AFTER SPECTACULAR DEBUT, HYUNDAI KONA SUBCOMPACT SUV PRETTY MUCH HAS IT ALL
Introduced as a 2018 model, the Hyundai Kona subcompact SUV wasted little time making an impression when judges at the North American Auto Show in Detroit selected it as the 2019 North American Utility Vehicle of the Year, making it the first in its class to be so honored.
Previous winners of the award created in 2017 to go with Car of the Year and Truck of the Year were the Volvo XC60 and the reintroduced Chrysler Pacific and the winner for 2020 was the Kia Telluride, all larger and higher priced than the spunky little vehicle that gets its name from the west coast of the big island of Hawaii.
Slotted between the new smaller Venue and the slightly larger Tucson in the South Korean automaker’s SUV/crossover lineup, the Kona comes in five trims for 2020.
The base SE starts at $20,300, the SEL $22,100, and the SEL Plus (added after the initial launch) $23,950 in front-wheel-drive configuration with each getting a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine mated with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
The Kona Limited and Kona Ultimate on which this review get a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine mated with a 7-speed double-clutch transmission and carry starting MSRPs of $26,100 and $27,950, respectively, for FWD models.
AWD adds $1,400 to each of the trims.
The good thing, especially if you have trouble making decisions, is that the prices include all but the destination and delivery charge of $1,095 and small extras like carpeted floor mats ($135).
Instead of confusing option and optional features to a trim, the standard equipment list keeps expanding as you move up the line.
Thus from such standard features on 16-inch alloy wheels, lane-keeping assist, driver attention warning, rear-view monitor with parking guidance, LED daytime running lights, remote keyless entry, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power windows, a 7-inch LCD touchscreen displays and a cargo area cover on SE models moving up to the top-of-the-line Ultimate gets you 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, proximity key with push-button start, leather seats with leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a head-up display, 8-inch color touchscreen with navigation, and rain-sensing wipers.
Parking distance warning and forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection also are among standard safety features on the Ultimate model. For 2020, Hyundai made adaptive cruise control standard for the Ultimate.
The 1.6L turbo engine gives the Kona a much livelier performance than the 2.0L on the SE, SEL, and SEL Plus trims. It is rated at 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque compared to the 147/132 numbers on the normally aspirated 4-bangers with a negligible difference in fuel economy numbers.
Both engines drink regular gas with the 1.6L turbo rated at 28 miles-per-gallon city, 32 highway and 30 combined on FWD models compared to 27/33/30 for the 2.0L AWD drive trims. With AWD, the numbers are 26/29/27 for the 1.6L turbo and 26/30/28 the 2.0L.
As I said, a negligible difference.
You can tailor your driving mode depending on your mood. Feeling frugal? Normal mode prioritizes fuel economy over performance. Feeling frisky? Sport mode adds to more rapid get-off-the-line responses and earlier downshifts when braking.
I didn’t drive the 2.0L engine, but splurging for the 1.6L turbo would seem to be worth the extra cost. Zeroto60times.com did not have a listing for the 2020 model but the 2019 Kona Ultimate with AWD was clocked at a respectable 6.3 seconds, making the Kona one of the zippiest in its class.
The overall ride is comfortable and quiet enough, and the simplicity of the infotainment operation makes it even more so, especially when going solo.
Cabin comforts for the 5-passenger Kona are first-rate with none of the feeling of cheapness you often get from vehicles at the low-end of the pricing chart. Ultimate and Limited editions get leather seats, which adds to the ambiance.
All models also get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay among standard tech features, and SEL Plus, Limited, and Ultimate also come with Blind Spot Warning and a three-year subscription to Hyundai’s Blue Link connectivity services.
I should also mention here that the Kona also is available with an electric drivetrain, but that is a separate model. It has an estimated range of 258 miles on a full charge.
What I liked about the 2020 Hyundai Kona Ultimate: The Kona comes with a lot of standard technology and other features that make for a very comfortable fit while keeping the MSRP well under $30,000. As usual with vehicles from the South Korean automaker, the tech functions are very user friendly and take very little getting used do. Features like lane-keeping assist and driver assist are not overbearing as on some competitors.
What I didn’t like about the 2020 Hyundai Kona Ultimate: The back seat is a bit cramped (less than 35 inches of legroom) and there isn’t a lot in the way of cargo room (19.2 cubic feet) for its class. That’s more than found on your usual sedan (even full-size models) but barely more than what the smaller Venue offers.
Would I guy the 2020 Hyundai Kona Ultimate? Yes. It’s among the best in its class and offers a ton of features at a competitive price. If you want to get away from a sedan (as many buyers are) but are shying away from a larger SUV/crossover, this may be perfect for you.