As the flames on the fire settle into a hypnotic rhythm on their way to being ready to accept the over-catered platters of raw meat, the conversation around the fire ranges from rugby through soccer to cars.
In the sleepy seaside village where I live, this chatter is less about petrolhead favorites such as top speed, acceleration, power and torque and more about the practical aspects of motoring that suit the coastal lifestyle.
Invariably I am asked for input on what a friend should buy for the next car and this usually comes with an options comparison of two or three possibilities. My standard response is always to say the car you buy is the one you feel most comfortable in, and not to worry about fuel consumption, resale value and those sort of things.
It is a practical response because there is nothing worse than spending a lot of money only to find you hate the car because you just are not absolutely comfortable in the driver’s seat.
On this occasion I put it to the test and get my mates to sit in the driver’s seat of the Hyundai Kona I have on test. The lads are all different sizes yet all of them expressed surprise at being comfortable behind the wheel.
The Kona in this case was the 2,0-litre DCT that ticked a large number of boxes in terms of practicality, being neither too large or too small for most business or social lifestyles and offering more than enough in terms of luxury and connectivity.
The Kona has been a success story for Hyundai since its global introduction in 2017 and, in South Africa close to 1 700 units of this crossover SUV model have been sold since its local introduction in 2018.
Design updates on the front and rear give the new Kona an even more sleek, sophisticated look and the handsome new front end design stands out giving the Kona a powerful look – supported by enhanced LED Daytime Running Lights (DRLs).
On the lower bumper, the skid plate embraces the lower air intake, and visually complements the surfaces surrounding the main grille. Integrated into the bumper corners are vertically oriented aerodynamic inlets that improve air flow.
At the rear, the new tail lights feature horizontally stretched graphics and the rear bumper, which also follows the protective armour concept of the front and sides, is also built with a contrasting material.
In addition, the latest model comes with an updated 17-inch wheel design for the Kona 2.0 Executive, which is now 40 mm longer than the previous version.
A new console is disconnected from the instrument panel to emphasise the horizontal layout and the rear cargo area has been increased as has second row legroom, along with USB-port access for second-row passengers.
As standard, the Kona has also been upgraded with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, meaning customers do not have to use a cable to connect their phones to the 8-inch display infotainment system. A wireless cell phone charging pad in the centre console is also standard across the range.
Rear passengers can charge their cell phones from a USB cable port in a centre console, with a place to store the phone.
All Kona derivatives are equipped with an Electronic Stability Program and Vehicle Stability Management, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Downhill Brake Control and Hill start Assist Control.
Static safety features in all derivatives include crash bags for the driver and front passenger, along with side and curtain bags.
A Smartstream 2,0-litr Nu Atkinson naturally aspirated petrol engine, delivering 110 kW maximum power and 179 Nm peak torque, is used in the Kona 2.0 Executive, where it is linked with an Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT).
Hyundai’s Smartstream refers to the ‘Smart’ technological objectives of saving fuel, improving performance, and reducing gas emissions, which are then applied to every step of the ‘Stream’ – the stream of air and fuel injected in the engine and its explosive power delivered to the wheels via the transmission.
The Continuously Variable Valve Duration (CVVD) engine technology, a mechanical system which took Hyundai 9 years to develop and made its debut in 2019, is used in the Kona’s engines. It alters the way the valves operate to boost both engine power and efficiency, and to allow flexibility based on the driver’s driving style.
Typical variable valve control technologies manage the timing of the valve’s opening and closing (as in Continuously Variable Valve Timing – CVVT) or control the volume of air admitted by adjusting the depth of the opening (Continuously Variable Valve Lift – CVVL). Previous variable valve control technologies could not regulate valve duration, as the valve’s closing timing was subordinate to opening timing and could not respond to diverse driving situations. CVVD takes the technology in a new direction by adjusting how long a valve is open.
When the vehicle is maintaining a constant speed and requires low engine output, CVVD leaves intake valve open until the middle and closes the valve near the end of the compression stroke. This helps to improve fuel efficiency by reducing the resistance caused by compression. On the other hand, when engine output is high, such as when the car is driving at a high speed, the intake valve is closed at the beginning of the compression stroke to maximize the amount of air used for the explosion, enhancing torque to improve acceleration.
Optimised valve overlap duration for high-acceleration and high-economy driving needs also boosts performance and economy up to 4% and 5% respectively. Combustion efficiency is also improved, decreasing gas emissions by up to 12%.
The suspension has been re-tuned to improve driving comfort and the stabiliser bars were modified for better ride comfort and isolation. The rear bump stop was also modified, bringing benefits for primary ride and lateral body control.
A McPherson strut type suspension is used at the front of the Kona, while a coupled torsion beam action type multilink is employed for the rear wheels’ suspension.
All of this combines to provide a comfortable ride, even on rutted or potholed road surfaces and, while the Kona is not designed for performance motoring, it aquits itself more than admirably against its peers in terms of get-up-and-go and handling.
The Kona is nimble enough for shopping mall parking and responds eagerly to more brisk action far from the madding crowd on the long swooping curves that characterise my test arena – making it very much a car for most occasions and one that is easy to live with (as witnessed by the bums on seats test alluded to earlier).
Included in the price are a 7-year / 200 000 km manufacturer’s warranty, a 5-year / 75 000 km service plan and roadside assistance for 7 years or 150 000 km.