Introduced to the market earlier this year, the 2019 Hyundai Kona is the latest subcompact SUV to enter a rapidly growing segment. Buyers want a space, but not at the expense of fuel economy or handling, and that’s what these new urban utility vehicles are giving them.
That’s why they are increasingly popular, and that’s why the Kona is so important for Hyundai. Starting at $20,999, the 2019 Kona is one of only a few models in its segment at the moment to offer two engines to potential buyers, and both are standouts when it comes to balancing power with fuel economy.
The Kona faces some tough competition that includes the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Nissan Qashqai and Kicks, Toyota C-HR and Subaru Crosstrek. The Ford EcoSport, Mitsubishi RVR, Jeep Renegade, Kia Soul and Chevrolet Trax are also worthy competitors.
Buyers therefore have a lot of options, and Hyundai had no room for error in developing the Kona. In the end, they delivered what is arguably one of the top 3 vehicles in its segment.
What the 2019 Hyundai Kona does well
1. The Kona is surprisingly fun to drive. It features tight steering and agile handling, and you get plenty of power from the entry-level 147-horsepower 2.0-liter engine. Opt for the top-of-the-line 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers 175 horsepower, and you get by far the fastest and sportiest subcompact SUV on sale today.
2. There’s a lot of value packed into the new Kona. Standard features include heated seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 16-inch wheels and a 7-inch touchscreen. Go with the Preferred model starting at $22,749, and you’ll get push-button start, a heated steering wheel and a wide range of active safety features that include side-collision prevention, lane departure warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. You can also get all-wheel drive for $22,999.
3. The turbocharged engine may be more powerful than most if not all other engines offered in the segment, it’s average fuel economy rating of 8.5 liters per 100 kilometers is impressive. You also get a dual-clutch automatic gearbox with the turbo engine which is just plain cool, and regular fuel will do. Kona models equipped with the turbo engine start at $26,899.
4. The Hyundai Kona EV promises 400 kilometers of range. When it gets here, it will be a game changer in the electric vehicle segment.
5. The Kona’s interior is a notch more upscale than most urban SUVs it competes against. There’s also plenty of storage space inside the cabin.
What the 2019 Hyundai Kona doesn’t do so well
1. It’s not the smallest trunk in its class, but it’s not far from it. With just 544 liters, the 2019 Kona’s cargo area isn’t as welcoming as in the Honda HR-V or Nissan Qashqai, among others.
2. We talked about value earlier and the Kona’s first two versions certainly do offer a lot of it. That said, you’ll have to go with the top-of-the-line Luxury version ($27,999 with AWD) to get a sunroof. Yes, this version packs a lot of other goodies including leather seats and SmartSense active safety features, but it’s still a bit pricey.
What we tell our friends
We have no trouble recommending the Kona. It’s as fun to drive as the Mazda CX-3 with more power and more interior space. The only real issue with Hyundai’s subcompact SUV is trunk space which can’t compete with the Honda HR-V or Nissan Qashqai, or a handful of other competitors.
That said, if you can manage with 544 liters of cargo space, the 2019 Hyundai Kona checks all the other boxes. Go with the 2.0-liter, AWD Preferred version, and you have a winner.