Pros-Sleek. Lively. Agile. Nice ride. Fairly roomy. Decent fuel economy. Front- or optional all-wheel drive. Safety items.
Cons-Narrow rear door openings. Sport mode uncomfortable for normal driving. Moderate-size cargo area without rear seat backs folded.
Bottom Line-Stylish and versatile.
The 2018 Hyundai Kona
is nicely suited to the booming crossover market. Combine sexy styling, practicality and lively performance and a choice of front-or optional all-wheel-drive and you've got the Kona.
The four-door hatchback compact Kona has aggressive body styling with a low, wide stance, long wheelbase and short overhangs that make city parking easier. Its low front end has Hyundai's cascading grille with a sporty mesh pattern that's flanked by wing-like fenders. Contrasting black "armor" visually connects the front to the rear and doesn't come off looking overdone.
My test Kona really stood out with its Pulse Red paint and black roof. You can get a Kona in a variety of colors, including Ultra Black, Sonic Silver and Surf Blue. The roof is finished with an optional color-contrasting color scheme, proving high contrast between the body and wheels for a distinctive look.
The Kona costs approximately $19,500 to $28,700 and comes in Limited, SE, SEL and Ultimate trim levels. The Kona is offered with front- or optional all-wheel drive, but isn't suited for rough off-road use. Rather, it's a good road machine, with a supple suspension that soaks up bumps and has enough comfortable room for four adults. However, a 6-footer with long legs behind a driver doesn't have much leg room to spare. And rear door openings are rather narrow.
Large exterior/interior door handles assist sliding and out, and occupants sit high. The optional all-wheel-drive system and drivetrain is packaged to offer a roomy interior despite the Kona's compact exterior dimensions. However, although a driver sits high, the hood slopes so sharply that he must be careful to avoid the low front end from hitting such objects as solid parking area barriers.
The trunk is fairly large, and the 60/40 split folding rear seat backs are easily flipped down to greatly enlarge the cargo area. The rear hatch raises smoothly on twin hydraulic struts, although my test Kona's hatch sometimes was reluctant to immediately go up because it didn't respond immediately to the key fob's command.
Powering the Kona is a 2-liter four-cylinder engine with 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet or torque or a turbocharged 1.6-liter motor with 175 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. My test Kona had the non-turbo engine, which mildly droned under hard acceleration. It works with a smooth 6-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. The turbo engine is coupled to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic and is offered for Limited and Ultimate trim levels.
The 2-liter engine provided lively in-town performance and decent 65-75 m.p.h. passing on highways. Estimated fuel economy was 27 city, 33 highway. Kona economy ranges from 28 in the city to 33 on highways, depending on the engine/transmission combination.
I drove the $21,300 front-drive Kona SEL with the 6-speed automatic, which can be put in Normal or Sport mode. The latter manages driving dynamics by adjusting the steering effort and engine and transmission control logic for enhanced driving performance. Normal mode is best for most driving because the Sport mode causes excessive revs during regular driving and makes the steering rather heavy.
The Kona has an all-new platform. The supple suspension easily soaks up bumps, and the motor-driven power steering is responsive. Stable handling is helped by electronic stability control and traction control systems. The four-wheel disc brakes with downhill brake control and hill-start assist control work with an easily modulated pedal.
My test car's quiet interior was upscale, with such things as attractive checkered upholstery. There was a good amount of plastic used but it had a nice pebble surface. There also was a pushbutton start and easily reached controls for the power windows and the large, heated outside mirrors. Air conditioning and Android Auto & Apple CarPlay capability were standard. The 7-inch color touchscreen was easy to use, and the dashboard had handy auxiliary controls. All doors had large storage pockets, and the console cupholders were placed to help avoid spills.
The manual front seats provided unusually good support and the wide-range tilt/telescopic steering wheel will help a variety of different-sized drivers get more comfortable. Available for Kona's are a power driver's seat, leather heated seats, automate sir conditioning and a heads-up display.
Safety feature highlights include side curtain air bags with rollover sensors. There's also blind-spot collision warning with lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic collision warning, forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection and driver attention warning.
Fluid filler areas are easily reached once the extra-heavy hood is held open with a prop rod. Struts would make it less of a muscle builder unless you want to leave the checks to a mechanic.
Hyundai calls the Kona an "active lifestyle" vehicle, and thus it's fittingly named after the west coast region of Hawaii's big island.