Manual? Only Manual?
Yes and we don’t care. For an editor for a magazine that features almost every manual car left on Singapore roads, test driving a brand new manual car is a huge sigh of relief. Sure, the Kona would sell much better here if it had an automatic gearbox to cater for a wider audience, but there isn’t one available on planet earth. Yet.
After driving both versions, which is better?
Definitely the manual. The automatic 1.6 Turbo may have more power with the added convenience of a seven speed gearbox, but the 1.0 has a different feel to it. It doesn’t feel sluggish and it accelerates very well due to some clever gearing for the first three gears, where city traffic will demand the most of. Never mind that the engine idles rough, makes a pretty din under full power and doesn’t go that fast… manual is manual.
Does it have manual aircon controls too?
Why yes, it does. Fortunately, that’s the last manual thing about it – we definitely don’t want manual winding windows this decade. But hey, a manual air conditioning control means less things likely to break – and that is a fact.
What is this? A tractor?
Very wrong. It’s just as fast as Singapore’s most popular crossover – the Honda HR-Vezel. Chances are, you’ll more be likely to go into race mode at the traffic lights because when it comes to driver involvement, nothing beats the manual transmission. If you want an easy car to use, look elsewhere, cupcake.
Look past the manual gearbox and the Kona is bang up to date with all the modern features a car ought to have. Touchscreen entertainment? Aux in? USB port? Two 12V power sockets? Parking sensors? Yes, good. Hill descent control? What does this button actually do?
Like the 1.6 Turbo, this has a good amount of refinement and a light steering feel. Similarly, it does lean more in the corners but It is a pretty agile thing. The rear end however, feels much more disconnected from the car than it was on the 1.6 Turbo – barely adding to the driving excitement and only making sure you know the rear wheels are still there when you drive over bumps.
Thing is, the manual gearbox (again) transforms the entire driving experience – if only if they bothered to give it an armrest which could be adjusted for height – enthusiastic up shifting might result in a very bruised elbow if you like to sit with the driver’s seat in the lowest position.
Yes, it still does not have a boot tonneau cover. Why?
Is this the hatchback the new generation deserves?
It won’t cause a stampede by the sub $100k car fans to the Hyundai showroom to trade in their beloved manual hatchbacks or sedans for a Kona. It’s ultimately still a Hyundai crossover and it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see coilovers and exhaust systems being mass produced for this model, although there are a handful already on sale on eBay.
Think of it as a practical high-riding hatchback with some youthful rejuvenance with the manual gearbox. It makes you feel faster than you are actually going and it is interesting to look at.
Hot hatch the Kona is not, but it is our first taste of the Hyundai i20 (which it is based on), that could bring an actual wind of change. Come on, both the Jazz and HR-Vezel are available here, make it happen!
Hyundai Kona 1.0 T-GDI
Engine: 998cc, turbocharged inline-3
Power: 120hp / 6,000rpm
Torque: 172Nm / 1,500-4,000rpm
Transmission: 6 Speed Manual
Top Speed: 205km/h
Fuel consumption: 6.7 L/100km
VES Band: B Neutral
Availability: Now (www.hyundaimotors.com.sg)