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Kona: Hyundai’s compact crossover delivers fresh looks, high value

When Hyundai developed the all-new compact platform for the 2018 Kona, it was hoping to offer customers a more authentic SUV experience, which would set the all-new vehicle apart from a crowded field of compact CUVs.

Immediately obvious is the SUV-level ground clearance and elevated seating position in the Kona. This is a significantly bold exterior treatment for Hyundai that offers both distinction and attractive exterior flair equal to living up to the target audience’s active lifestyles.

To say the compact crossover segment is getting crowded is to say the desert is a ‘little dry’ – too many and too much alike makes the segment weaker, not stronger. Crossover SUVs are typically built with car-like construction, base front-wheel and usually optional all-wheel drive, with oft-disproportionately raised road clearance.

Planted to the Pavement

I tested Kona Ultimate with all-wheel drive (AWD) and it offered a distinctly ‘planted’ feel. This can handle a Chicagoland winter and snow with the best of them in the class. The Kona AWD models share an independent, multi-link rear suspension system, which contributes the secure handling. Front-wheel-drive versions use a less-sophisticated torsion beam rear axle.

Impressive Features

I was impressed with Kona’s competitive range of features. Offering such modern safety as forward collision warning and braking, lane-keeping assist, rear cross traffic alert, blind-spot collision warning, and driver attention warning, it raises the bar. Another feature I consider safety is the inclusion of torque vectoring braking, which applies the inside brakes to ease cornering.

Kona has four trim levels: Base S ($20,450); SEL ($22,100); Limited ($25,650); and Ultimate ($29,660). Making it easy to order a Kona is the package that enhances handling, delivers unexpected stability, and a comfortable and quiet ride. According to Hyundai, 52% of the below-skin stuff is comprised of high-strength steel.


Two powerplants are available with the Kona. The first, available on the S and SEL models, is a 147-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to 6-speed automatic transmission. The combo offers an impressive EPA-rated city/highway/combined fuel consumption of 25/30/27. The Kona Limited and my Ultimate tester showed off a 175-horsepower 1.6-L turbo four-cylinder with 195 lb.-ft. of torque. Look for a savvy 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox that provides quick, smooth shifts and a EPA rating of 26/29/27.

My Ultimate tester, with driver-selectable Normal and Sport modes, noticeably changed the transmission shifting and steering feel to a more responsive feel.

Cabin & Tech

Maybe just as impressive was the Ultimate’s interior cabin space and materials. Equipment levels are very impressive and they include LED gauges, a power driver’s seat, heated leather seats, motorized sunroof, automatic climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels, and an innovative head-up display screen that rises from the dashboard and offers comprehensive information on a screen mounted in the driver’s line of sight.

An 8-inch center touchscreen displays vehicle functions as well as navigation, and Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity. In what Hyundai says is a first in the class, the Kona also offers wireless smart phone charging. It is also equipped with Hyundai’s Blue Link system, which offers a variety of services, including remote starting.

Even at the top-level of Kona’s Ultimate trim, still below $30K, this is a responsive and fun crossover that is engineered to drive with personality and a planted feel with AWD. The Hyundai warranty remains at an industry-best level and continues to make these vehicles appear on short lists for every U.S. shopper.

This auto review was researched and written by SteinPro Content Services and provided to the Sun-Times for publication