The Sub-Crossover We Actually Want: 2018 Hyundai Kona 1.6T
It’s not often that a car company steps out of the ordinary, takes a leap of faith and develops a car that’s not quite like the others. Of course, this is all in terms of styling – with four wheels, an engine, and a steering wheel, naturally the all-new Hyundai Kona is like other sub-compact crossovers on the market. But with a spunky look, and a groovy persona – Hyundai’s latest addition to their lineup is causing waves off the coast of Hawaii.
Given its Hawaiian name, the attempt that Hyundai has is similar to what Isuzu had with the VehiCROSS and Pontiac with the Aztek – will it’s fun name and chunky body be enough to swoon over the younger generation looking for something to match their athletic lifestyle? We seem to think so. The Hyundai Kona is all about having an adventure – its jazzy concept with split headlights, plastic body cladding and squinty taillights carries a handsome presence to overall demeanor.
For being a small sub-compact crossover, the Kona comes with a big package. The interior is more spacious than it looks with comfortable seating for four. While no one wants to be a rear passenger in any small car, we find the backseat in the Kona is content – leg room is scares but not unfavorable. With the Kona Ultimate, the interior is elevated with leather seating and some amusing green trimming, heated seats and a power adjustments for the driver.
Hyundai could have had their fun with the Kona, instead they kept it tasteful in terms of the overall interior design. With some bright green accent pieces, the Kona upholds that traditional Hyundai appeal with soft touch materials, premium finished control functions and an ergonomic scheme. With the Ultimate, it serves as a one stop shop – hence its title. For $3000 over the Limited, the Ultimate gets a gimmicky color Heads-up Display, largest 8-inch touch screen infotainment system, upgraded Infinity sound system, and all the latest safety-ware, excluding adaptive cruise control, which is not available on the Kona.
Starting at $19,000, entry level Kona’s: SE and SEL get the base 2.0-liter, 147-horspower four-cylinder engine – same engine found in the Hyundai Elantra. The Limited and Ultimate get the more juicy 1.6-liter turbocharged engine; however, unlike the Elantra Sport, this little hot-cross has been dialed back from 201-hp to 175. With just 6.5-seconds to 60mph, the Kona certainly has spirit. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic plays a fair roll in its sporty credentials with zippy responses and a can do attitude.
Sitting on a confident chassis that Kona has quite a few tricks up its little wheelbase. It’s a fun little rig. Boosted by the turbocharged engine, the Kona feels lively and energetic. With very limited turbo lag from the engine, the Kona provides a well-rounded engaging driving platform. Torque comes in at the low part of the RPM’s and continues to spikes throughout its rev limiter providing consistent flowing power – the Kona never seems to fall hesitant to performance is always ready to pass slower traffic.
The chassis has been well-engineered for in tuned driving behavior with positive feedback from the steering and handling. In the corners, there is presence of body lean but isn’t overbearing. The suspension copes well with the rough stuff for the day-to-day use and provides that subtle comfortbility we enjoy over long term driving. Then we find this little round button with SPORT on it – this unsuspecting crossover becomes a little road warrior with sharper gear responses and throttle mapping. The steering gets a little more dialed in and the Kona becomes this diminutive wannabe street racer.
Being in the sub-compact crossover category, the Kona holds a tiny upper hand, for $1300, the Kona can come with all-wheel drive – but unlike sub-utes like the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V, the Kona comes with a locking differential – to you off-road people, you know what this means. This means the Kona can go a little farther and a little deeper than most AWD crossovers – granted its ground clearance may be more of a challenge than the terrain. But it’s nice to know that when the going gets tough, there’s a button to make things a smidge bit easier.
Kona’s biggest competitor is the Subaru Crosstrek – and while the Crosstrek is slightly bigger, the Kona fits right in that demographic. Costing about $3000 less than the top trimmed Crosstrek, the Kona Ultimate features more options, more performance and a better price tag. Just something to know. But when it comes to the small, cute-ute family, we happily welcome the Kona with open arms. This is one of the few small CUV that we like, we want, and wish it the best of luck out there.