2021 Hyundai Kona and Kona Elite (car review)

IF you’re confused by the title of this review, don’t worry. It’s the result of the fact that Hyundai now calls the base model of its compact crossover range, the Kona. We are, as the title suggests, testing the Kona Elite here as well.

The latter sits mid-pack, if you will, with the N Line, Highlander and N Line Premium above it. But it’s the base model that has somewhat blown us away. Hitting the road at $28,990 drive away, it has features you’d only expect in more expensive variants.

These include wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (yes, we really did say wireless), and a wireless phone charger. This is no high end BMW or Mercedes-Benz, it’s a beefed up hatch-come-SUV at the bottom of its respective range.

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There’s a few things it misses out on, but more on that later, as the same can be said for the Elite. Actually, let’s get into some of that now. The Elite doesn’t come with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Yes, you read that correctly, and no it’s not a typo.

You see, the trade off in the base Kona is that the infotainment system is smaller, at 8.0-inches, and is shall we say, less pretty in terms of its display capabilities. What the Elite gets, is a full high definition 10.25-inch infotainment system, with more features.

The Elite variant adds satellite navigation, live traffic, an 8-speaker Harman/Kardon premium sound system (compared to the base model’s 6-speaker unit), and a smart key with push button start.

There are a lot more ‘nice bits’ in the Elite, plain and simple. Both variants suffer at the hands of rear leg room though, which isn’t ultra comfortable if you’re taller than say 180cm, and the boot isn’t gigantic, at 374-litres (or 1156-litres with the seats folded flat).

You might say the interior is adequate past the driver’s seats, if that makes sense. On the plus side, the Elite does come with a rear centre armrest with cup holders, which is great for the kid’s coffee. We mean hot chocolate of course, as kids don’t drink coffee.

Both variants are powered by a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine, developing 110kW of power and 180Nm of torque, delivered to the front wheels via an intelligent variable transmission, or what one might describe as Hyundai’s version of a CVT.

Electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist are standard across the range, as are vented discs. Both variants have a braked towing capacity of 1300kg (which is actually 50kg more than the N Line Premium, oddly).

Claimed fuel economy is 6.2-litres/100km, and in the base model, we actually got damn close to it, all the way down to 6.4-litres. In the Elite, the best we could manage was 7.5-litres/100km. We’re not sure what to put that down too. Weight maybe.

The Kona comes with 16-inch alloys, while the Elite scores 17-inch rims, which we have to say are nicer looking and fit the wheel arches better. Both models score four driving modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport and Smart), with three terrain modes (Mud, Snow and Sand).

Both the base model Kona and Kona Elite are very nice cars to drive. On the road, the major difference lies in interior comfort, with the Elite offering a better interior, with better safety tech, which in turn translates to a slightly better overall driving experience.

Such things as rain sensing wipers, front fog lamps, and climate control with auto defog all feature on the better variant. Likewise, you’ll need to buy an Elite, or a higher model to get some of the key safety technology.

This includes rear blind spot collision avoidance assist and rear cross traffic collision avoidance assist, along with safe exit warning. The base model also misses out on a rear-view monitor and parking guidance, instead setting for a reversing camera.

All variants get hill start assist, downhill brake control, ABS, traction and stability control, lane keep and lane follow assist, forward collision avoidance assist and driver fatigue warning. Smart cruise control and rear occupant alert also spans the range.

From a price perspective, the base model Kona starts at $28,990 drive away, with the Elite hitting the road at $35,355 drive away. The entry level variant is available in Ignite Flame, Phantom Black, Surfy Blue, Dive In Jeju, Atlas White and Dark Knight.

The Kona scores a pretty comfortable and hard wearing cloth interior. The Elite ditches Ignite Flame for Pulse Red. It’s leather appointed interior is, likewise, very comfortable. All 2021 Hyundai Kona variants come with a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty.

It’s worth noting that it’s dearer than some of its rivals, across the range, including the Kia Seltos and Mitsubishi ASX (with the latter significantly cheaper than Hyundai’s offerings), while coming in just under the Mazda CX-30.

Our test vehicles were provided by Hyundai Australia. To find out more about the 2021 Hyundai Kona, and Kona Elite, contact your local Hyundai dealer.


Driving experience
Exterior styling
Interior look and feel
Technology and connectivity
Family friendliness
Value for money


Pros - great looking car; well spec'd across the range; wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in base model; good fun to drive.
Cons - limited rear legroom; lack of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in Elite; pricey; some safety tech only on higher models.
Mark Holgate
Mark Holgate
A journalist with more than 24 years experience, Mark Holgate has worked with a number of regional, suburban and metropolitan newspapers, as well as stints with motoring specific publications like Which Car? Motorsport News, Auto Action and Street Machine. He is also a contributor to DriveTribe.


    • Hi Kel,
      That is correct. Our apologies, that one slipped through the spec sheet cross-check. The offending part of the sentence has been removed and buried in a paddock somewhere.
      The News Desk


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<strong>Pros -</strong> great looking car; well spec'd across the range; wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in base model; good fun to drive.<br> <strong>Cons -</strong> limited rear legroom; lack of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in Elite; pricey; some safety tech only on higher models.2021 Hyundai Kona and Kona Elite (car review)