Hyundai is rolling into the compact SUV market, or some would say sub-compact SUV market with the KONA in a big way. This is a unique vehicle, with sharp angles, and defined lines. The front of the KONA is distinct. Look at all the lights on this thing. Look at the narrow lines on the lights that flow into the body lines.
Somehow, in a world of cars and SUV's that are all starting to look the same, Hyundai has produced an little SUV that manages to stand out, in a subtle but distinct way. The Kona manages to defy description, defy convention, and defy the odds, by taking what should be an average run of the mill also ran vehicle, and turning it into something - just slightly different.
The KONA comes with two engine options...the 1.6 litre turbo four which produces 175 horsepower, or the 2.0 litre normally aspirated four cylinder engine. Our test vehicle was equipped with the 2.0 litre engine, producing just 145 horsepower.
Other automotive journalists will tell you to buy the turbo four and that's o.k, because it is more powerful and more fun, but if you are going to keep the Kona longer than three or four years, we suggest buying the 2.0 litre engine. Turbo's in general will not last as long as a non-turbo motor, and they can be expensive to repair. So think about how long you plan to keep the vehicle, before you make your engine choice. The 2.0 litre engine also comes with a smoother shifting transmission.
The Kona is competing against vehicles like the Mazda CX3, the Nissan Rogue Sport, Chevy Trax, and Kia Soul. Inside it's comfortable. The seats in our test vehicle were supportive. It was a pleasure to drive. The handling was nimble and responsive. A multi-link rear suspension is available. Cabin noise was average, to slightly noisier than some of its competitors.
The KONA has a very rigid superstructure, with the result being no rattles inside, and solid positive handling. It's a good design...well engineered.
On the downside, cargo space is a bit restricted. Open the hatch and there is enough room for a few bags of groceries but not much else. If you have hockey equipment for more than one kid, or even golf clubs, you're probably going to need to fold down the seats, so check out the cargo space to make sure the Kona is really going to meet your needs before signing a purchase agreement.
On the other hand, Hyundai is calling the an SUV for the city, and from that perspective it performs nicely. It is a nice little compact, that handles well in traffic is easy to park and looks modern.
The infotainment system was the first thing we noticed climbing into the Kona. It's one of the easiest to use. The protruding touch screen, which is a Hyundai style que, is different. We liked it, but opinions from people we showed, varied. You'll need to decide for yourself. The steering wheel audio controls, cruise control switches and other control knobs are all laid out logically.
Fuel economy is average at 28 miles per gallon in the city, and about 32 miles per gallon on the highway. In our case, the mileage we experienced wasn't quite that good, probably because the engine was a little sluggish and so I had to hit the accelerator harder sometimes. You can flip between driving modes though, and there is an economy mode that will help you maximize fuel economy.
Hyundai offers the Kona in four distinct trims—SE, SEL, Limited, and Ultimate—but the Limited trim level strikes the best balance of price and equipment.
Go to the top end and you will get • Leather seats with eight-way power adjustments for the driver • Power sunroof and front fog lights • Single-zone automatic climate control
Our test vehicle came with a back up camera, and lane keep assist, but to get all of today's modern electronic devices to enhance safety and convenience you will need to upgrade to the upper trim levels.
The KONA is a good compact SUV. It will appeal to younger buyers mainly because of the modern styling, but in terms of performance and functionality this is a vehicle that ranks consistently near the middle of the pack in its class. Hyundai has a good 10-year powertrain warranty, so that helps make the KONA a safe choice, but only time will tell if these are high quality long lasting durable vehicles.