Tuesday, August 6, 2019


Still a relative newcomer in the subcompact SUV segment, Hyundai’s Kona crossover quickly has established itself as one of the best in its class.

Last January the Hyundai Kona and its electric version Kona EV a panel of 54 judges at the 2019 North American International Auto Show in Detroit selected the Kona over the Jaguar I-Pace and Acura RDX as the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year, arguably the most prestigious award in the industry.

Other awards from media organizations and publications have followed with the most recent recognition from the New England Motor Press Association as “Best-in-Class Subcompact SUV.” Edmunds also named the Kona EV its “Editors’ Choice” among all electric vehicles because of its long range, affordable price, and pleasing driving experience.

And Kona — an Hawaiian name for a strong southwesterly wind that often brings rain — has moved into the No. 5 spot among the South Korean automaker’s best sellers with 43,466 Konas sold in the first seven months this year.

Introduced as a 2018 model at the Los Angeles Auto Show in the fall of 2017, the Kona now comes with safety upgrades like forward collision-avoidance assist, lane-keeping assist, and driver attention warning as standard for 2019. Collision-avoidance wasn’t available on 2018 models, and lane-keeping and driver attention were not available on the base model.

Hyundai recently that adaptable cruise control, labeled “Smart” Cruise Control, will be available on top-of-the-line Ultimate trim 2020 Kona models. 

Ultimate is one of four Kona trims along with SE, SEL, and Limited. Base pricing runs from $21,085 (including destination and delivery) to $33,045 for the special “Iron Man edition” depending on the engine (a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder or a 1.6-liter, turbo-4) and transmission (6-speed automatic or 7-speed dual-clutch).

This review is based on the Ultimate trim equipped with the 1.6-turbo engine and 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. It delivers horsepower and torque numbers of  175 hp and 195 pound-feet, respectively, for a brisk ride while still demonstrating fuel economy with numbers of 28 miles-per-gallon city, 32 highway, and 30 combined.

The Kona Electric is rated at 201 hp with mileage ratings of 132 MPGe city and 108 MPGe highway with an impressive range of 258 miles, more than double that of the electric version of its Ioniq cousin (124 miles).

My test vehicle Kona Ultimate came with front-wheel drive, though all-wheel drive is available, which impinges slightly on on fuel economy numbers.

The Ultimate version of the Kona lives up to its name with a long list of standard features that make adding options unnecessary.

In addition to the safety features already mentioned (pay attention!) are blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, rear parking distance warning, and front, front side and side-curtain airbags and rollover sensors.

Also included in the Ultimate’s $27,500 MSRP are an 8-inch color touchscreen with navigation and rear-view monitor, leather seating surfaces, power sunroof, proximity key with push-button start, tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, heads-up display,wireless device charging, rain-sensing wipers, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth connectivity, Infinity premium sound system, and Hyundai’s Blue Link services (think OnStar). It rides on standard 18-inch wheels.

Along with the destination charge, the only extra in pricing was $125 in floor mats that ran the total to $28,605.

For that you get a very capable crossover SUV that is fun to drive, comfortable to ride in, and practical as well. Plus one it doesn’t have the funky styling of some past Hyundai SUVs yet remains distinctive as well.

What I liked about the 2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate: The “pulse red” color is spectacular. There are lots of standard features for a vehicle that checks in at under $29,000. Technological features are very user friendly. The lively performance was an unexpected bonus, yet its fuel efficiency rates among the leaders among its non-hybrid, non-electric competitors in the subcompact SUV segment.

What I didn’t like about the 2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate: The rear storage space isn’t the most generous, even for its class. At 19.2 cubic feet, it should be adequate for most tasks, however. It expands to 45.8 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. Legroom in the back is only 34.9 inches, but you have to remember this is a subcompact that is only 164 inches long with a wheelbase of 102.4 inches.

Would I buy the 2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate? Yes. It’s a nice fit between a sedan and a larger SUV.

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