Hyundai’s SUV Family now consists of five models. This is an expression of Hyundai’s success and passion to fill every gap in its model range. With the recent addition of Venue, The Korean company has no reason to complain. There is a Hyundai SUV for every budget and taste now. As per Automotive News, in the USA in 2019, SUV’s made up 53 percent of Hyundai sales south of the border. In Canada, the picture should not be much different. The Kona, introduced in late 2017 and sold in North America since 2018 in one of the three top-selling models in Canada.
Exterior and Interior
Kona has Hyundai’s main design elements. It looks similar to its bigger sisters, Santa Fe and Palisade. It has daytime running lights on top, and low/high beams placed at the bottom. It is a small sized SUV, but it has sporty design elements. That being said, there are some design features such as side plastic protection covers to make it look more rugged.
The interior of the Kona looks similar to the Veloster. There are lots of common parts used in many Hyundai models. There is some soft and hard touch plastics, which is expected for this price range. Where it falls behind is the overall legroom, especially in the rear. It is one of the smallest entries in the subcompact SUV class. However, front seats are really comfortable and have sufficient legroom and headroom. The driver’s seating position is also comfortable, and it feels more like a car rather than an SUV, this is where you feel that it is a driver-oriented SUV.
Overall user-friendliness is very good. You only need few minutes to get used to layout if you are new to a Hyundai. The instrument cluster and the infotainment screen are easy to use. Important features have dedicated buttons, so it is not 100% relying on the digital screen/infotainment system.
Speaking of the infotainment system, it is very good. For this price range, it is one of the best in its class. It also comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This is a car that is designed for Millennials and young people, so that’s why there are lots of modern features available. If you choose the top trim, it comes with an 8-way power-adjustable driver seat, lumbar support, a head-up display, an 8-inch color touchscreen, wireless charging, heated steering wheel, sunroof, lane keep assist, and so on. Please visit https://www.hyundaicanada.com/en/showroom/2020/kona/specs for more details.
Engine and Drivetrain
Hyundai Kona comes with two different engines depending on the trim. Lower trims come with a 2.0L naturally aspirated engine which produces 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. If you choose upper trims, it comes with a 1.6L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that produces 175 horsepower and 193 lb-ft of torque. This 1.6 turbo engine offers the most horsepower in the subcompact SUV class, and due to its size, it makes the car really peppy. It is not super fast, but it is fast enough for daily driving and easy to use due to its torque curve. Our tester’s fuel consumption was 9.5L / 100 km which is quite impressive for an All wheel drive vehicle.
Kona also comes with two different automatic transmission options. The base engine is matched with 6-speed torque converter automatic transmission, whereas the 1.6 turbo engine has the 7-speed Dual-clutch transmission. In our tests, the 7-speed transmission is almost as smooth as torque converter automatic, but there are few occasions where you feel jerkiness and rough shifting especially when it gets hot.
Speaking of getting hot, if you are planning to take the Kona to off-road, dual-clutch transmissions are not the best option. As it is an automated manual transmission, it still has clutch operation, and if you do off-roading, it will overheat. This is where you should consider regular torque converter automatic transmission option.
Regardless of the transmission, Kona is not a heavy-duty off-road vehicle and the AWD system is not designed for that. It is an on-demand system and it activates rear wheels whenever it needs. If you drive it normally, it sends power to the front wheels only.
This is where Kona shines, compared to some other subcompact SUVs. Due to its peppy engine, it makes Kona fun to drive. This is one of the most driver-oriented option in this segment. What we didn’t like about Kona is, you are not allowed to fully disable the stability control. You can disable the traction control and stability control, but the car will get involved whenever you try to go sideways. We would like to disable it fully to get the most out of the all-Wheel Drive system, especially from a driver-oriented SUV.
Overall steering feeling and handling are nice, though you are sitting noticeably higher in Kona, than a compact hatchback or sedan. That means you have a significantly higher center of gravity, so it is not a corner carver by any means. However, it is quite impressive considering this is a subcompact SUV.
Pricing and Conclusion
Hyundai Kona starts at $21,249 and goes all the way up to $32,249. If you want absolute base trim but need All Wheel Drive, it starts at $27,149. Kona offers great features for the price range, we believe this is one of the best bang for the buck in its class. If you need a small SUV that offers lots of features and easy to use, definitely check out the new Kona.
Great engine and transmission combination (on pavement)
Great driving dynamics
Lots of features for this price range
Ease of use – buttons, infotainment, gauge cluster