The craze for crossover SUV’s continues as manufactures continue to drop car models in favour of them. The competition and pressure to stand out in this fastest selling segment is ridiculously intense. There are over 45 SUV’s in this size from different manufacturers all fighting to get one into your garage. Designers are going after millennial drivers with funky looks like the Nissan Kicks and Toyota CH-R. Hyundai gets some points for originality with the Kona. The looks for all of these are always polarizing but since you see the pictures here you wouldn’t be reading this far if you hate it.
The Kona I drove wasn’t hard to find in parking lots with its Acid Green paint job. The colour is somewhere between a popsicle and a nuclear reactor leak but the focus group must have loved it. The same colour is splashed inside the cabin with seat piping and trim on the gear shift console and around the vents. Outside the Kona has nicely sculpted lines integrated with large black plastic mouldings. It has a confident but not aggressive looks with a big grille and faux air intake. The great looking narrow daytime running lights sit above the grille. At the bottom are the anti-fog lights but the headlights don’t’ score points in the safety department. See safety section.
The SUV/Crossover market dominates in part because people like to sit higher up from the road but largely for utility and the Kona does offer that even though it is far from the most spacious in the segment. It has 554 litres of cargo space with the seats up, which is average – you’ll find more space in the Nissan Qashqai (see Shift review). There’s a dual-level cargo floor with a storage tray with compartments for smaller items.
On the Road
The Kona is a fun, nice handling all wheel drive that gets the job done too. The 1.6 litre turbocharged 4 cylinder engine with 7 speed transmission and its 180 hp did not feel underpowered. The torque at 195 lb-ft is by far best-in-class by a sizeable margin and is available at low rpm to make it feel a little zippier. This drive train came with the Ultimate trim package. You can still get all wheel drive as an option with the base 2.0-litre at a lower price point. Mileage is on par on paper though I wasn’t getting the as advertised city/highway combo of 7.9 litres per 100 kilometers. My average was 10.1 so don’t drive like me for best results.
The Ultimate package is a $7900 bump from the base price that gives you reasonably comfy leather seating with an 8 way power driver seat. The aforementioned colour accents continue with piping around the seats. Other additions are wireless charging, Premium sound system, automatic high beams and the 4.2 inch touchscreen information system. This system is one of the best you’ll find with its intuitive layout and is the common interface found in Kia and all platforms under the Hyundai umbrella including the much more expensive Genesis division. This touchscreen is in a nice easy to reach spot. Hyundai’s BlueLink is also available for Android and Apple. Its apps feature remote starting and climate control.
The interior trim is average for the price here but the controls are nicely laid out in a very ergonomically designed cabin. The critical things with the coming cold temperatures are right where ya need’em with easy to get to buttons right beside the shifter.
A Heads Up about the Heads Up
The Kona Ultimate features a pop up heads up display. This is a cheaper version that has a plastic panel rise out of the dash in front of you. This might be slightly less cool than the much pricier HUD projection built into the dash that projects on to a special windshield but it still does the job. It also displays a lot of info including blind spot and lane departure warnings.
Among the other safety tech on board is pedestrian detection forward collision warning with automatic braking. Now that I have safely returned my Kona test unit in one piece I can reveal that feature saved my butt. I was very nearly involved in a low speed collision but this feature completely took over and saved me from a very awkward phone call! The Kona scored fantastic in crash testing but it did NOT receive a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Why? Back to those headlights – the base halogen headlights did not provide enough visibility and the optional LED lights that were on the Ultimate test unite have too much glare for the safety of oncoming drivers. Something Hyundai is going to have to address.
Should you owna’ Kona?
There are a ton of direct competitor crossovers to the Kona and all with their own attributes. The Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V and Toyota CH-R are just a few of the top sellers. The Kona competes with each although you’ll find better handling in the Mazda and more room in the Honda or the fantastic Nissan Qashqai (see Shift review). The Kona gets extra points for its standard safety features and the top of the line Ultimate still checks in at under $34K.
2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate
Base price: $20,999
As tested: $33,804
Mileage: combined 7.9L/100km.
Powertrain: 1.6L I4 Turbocharged GDI Engine
7-speed Dual-Clutch Transmission