Detroit, Mich.- Hyundai, South Korea's largest automaker,
showcased its all-new compact crossover to visiting regional auto writers while
simultaneously dispelling the nagging rumor of Detroit's impending demise.
Midwestern marketing team, based near Detroit, designed a drive route for the
2018 Kona that serpentined through rejuvenated neighborhoods in Detroit proper
paralleling Woodward Avenue, a historical stretch of pavement starting in the
heart of downtown and stretching mightily into suburbia. Motown Mojo was on
full display (with jolting sounds of 24-hour jack hammers) and while this once
beleaguered city is decades away from equaling Chicago's own building and
cultural renaissance of the late 20th century, residents and business
have made concerted investments to energize Detroit's City Center.
all-new Kona went on sale in mid-March, one of eight all-new or significantly
updated vehicles Hyundai introduces within a busy 2018 calendar year, mostly
in-demand five-door crossovers of varying size and capacity.
Hyundai's U.S. sales are down about seven percent this year through May, a new
product onslaught is underway. "Were planning to be up by the end of the
year by 10 percent (in U.S. sales) in a difficult market," according to
Brian Smith, Chief Operating Officer of Hyundai North America.
noted Kona's upward trajectory, with increased sales each month the all-new
Kona has been available. The 2,000 sales in March were bested by
3,500 units in April and 5,000 in May. "It's growing quickly and almost 60
percent of Kona buyers are new to the Hyundai brand," Smith added.
pegs Kona as a compact-sized five-door crossover, slightly shorter in length
than another long established compact crossover, Tuscan, introduced in the 2005
model year. Of the two, Kona boasts a stylish attitude, with enhanced
maneuverability ready to tackle tight parking spaces in urban jungles such as
Chicago or Detroit.
Kona's new platform boasts 52 percent
high strength steel contributing to a ridged body structure translating to an
enhanced ride quality. By contrast Honda's diminutive HR-V crossover
utilizes approximately 27 percent high-strength steel.
available in four trim levels with two four-cylinder powertrains (one naturally
aspirated, the other turbocharged). Front-wheel and Midwest-friendly all-wheel
drive are offered in all trims. The front-wheel biased all-wheel
drive mechanism automatically sends power to the rear wheel (up to 50 percent)
when slippage gets detected. However, if desired, a button near the
transmission shifter can lock the split at a constant 50/50 depending upon
The 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four
cylinder engine, available in SE and SEL trims, delivers 147 horsepower and
teams with a six-speed automatic transmission. For more spirited
experiences, the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine cranks out 175 horses in Limited
and Ultimate. Regular 87-octane fuel fills the 13.2 gallon tank.
1.6 turbo connects with a dual clutch transmission. From a driver's
operating perspective, a dual clutch transmission operates like a conventional
transmission (no foot clutch). From a technology standpoint, a DCT
offers quick and efficient (and automatic) shifting via electronic wizardry,
maximizing low-end torque distribution for a sharper experience than
experienced from a conventional automatic or a passive-type CVT
(continuously variable transmission).
During the shuffle
through Detroit, a top-trim Limited with turbocharged engine and seven-speed
dual clutch transmission served as our Motown guide. Kona's with
all-wheel drive include a fully independent rear suspension in place of the
front-wheel drive's torsion beam rear suspension, adding a bit more planted
Pricing starts at $19,500 for a front-wheel
drive SE. Our all-wheel-drive fully-loaded Limited came in at $28,700
plus an additional $950 for destination.
Apple Car Play and
Android Auto come standard across all trim levels, allowing easy Smartphone
interaction with the standard seven-inch touch flat screen that jets above the
center console. Wireless charging benefitting newer iPhone products and Samsung
products is available solely in the Ultimate trim.
nine exterior colors offered, the neon-ish 'Lime Twist' stands out above all
else and includes a black interior with lime accents for good measure (in
Limited and Ultimate trims only). Kona's also offered with a
contrasting-colored roof in SEL trims. More than half of Konas come
standard with a power sunroof.
Kona's design attitude is
evident up front with a prominent, vertically integrated 'cascading front
grille.' Low profile roof rails add to Kona's crouched 61.6-inch silhouette, a
bit shorter than a majority of cute utes with its rising side beltline
accentuating the low profile.
Flanking this prominent front
are small, slit-like bejeweled daytime running lights high atop the front
corners. Headlights reside below in their own separate compartment in a design
not dissimilar to what Jeep incorporates into its mid-size Cherokee.
lights also tag the narrow design wrapping around the hatchback door.
Dark, protective lower body cladding hugs the circular wheel wells and lower
Don't let diminutive 164 inches in length dissuade a
visit inside. Kona's new platform maximizes powertrain packaging to create
additional cabin space. Headroom for those with vertical dimensions above the
median height will enjoy plentiful front headroom.
trims include 'torque vectoring,' reducing understeer during aggressive braking
and contributing a more natural turning sensation, notable during
several stop-light-free 'roundabouts' throughout metro Detroit.
also encountered the highly suspect "Michigan Left," maneuver found
at designated stop-light intersections. This head-scratching ballet involves
shooting past the intersection (during the green light phase of course) and
quickly but carefully maneuvering into the far left lane for an eventual and
conventional 'U-turn,' which directs one back towards the original four corners
for an eventual right turn (competing the once simple left turn). Local Michiganders
may sing the praises of this Hokey Pokey 'turn yourself around' nonsense, but
give us proud Flatlanders a friendly left-turn signal any day of the week.
the upcoming 2019 model year starting around September, Kona adds an additional
USB port to the standard equipment array. Also, forward collision
avoidance assist and lane keep assist, now only in Limited, become standard
across the board, a smart move to better compete with Toyota's
'Safety Sense,' an array of high-tech nuances standard in all Toyotas. One
aspect Toyota can't match: Hyundai's 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
in 2019, Hyundai introduces an alternative-powered Kona. The Kona EV plug-in
promises a range of 250 miles on a full charge, joining a growing list of
compact EVs including the Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf and Hyundai's own Ioniq
family of vehicles (which includes an all-electric offering). Look
for a graduated introduction of Kona EV with coastal states first in line. The
Chicago area may have to wait a bit for Kona EVs.
Price as tested: $29,650
Overall Length: 164.0 inches
Width: 170.9 inches
Overall Height: 61.6 inches
Economy: 26 mpg city; 29 mpg highway
Powertrain warranty: 10
Assembly: South Korea