AUTO REVIEW: Hyundai’s 2018 Kona Small Crossover Starts at $19,500, Offers All-Wheel Drive

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Hyundai Kona
2018 Hyundai Kona (Hyundai)

For 2018, Hyundai has added a new subcompact crossover SUV to its lineup, with lots to offer for the money and features buyers want in a versatile family vehicle, as well as Hyundai’s excellent warranty.

The new Kona is available in four trims: SE, $19,500; SEL, $21,150; Limited, $24,700; and Ultimate, $27,400.

Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive adding $1,300. AWD comes with a more-sophisticated rear suspension for a more-composed ride, and a locking center differential to enhance off-road traction.

Kona SE and SEL come with a 147-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, with a six-speed automatic transmission. Limited and Ultimate (the one I drove) have a 175-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, paired with a seven-speed EcoShift dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Exterior styling includes heavy creasing on the hood, front and rear fenders, door panels and rear quarters to the taillights, and rocker panels. Gray body cladding extends from the wheel arches to include the headlight and taillight housings.

Five LED lights make up the distinct slim Daytime Running Lights at the junction of the hood and front fascia. Kona’s six-sided grille is trimmed in chrome and has a slightly curved side.

My Kona Ultimate with AWD was metallic Thunder Gray with Black leather interior (seating, steering wheel, shift knob) trimmed in Lime Green and Gloss Black. Lime Green on the lighted start button, round side air vents, elongated dual center vents, and shifter surround, along with piping and top-stitching on front seat bolsters, and front and rear headrests, and top-stitching on rear outboard seats added a touch of fun. Interior materials were average, with hard plastics textured for appearance and feel.

Gloss Black front and rear door handles were a departure from silver or chrome. Gloss Black also trimmed the vents, A/C control buttons, lower steering wheel spoke, shifter knob and shifter surround.

Seven exterior colors are available, depending on the trim chosen: Chalk White, Sonic Silver, Surf Blue, Lime Twist, Pulse Red, our Thunder Gray, and Ultra Black. SEL also offers a black or dark gray roof with Sonic Silver, Surf Blue, or Pulse Red exterior paint.

The five-spoke 18-inch wheels were attractive, with silver-painted machined fronts and gray painted pockets. The spokes were canted from the hub for an interesting effect.

Interior colors depend on trim selection and exterior color. Cloth interiors in SE and SEL come in black, and black with gray, while leather interiors in Limited and Ultimate models come in black, gray, or black with Lime. Building your Kona is easy; choosing a color combination may take longer.

Entry and exit were easy, thanks to large door openings and higher seat cushions. The seat cushions suited my short legs, but were a little short for a passenger with longer legs. The front seats were otherwise comfortable and easy to adjust for fit, especially in combination with the tilt/telescopic steering wheel. The perforated leather upholstery allowed adequate air circulation.

The versatile steering wheel had cruise control, phone, audio controls (volume, mode and tune), and vehicle info access and configuration.

The 60/40 split-folding rear seat was able to accommodate two average-size adults or three children or small adults. The cushioning was flatter, and slightly less comfortable, and legroom was almost seven inches less – 41.5 vs. 34.6 inches. Headroom was better, almost identical to the front seats – 38 vs. 37.8 inches.

Interior storage was limited, with a small shelf under the center stack, a small bin under the center armrest, small door pockets (very small bottle pockets) and small cupholders.

Each trim builds on the previous, usually adding more technology.

My Ultimate added heated side mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, heated front seats, Blind-Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, and satellite radio over the base equipment on the SE. The sunroof and power-adjustable driver’s seats that were options were also added. LED taillights, 18-inch wheels, and leather upholstery were added above the SEL.

Also included were automatic wipers, Hyundai Blue Link communications, a Head-up Display, an eight-inch touch screen, a navigation system, a wireless charging pad on the center console, and a 4.2-inch color Multi-Information Display (shows distance to empty, average fuel consumption, average speed, elapsed time, and instant fuel consumption).

The Hyundai Smart Sense suite of advanced safety features including Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Driver Attention Warning, Lane Keeping Assist and High Beam Assist, and an Infinity premium audio with Clari-Fi Music Restoration Technology, eight speakers including subwoofer and external amplifier were exclusive to the Ultimate.

Driver Attention Warning analyzes driving patterns and warns the driver via audible tone or visual alert on the instrument panel that it is time for a break. Kona Ultimate is the only vehicle in its class to offer wireless charging and the Driver Attention Warning system. All advanced safety features are well tuned to avoid annoying false alarms.

The eight-inch touch screen has a Rear View Monitor with parking guidance for safely backing up and parking. The screen sits on top of the dash above the center console, easy to see and reach. A/C controls located below the middle vents were simple, well labeled, and easy to use.

Blue Link, Hyundai’s Connected Car Service, allows owners to start and cool or warm the vehicle with a few taps in a smartphone/smartwatch app or by saying “Alexa, start my car and set the temperature at X degrees.” The vehicle will run for 10 minutes, or a timer may be set, and the doors remain locked.

Also using a smartphone/smartwatch/connected home device and a PIN, doors can be locked/unlocked. Doors lock after 30 seconds if not opened. If you should lock your keys inside, MyHundai with Blue Link Mobile App on your smart device can unlock the doors – unless the phone is also locked inside.

Operators can get a full diagnostic check from the touch screen, schedule services, and get reminders for routine maintenance.

With an app or in-car voice commands, destination search by Google will help locate a restaurant, gas station, etc., and send directions to the vehicle’s navigation system. Blue Link will help locate your car – within a one-mile radius, and drop a pin on a map on your smartphone. A stolen car can be located sooner, its location provided to law enforcement, and the engine immobilized until it is recovered.

In case you need roadside assistance, Blue Link can provide an assistance staff member the exact location of your vehicle. Blue Link also provides parents with peace of mind with Geofence, curfew, and speed alerts to help keep track of young drivers.

Blue Link also provides automatic collision notification and assistance if an accident causes air bags to deploy. An SOS button allows the operator to contact 911 anytime. A text or email notification can alert a designated person/people if the panic button has been triggered.

Important information such as speed, cruise control, navigation turn-by-turn, and safety features such as blind-spot warning were projected on a pop-up transparent panel just above the instrument panel on the dash in the driver’s line of sight, so eyes never needed to leave the road.

Kona is a versatile vehicle, seating up to five, with above average cargo space at 19.2 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 45.8 cubic feet with the seat folded, while being small enough to navigate tight spaces and park easily.

The ride is smooth on most roads, but a little rough on broken pavement. Road noise came through on almost every surface, although not enough to be intrusive.

The drive was easy, with only a slight delay out of the gate, getting up to speed quickly and shifting smoothly. Visibility forward and around curves is good, with the rearview camera filling in the spaces while in reverse. Braking is appropriately firm, while poised and controllable under heavy braking.

Built-in navigation has quick responses and easy-to-read graphics, although with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the navigation system and other infotainment features may be redundant.

Kona isn’t a serious off-road vehicle, but some of us like to take a road less traveled, and Kona does that with ease and comfort. Hill Brake Control was welcome on the steeper roads I encountered.

The Hyundai Kona has a 10 years/100,00 miles powertrain warranty, 5 years/60,000 miles new vehicle warranty, 7 years perforation warranty, and 5 years 24/7 Roadside Assistance with towing, trip interruption assistance (lodging if needed), help for a flat tire, dead battery, or if you run out of gas.

With Carpeted Floor Mats adding $125 and destination charges of $980, the delivered price for my Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD was $29,805.