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The new 1.0-litre Hyundai Kona is offered with a rarified manual transmission but does it make sense when a dual-clutch 1.6-litre version is available too?

12 Apr 2018

Combining a manual transmission with a Korean-made SUV is just cool, says Julian

Driving a manual sedan is no big deal, but a manual Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV)? Now that's rare! How often do you even get the chance to drive a manual car in Singapore, let alone an SUV? And by car, we mean sedans, hatches, pickups and vans - the whole damn deal. More than just being rare, the Hyundai Kona 1.0-litre is remarkable on numerous levels.

Komoco Motors, the local distributor of Hyundai vehicles, has sold over 100 Kona 1.0-litre units to date
It handles itself exceptionally well despite its SUV disposition. It is more comfortable than the Honda HR-V and has more power per litre compared to the Toyota C-HR.

It also has an abundance of standard safety features as well as connectivity technology that will put some of the Japanese carmakers to shame.

But the most important thing that puts this 1.0-litre three-pot Kona ahead of its similarly punchy 1.6-litre brethren is the affordable annual road tax of just $392.

We don't even have to consider the fact that it attracts a $10,000 rebate or that its asking price is below $85,000, which is the most affordable in its class. Being able to get so much more for less is quite a no-brainer.

The fact that Komoco Motors, the local distributor of Hyundai vehicles, has sold over 100 Kona 1.0-litre units more than the 1.6-litre variant proves this very point.

A manual transmission in a compact Korean-made SUV is a rarity in Singapore
The only downside I can think of choosing this variant over the 1.6-litre is having to change gears manually, which is obviously more troublesome than operating a car with an automatic gearbox.

But if you were to ask me, it's a matter of adapting and getting used to it, like how most things are in life.

Other than that, it's hard to ignore the 1.0-litre variant. Not only does it sport a rather eye-catching and modern design, with bright colours and sleek lights that stack on top of one another, it's a good alternative to its commonly-found Japanese competitors that will not disappoint the driver.

Behind the wheel, everything falls into place very naturally. Clutch in, slot the gear into first and you're ready to move off with effortless footwork. There's no guesswork needed here. And with 118 horses and 172Nm of torque on tap, acceleration is lithe and linear.

Of course, I would choose this over the 1.6-litre Kona. It's a complete car in more ways than one and it has enough go to match its show. Plus, combining a manual transmission with a Korean-made SUV is just way too cool man.

Driving stick is a thoroughly enjoyable activity, just not as ideal in a small Korean family SUV, says Nigel

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for clutching in and shifting gears on my own… occasionally. It really depends on the mood, time, place and sort of car I'm in. Some of the best drives I've had involved clear roads at 2:00am, no work the next day and cars like the Honda Civic FD2 Type R, the Mazda MX-5 ND and the Subaru Impreza WRX GD.

The Kona 1.6 is a car that lets you sit back, relax and enjoy the drive
But such nights are rare. Most of my drives are hot and bothered, no thanks to our laughable window tinting laws, plagued by some of the worst drivers the world has seen and the usual peak hour traffic.

When that happens, which is almost an everyday occurrence, I'd want to be in a car that pampers me. I'd want to be in a car that says, "Sit back, relax and let me take care of the rough stuff, bud."

It has to be a car that offers seamless gear changes, has enough grunt to overtake the road-hogging Prius and must be easy to drive. Having a myriad of safety technologies is an added bonus.

And a car that comes to mind is the new Hyundai Kona 1.6 GLS Turbo. Unlike the manual-only Kona 1.0, it's got more power. Rated at 174bhp and 265Nm, the Kona 1.6 is indeed brisk. I can drive it faster, thanks to its clever dual-clutch gearbox that allows for swifter gear changes compared to a regular manual gearbox.

Want to stay ahead or overtake? Simply mash the right pedal and let the powertrain do what it does best, or if you're in the mood, lock the shifter in manual mode and flick it up and down as required.

Driving stick on the right road at the right time is enjoyable but for everyday use, the Kona 1.6's dual-clutch is the better choice
It's not as rewarding but easier and less of a hassle. Plus, as a family car that's likely to hold two to four people at any given time, the Kona 1.0's 118bhp and 172bhp is honestly rather inadequate to me. After all, I'm accustomed to my GTI, which also runs a dual-clutch.

A family car also means that I won't likely be the only one driving it, so having the dual-clutch option makes sense. Not everyone is able or is confident enough to operate a manual.

Another disadvantage of owning the manual Kona 1.0 is resale. Since most Singaporeans still steer well clear of driving stick, you may have difficulties finding a buyer down the road.

Granted, you'd have to first fork out about $40,000 more for the Kona 1.6 and the road tax is almost twice of the 1.0's $392, which explains the 1.0's higher sales figures so far.

Considering its higher price tag and extra road taxes, the Konda 1.6 costs at least $12 more a day to own for the next 10 years. But that's $12 extra I'm willing to spend for a more relaxing, smoother commute through the pain that is our everyday traffic.
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