Introduced for the 2018 model year in North America, the Hyundai Kona is a sub-compact SUV that packs a lot of value into an attractive, exciting looking package.
New for 2021: The Kona gets a facelift for the 2022 model year, tidying up those unique looks yet keeping a range of bright colors. Joining the lineup is the first Kona N Line. This sportier version of the sub-compact will run the familiar 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The N Line also features a unique look outside and in. Other updates include larger infotainment screens, an optional digital instrument panel, and more standard safety assists.
Hyundai isn’t holding back with the design and execution of the Kona. For decades Hyundai has been trying to prove itself, measured against the likes of Honda and Toyota. With cars like the Sonata and Tucson trying to edge out incredibly tough competition from Japanese models like the Camry or CR-V. Now Hyundai is staking its claim and showing what it can really do in a new segment where there is no dominant player.
The Kona has quickly established itself as a powerhouse in the hotly contested sub-compact crossover scene. It’s a value-packed model in typical Hyundai tradition, with excellent fuel economy and an above-average safety rating.
Hyundai offers two engine options in the Kona: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine or a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-pot. An all-wheel drive platform is optional on all trims. The Hyundai Kona is also available as an electric vehicle, offering an excellent range for its class. The 2020 Kona manages to capture adequate driving feedback without feeling too sporty.
The Hyundai Kona is made in South Korea and imported into the United States.
Pros/ Available turbo engine / Budget-friendly pricing / An attractive interior design / Personality that matches its looks
Cons/ Styling isn't for everyone / Tight second row / EV ain't cheap
Bottom Line/ With a strong package of stand-out looks, high safety ratings, and affordable starting prices, the Kona is a sub-compact SUV that deserves to be on your short list.
Table of contents
Hyundai Kona Powertrain
Hyundai offers the Kona with two different gas engines, and an EV version.
The base engine is a 2.0-liter inline-four. It produces a decent 147 horsepower backed by 132 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission handles shifting duties with this engine.
Higher trims gain a smaller, turbocharged 1.6-liter. Also a four-cylinder, it packs 175 horsepower and a stout 195 lb-ft of torque. Out goes the six-speed auto, and in comes a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Both internal combustion options come with front-wheel drive as standard, with all-wheel drive optional.
The Kona EV is the most powerful option. Its 150-kw motor translates to 201 horsepower, with a big 291 lb-ft of torque right from 0 rpm. It draws from a 64-kWh battery pack.
Hyundai Kona Fuel Economy
When equipped with the turbocharged 1.6-liter engine and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, the 2020 Hyundai Kona gets an estimated 28 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, or a combined 30 mpg. The base-model 2020 Hyundai Kona still gets an acceptable 27 mpg city and 33 mpg highway.
As an electric car, the 2020 Hyundai Kona EV has an estimated total range of 258 miles. In the US, Hyundai provides a 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty on the 2020 Kona EV batteries.
Hyundai Kona Safety
Now with available forward collision warning, pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, the 2020 Hyundai Kona receives a Top Safety Pick Plus from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. With the above optional equipment, and LED headlights, the Hyundai Kona scores top marks across the board.
Additional safety features include standard six airbags, driver attention warning, blind-spot warning with lane-change assist, and rear cross-traffic alerts.
Hyundai Kona Features
Along with the safety features listed above, the Hyundai Kona has a long list of standard and available options. Standard equipment includes LED daytime running lights, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and dual USB charge ports.
Optional upgrades include LED headlights, LED tail lights, an 8.0-inch infotainment system with navigation, an eight-speaker Infinity premium audio system, adaptive cruise control, wireless phone charging, Bluetooth connectivity, leather seats, heated seats, a power sunroof, and a full-color heads-up display.
Hyundai Kona Pricing
With a starting price of $21,195 including $1,095 in delivery charges, the Hyundai Kona SE should offer excellent value. Jumping up to the SEL trim costs an extra $1,800, while the SE Plus trim is $3,650 more at $24,845. The Kona Limited pricing begins at $26,995, and the Ultimate trim starts at $28,845. All-wheel-drive is optional on all trims, adding $1,400 to the bill.
Hyundai Kona Competitors
The sub-compact crossover segment is still a relatively new one. But, there is a list of competitors that the Kona faces. Other competitors include the Toyota CH-R, Kia Niro, Honda HR-V, and Mazda CX-3.
It’s hard to find an area that the Hyundai Kona doesn’t outshine its competitors. In appearances alone, it’s hard to find something quite as exciting. Hyundai prices the Kona in a budget-friendly place while offering a good selection of standard gear. Styling and interior design help the Hyundai Kona stand out above the rest.
Hyundai Kona Review
by Jodi Lai
Mediocrity is born from being lazy and too comfortable and Hyundai is not having any of that.
Not interested in making lackluster products, Hyundai has taken tangible steps to rise above its competition and those efforts are obvious in the Korean brand’s new Kona, its first subcompact crossover. Although it’s a latecomer to the market, it has learned from the mistakes of its peers (mainly the Toyota C-HR, Honda HR-V, and Mazda CX-3) and will likely become the new segment benchmark.
Based on looks alone, the Hyundai Kona has a lot going for it and could be one of the most stylish CUVs in its class. While the Honda looks frumpy and the Toyota is too divisive (although I love the C-HR’s funky style), the Kona sits in the middle of the style spectrum – different enough to get some eyeballs but not radical enough to turn people off entirely. Although its design isn’t perfect — there’s a bit too much cheap plastic body cladding in some corners and too many fake air intakes — it’s up there in attractiveness with the CX-3 and Jeep Renegade.
The fact that the Kona is offered in some amazing colors like Acid Yellow, Tangerine Comet, and Blue Lagoon along with an optional cool contrast roof will go a long way into getting attention from CUV shoppers. The Kona manages to stand out and actually have a personality, which can’t be said for many of its competitors.
Interior is Actually Interesting
That personality carries over into the interior, which is rare in a class known for its no-frills approach. The Kona is available with Acid Yellow (looks more like lime green) contrast piping in the leather seats or houndstooth cloth, which is cooler than anything in this segment has a right to be (I mean, a Porsche 911 R comes with houndstooth seats). Matching matte-finish Acid Yellow/lime green trim and contrast stitching is optional inside, which I’d say is completely necessary — it livens up the cabin and makes it a lot of fun, although it would clash with most color options. This trim option is only available in the Acid Yellow, but I would have loved to see it available to match all exterior paint colors. Optioned out with these cool touches, the Kona might have the best interior in its class, but without it, it can feel rather ordinary and drab. The fact that it’s well-built, doesn’t feel oppressively cheap, and is logically laid out and functional, however, is a big bonus.
The infotainment system is modern, user-friendly, quick, responsive, and comes in two sizes (in use, it’s much better than what Toyota, Honda, and Mazda offer in this segment and is bested only by Jeep’s excellent UConnect). The physical buttons that flank the touchscreen make it even easier to use and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. Everything is clearly labeled, inherently intuitive, and there are no mystery buttons anywhere.
The only downsides to the interior are that there’s only one USB port and two cigarette lighter adapters, which absolutely no one uses anymore. In 2018, it doesn’t make sense to have just one USB port. They should have gotten rid of the useless lighter adapters and put in two USB ports instead: one for Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and the other for fast charging. Upper trims that have a wireless charging pad that helps matters slightly. There’s also a useful tray in the center console that’s perfect for storing a phone or wallet.
The rear seats are also not terrible, unless someone very tall is in the front, which turns the Kona into a 2+2. Rear seat occupants get no USBs or pretty much anything, but it’s not torture to be back there.
Trunk space measures in at 19.2 cubic feet (544 L) with the seats up and 45.8 cu-ft (1,296 L) with the 40/60 seats folded down. The trunk also has a useful under-floor storage cubby. It’s not as cargo-hungry as the HR-V, but does hold more than the CX-3 and the C-HR.
One standout tech feature is the optional head-up display (though it isn’t a true projector type) that shows a lot of useful information. It’s pretty fantastic that it’s even offered in this price bracket (the CX-3 is the only other one that has one). The Kona is also available with lane-keep assist, forward collision alert with pedestrian detection, rear cross traffic alert, a reverse camera, heated seats, a heated steering wheel, high beam assist, and blind spot monitoring, but no adaptive cruise control, a glaring omission.
Driven on some winding, wet roads around Vancouver Island, British Columbia, the Kona was not at all sloppy, as I was half expecting it to be, because that’s what most other cars in this segment are like. The Kona is surprisingly composed in a corner and although it’s not sporty, it definitely feels solid and not as disconnected and numb as many other cars in this segment.
The suspension is comfortable without being too squishy, and athletic but not crashy over rough roads. The steering had an unexpected heft and crispness to it with only a little looseness on center and it was refreshing to see an automaker other than Mazda step up the level of driving dynamics in this segment. The Toyota C-HR is actually really fun to chuck into corners, but it suffers from not being available with all-wheel drive and from being too slow. The Kona fixes that with an optional turbo engine (no other car in this class offers two engine choices) and optional AWD. Bonus points: The Kona has a locking diff and hill descent control.
ALSO SEE: 2018 Hyundai Kona Pros and Cons
Two engines are available: a base naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque and a 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder with 175 hp and a healthy 195 lb-ft of torque.
The base engine is fine but gets very harsh and loud when stronger acceleration is called for (though it’s still not as awful as the HR-V’s engine). It struggled a lot trying to pass slower traffic or accelerate up a hill. This engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and is rated at 25 mpg in the city, 30 on the highway, and 27 combined (9.2/7.8/8.6 L/100 km) for the AWD model.
The engine you want is the uplevel and refined 1.6-liter turbo, which performs much more convincingly and adds to the Kona’s fun personality. The 1.6L turbo, which is paired with a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, has a healthy amount usable torque early in the rev range, which is always more important than flat out horsepower.
The DCT was also predictable and intuitive — during my time with it, I experienced no weirdness typical to Hyundai DCTs in the past, no juddering at low speeds and no harsh shifts. This engine is expected to get 26 mpg in the city, 29 on the highway, and 27 combined (9.0/8.0/8.6 L/100 km) for the AWD model, exactly the same as the base engine combined, so it’s definitely the more compelling pick of the two.
Add in the fact that the Kona makes a strong value play with a starting price of $20,240 ($22,931 in Canada, all pricing includes destination fees) and a fully loaded ask of an entirely reasonable $29,650 ($33,881 in Canada), and there’s very little reason not to pick this crossover over its competitors.
The Verdict: 2018 Hyundai Kona Review
Hyundai has made a legitimate effort to ensure this car is a segment leader, and the result is a subcompact crossover that easily outshines a lot of its competition in nearly all areas — it has the right stuff to be a segment leader. Many of the Kona’s competitors have a few redeeming factors and are otherwise mediocre, but Kona is the whole package. It’s very refreshing to see a car in this segment that doesn’t cut corners and is genuinely kind of cool.
|Price Range (USD) /||$21,195 – $28,845|
|Engine /||2.0L I4 / 1.6L I4 Turbo / Electric motor|
|Horsepower (hp) /||147 / 175 / 201|
|Torque (lb-ft) /||132 / 195 / 291|
|Fuel Economy /||27/33/30 (FWD 2.0) / 26/29/27 (AWD 1.6) / 258 Miles (EV)|
|Drivetrain /||6AT/7DCT, FWD/AWD|
|Seating capacity /||Five passengers|
|Cargo capacity (cu-ft) /||19.2 / 45.8|
Our Final Verdict
There is a lot of things to like about the Hyundai Kona. The Kona is a fun CUV with a lot of personality inside and out. With front and all-wheel-drive on offer, or as an electric vehicle, you should find the features you need from a CUV. Hyundai has again shown just because it’s late to the game doesn’t mean it’s behind the ball. The Hyundai Kona is very much the segment leader.3.8
|Space and Comfort||6.0|