Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Sorry, there are no cars that match your search

You are here

Hyundai Kona Highlander AWD 2018 review

EXPERT RATING
7.8
I’m still having nightmares after seeing the Hyundai Kona advertisement. Ever since I was a kid I’ve never trusted those whirly mop things in car washes and the ad only confirms what I’ve always thought – they’re evil. A disturbing ad, but a great SUV in many ways. But which ways? And do those ways suit your

I’m still having nightmares after seeing the Hyundai Kona advertisement. Ever since I was a kid I’ve never trusted those whirly mop things in car washes and the ad only confirms what I’ve always thought – they’re evil. A disturbing ad, but a great SUV in many ways. But which ways? And do those ways suit your ways? You’ll know after reading this review on the Hyundai Kona Highlander. 

Our test car was the Highlander 1.6 T-GDi which comes with the most powerful engine in the Kona line-up and all-wheel drive. The Highlander grade is also the top-of-the-range specification. 

Over the course of this review I’ll help you weigh up whether this is the right SUV and right grade for you and also throw a couple of comparisons to its rivals.

Hyundai Kona 2018: ACTIVE AWD
Safety rating
Engine Type1.6L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.7L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$23,990

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

The Kona Highlander is definitely not boring to look at: there’s that ‘upside down face’ with its LED headlights placed low in the bumper, DRLs high at bonnet level and fog lights wedged into the nooks above the front lip. Yu, it looks like it has more eyes than a spider, but I like the styling – the big grill, the letter box slot above it, the bulging black plastic wheel guards and those taillights are sleek. 

Sure there are some dinky bits like the design of the rear indicators and the futuristic beach buggy illusion created by the body-coloured C-pillar meeting the blacked-out roof, but the Kona looks tough and cute.

The Kona is small, okay? Here are the Kona’s dimensions: 4165mm long, 1800 wide, and 1550mm tall (1565mm with roof rails). In comparison the Honda H-RV is 4294mm long, 1772mm wide and 1565mm tall; the Mazda CX-3 is 4275mm long, 1765mm wide and 1550mm tall; and the Toyota C-HR is 4360mm long, 1795mm wide, 1565mm tall.

  • The Kona Highlander is definitely not boring to look at with that ‘upside down face’. (image credit: Richard Berry) The Kona Highlander is definitely not boring to look at with that ‘upside down face’. (image credit: Richard Berry)
  • There are some dinky bits of the Kona like the design of the rear indicators. (image credit: Richard berry) There are some dinky bits of the Kona like the design of the rear indicators. (image credit: Richard berry)

So, the Kona is the shortest in length, but it has a boot bigger than one of those rivals. Which one? You’ll have to read the section on practicality, below. 

The Kona’s interior is cleanly designed with soft-touch surfaces, and pleasing elements such as the climate control dials which feel mounded into the dash, but it could be better. For a car with such a brave exterior the interior is way too conservative and Toyota does a much better job of making the C-HR’s cockpit just as interesting as its outside.

Like the C-HR the Kona doesn’t have adjustable air vents in the back row either. 

How practical is the space inside?   6/10

Would you rather have a decent-sized boot capacity or lots of rear legroom? You can’t have both in the Kona. At 191cm tall I can’t sit behind my driving position, my knees were mashed into the hard plastic back of the seat in front. But the boot is big enough to fit the big CarsGuide pram – it doesn’t fit in the CX-3. 

The Kona’s boot has a 361-litre luggage capacity and also comes with a cargo net to stop your shopping going everywhere at the first corner.

The Kona’s boot has a 361-litre luggage capacity. (image credit: Richard Berry) The Kona’s boot has a 361-litre luggage capacity. (image credit: Richard Berry)

The HR-V has the best of both – stacks of rear legroom and a huge boot (437L) for the class. You just have to fight off falling asleep when you look at it from the outside.

Cabin storage is good with four cupholders (two up front and two in the back) and bottle holders in the front doors, plus a deep centre console bin under the armrest. 

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

There are eight types of Konas. But think of it like this: there are four grades with a choice of all-wheel drive or two-wheel drive. The all-wheel drive version costs about $3K more than the two-wheel drive. The Kona I tested was the top-grade Highlander with all-wheel drive – so, the priciest you can get at $36,000, which is $8K more than the entry level Active with AWD and $4K more than the Elite directly below.

Coming standard is a 7.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, reversing camera, Bluetooth connectivity, LED daytime running lights (DRLs), leather seats, climate control, rear privacy glass, proximity unlocking and push button ignition, rear parking sensors and auto wipers.

inside the Kona there is a 7.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (image credit: Richard Berry) inside the Kona there is a 7.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (image credit: Richard Berry)

The Kona Elite comes with all of this, too. So what are you getting for spending $4K more on the Highlander? Front parking sensors (the others only get rear ones), LED headlights, LED tail-lights, a head-up display, heated and ventilated front seats, electrically adjustable driver and front passenger seats, a heated steering wheel, active high beams and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The Highlander comes with 18-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Richard Berry) The Highlander comes with 18-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Richard Berry)

Those LED headlights are excellent and if you’re doing a lot of country driving on dark roads they are brilliant – literally. The head-up display is cool too and one of the clearest I’ve ever used, even more so than some luxury European cars. But as for the rest of the stuff: the heated and ventilated power seats, and heated steering wheel, the front parking sensors, 18-inch rims – meh! I’d seriously think about the Elite and save four grand. I mean, gosh: $36,250 will get you into the Hyundai Tucson Elite – the next size up in the brand’s SUV family.

The Kona Highlander is not overly expensive compared to rival models, though – the top-spec Honda HR-V is $34,340 (and it doesn't have all-wheel drive), while the king of the Mazda CX-3 range is $37,890, and the ASX flagship is $37,000. I said the same thing about the HR-V VTi-L when I reviewed it – no need to pay this much when you can get the grade below or an even bigger SUV

But then again – maybe you don’t want a larger SUV. A larger car needs more room to park and that can be a major hassle in the city where spaces are small and fought over like seagulls stealing hot chips. 

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

The Kona we tested had the 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo, which is the more expensive and more powerful of the two engines on offer. It’s a responsive engine that has plenty of grunt at 130kW and 265Nm. The all-wheel drive Konas get this 1.6-litre engine and the front-wheel drives get the a 2.0-litre with less horsepower.

The 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo, produces 130kW/265Nm. (image credit: Richard Berry) The 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo, produces 130kW/265Nm. (image credit: Richard Berry)

It’s great that Hyundai has given its smallest AWD SUV something with decent grunt: it has way more than the C-HR (85kW/185Nm), more than the HR-V (104kW/172Nm), more than the beloved CX-3 (109kW/192Nm) and also the old-time favourite ASX (110kW/197Nm).

Manual gearbox fans (are you out there?) will have to make do with an automatic transmission. The 1.6-litre comes with a dual-clutch auto transmission which can make the car feel jerky at lower speeds in traffic as it shifts up and down through the gears, but you’ll get used to it.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

The Kona Highlander AWD’s engine is more powerful than its rivals but it’s also fuel efficient. Hyundai says the 1.6-litre petrol engine in our Kona Highlander all-wheel drive should only need 6.7L/100km when driven on a combination of urban and open roads. 

After 304km of city commutes and country roads the trip computer in our test car was reporting an average of 12.1L/100km. Not much time was spent on highways which would lower that mainly urban figure. 

What's it like to drive?   8/10

There’s a lot to like about how the Kona Highlander AWD drives and only a few niggles to report back to you.

First that 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder engine – to me it’s the best engine available to you in a small SUV on the market in this size and price segment right now. The grunt is great and reassuring when you need to overtake or move quickly. 

Next the handling and ride. The all-wheel drive Konas get a better rear suspension set up (a multi-link) than the two-wheel drives (they get a torsion bar in the back). Our Kona had a comfortable ride which was only let down a bit by the low profile tyres and larger wheels that come on this grade. Handling was impressive for a small SUV at this price.

Now that transmission – it’s the only part of the driving experience I wasn’t a fan of. Dual-clutch automatics are known for not being smooth shifters at low speed, and I found that in the hilly hipster land of Surry Hills where CarsGuide is based the jerky take-offs were a bit frustrating. After a week, I did become used to it and I reckon you will, too.

With its 10.6m turning circle, good brakes with great pedal feel and accurate steering the Kona is fun and easy to drive.

With its 10.6m turning circle, good brakes with great pedal feel and accurate steering the Kona is fun and easy to drive. The drive modes (Eco, Comfort and Sport) are good to have on-hand, but I found Sport a bit too frantic with the way transmission way holds onto gears for longer. Comfort was just right.

All that’s missing really are shifting paddles but you can flick the shifter across into manual mode.

But wait, there’s more – press a button next to the shifter and you can put the Kona into four-wheel drive mode. Torque is split evenly between the front and rear axles and works at up 40km/h. You’d never want to take it too far off road, though: this is not a Toyota Prado, and it has a fairly low ground clearance of 170mm. 

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

The Hyundai Kona hasn’t been given an ANCAP rating yet, but with six airbags, high-strength steel and advanced safety equipment (at least on this spec) such as auto emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, and lane keeping assistance, this SUV should score well.

There are three top-tether anchor points and two ISOFIX mounts for baby seats across the second row.

A space saver spare tyre is under the boot floor

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   9/10

The Kona Highlander AWD has a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended annually or every 10,000km (plus it requires a free check-up after 1500km). The costs are capped, with the first three proper services costing $269, the fourth $329, and the fifth back to $269.

Verdict

The Hyundai Kona Highlander AWD looks tough and cute, that 1.6-litre turbo engine is grunty and its’s fun and easy to drive. Also that four-wheel drive will let you wriggle through rougher stuff than you could get a regular two-wheel drive car over. That limited rear legroom could be an issue if you regularly have tall people in the back and the boot size is getting on the smaller side. And, sure the dual clutch transmission isn’t smooth in traffic but its seamless at higher speeds. 

The Highlander grade is pricey and if you can do without LED headlights and luxuries like heated seats, then go for the Elite with all-wheel drive and save thousands. 

Has Hyundai hit the mark with the Kona or would you rather a Honda HR-V?

Pricing Guides

$25,880
Based on 710 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$19,970
Highest Price
$41,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
ACTIVE 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $19,970 – 23,990 2018 Hyundai Kona 2018 ACTIVE Pricing and Specs
ACTIVE (AWD) 1.6L, ULP, 7 SP AUTO $20,130 – 25,520 2018 Hyundai Kona 2018 ACTIVE (AWD) Pricing and Specs
ACTIVE (FWD) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $20,870 – 29,200 2018 Hyundai Kona 2018 ACTIVE (FWD) Pricing and Specs
ACTIVE AWD 1.6L, ULP, 7 SP AUTO $23,990 – 25,800 2018 Hyundai Kona 2018 ACTIVE AWD Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.8
Design8
Practicality6
Price and features7
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Driving8
Safety9
Ownership9
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

Share

Pricing Guide

$21,850

Lowest price, based on 6 car listings in the last 6 months

View cars for sale