I do think is worth considering, though, is the new hybrid drivetrain. This turbo petrol might offer plenty in terms of performance, but its drastic fuel consumption makes me feel like the thrifty hybrid will be the better bet for city buyers. Regardless, the Kona N Line itself is a great bit of kit, and in my eyes, Hyundai has nailed this redesign.

2024 Hyundai Kona N Line 1.6T AWD List Price: $40,000
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Ride & Handling - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Tech & Features - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Practicality - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Value for Money - 8/10

Pros: Bold styling, much roomier interior than its predecessor, solid performance from the turbocharged engine
Cons: Turbo engine is thirsty, transmission can feel hesitant on occasion, the design might just be too bold for some

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Hyundai Motor Company Australia for one week with a full tank of fuel upon collection. All additional fuel expenses were covered by the author.

Patrick Jackson
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