2018 Hyundai Kona: New Sub-Compact CUV targets urban adventurers

By Mike Blake Carlisle Events
Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Hyundai has targeted youthful “urban adventurers” with its all-new sub-compact crossover utility vehicle, the 2018 Hyundai Kona.

Utilizing what it calls “urban smart armor” exterior styling, Hyundai has created Kona with aggressive body styling complemented by a low and wide stance for a sporty demeanor, and has packed the vehicle with leading safety technology and advanced infotainment features in a compact footprint. And Hyundai has paid attention to performance, offering two engines – one of which is a turbo plant – and a composure designed to exhibit confident handling in a variety of urban and adventure-oriented driving environments.

Slotting just below the larger Hyundai Tucson, the subcompact CUV is so well-packed that my test Kona, in Ultimate trim, required only one slight accessory add-on. Kona hits the market with bold, fresh design elements with optional color-contrasting roof and extroverted color options. Konas are also outfitted with a standard floating touchscreen with Apple CarPlay™/Android Auto™ capability; and Hyundai Smart Sense with Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Driver Attention Warning, Blind-Spot Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning. You also get standard Android Auto™, Apple CarPlay™ and wireless device charging.

Additionally, my test Kona Ultimate (top-of-the-line) trim was decked out with a Heads-up Display, an 8-inch LCD touchscreen display with navigation, High Beam Assist Parking distance warning, Rain-sensing wipers, HomeLink® and compass, Infinity® premium audio with 8 speakers including subwoofer, and external amplifier, a 4.2-inch color Multi-Information Display, Blue Link® Connected Car Services, Blue Link® connectivity and guidance packages, and wireless device charging.

Kona’s exterior reflects its adventuresome powerful presence, as its armor shows readiness for extreme activities. It incorporates Hyundai’s new family identity, the cascading grille, featuring a sporty mesh pattern, flanked by flared, wing-like fenders that dominate the front visage. It’s further enhanced by a separated-headlight design, with high-efficiency LED headlights and LED Daytime Running Lights. Contrasting black armor provides a protective skin and visually connects the front to the rear. As with the front LED arrangement, the rear light configuration also creates a unique signature appearance. The slim brake lights, turn indicators and reverse lamps are in a separate configuration, surrounded by protective skin that begins at the C-pillar garnish.

Fitting compact CUV parameters, Kona measures 164.0 inches long, 70.9 inches wide and 61.0 inches high on a 102.4-inch wheelbase. The front overhang is 33.3 inches and the rear overhang is 28.3 and coefficient of drag is an efficient 0.32. The lightest Konas weigh in with a curbweight of 2890 pounds and the heaviest go 3344 pounds.

The distinctive features of the exterior continue inside with a strong horizontal character line creating a wide and spacious feel. The sleek and simple layout interior incorporates advanced infotainment features and the standard floating seven-inch touchscreen includes Android Auto™ and Apple CarPlay™ capability. Further, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) controls are surrounded by soft, fluid details that contribute to a sensuous experience and enhance the comfort-focused environment.

The cabin shows average-but-not spacious room for the niche, with front headroom of 38.0 inches (with sunroof and 39.6 without it) and rear headroom of 37.8 inches. Legroom is comfortable up front at 41.5 inches and tight as expected in back at 34.6 inches. Shoulder room is generous at 55.5 inches in row one and 54.5 in row two.

Kona powertrain offerings have top efficiency levels as a primary target. Kona is offered with a choice of two gasoline mills. A 2.0-liter 4-cylinder Atkinson engine produces 147 horsepower and 132 lb.-ft. of torque and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Limited and Ultimate trims offer the Gamma 1.6-liter 4-cylinder direct-injected, turbocharged engine (that also powers the Hyundai Tucson) generating 175 hp and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. The turbo engine is coupled to a seven-speed EcoShift® dual-clutch manual transmission that is a fun shift drive.

The 2.0-liter engine is rated at 27mpg in city driving and 33mpg on the highway for FWD and 25/city, 30/highway for AWD; and the 1.6 turbo that powered my test ride was rated at 28/city and 32.highway for FWD and 26/city, 29/highway for AWD. I averaged 26.7mpg during a week of mixed-use runs.

I found the cabin quiet with good sightlines, and the ride smooth with attentive Motor Driven Power Rack and pinion steering. Acceleration is predictable and confident with hills and passing achieved easily. On the track, a steady 7.8-second zero-to-60mph dash and 16.2-second quarter-mile were accomplished.

The 2018 Hyundai Kona SE starts at $19,500 – lowest price in the Hyundai Crossover line-up. With four trims offered (SE, SEL, Limited and Ultimate), Kona ranges from just under $20K for the SE with the 2.0-liter engine and 6-speed automatic transmission in FWD to $28,700 for the Ultimate I tested with the 1.6-liter turbo and 7-speed EcoShift Dial Clutch trans in AWD.

With a Pulse Red exterior and black interior, my Ultimate was so packed with standard equipment that only carpeted floor mats were added for $125. With a $980 Freight charge added, my 2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate stickered at $29,805. Just under $30K might seem high for a subcompact entry-level crossover, but this was the top-of-the line and seemed to be well in-line with the luxury and quality that sat on top of the four wheels. And you can get into a lesser-scale Kona for $8,500 less.

> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.

Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.

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