There’s something about driving a small sport utility vehicle that excites the heck out of people. Subcompact and compact SUVs are all the rage right now, and although the more pragmatic among us would point out that models in these segments really aren’t that spacious or “tailored to the active user”, the point would be moot. Buyers in Canada want their small SUV, and automakers are more than happy to give them something to spend their money on.
The 2018 Hyundai Kona is the latest offering to join the market after being announced last summer. It’s the third SUV in the Hyundai lineup which also features the Tucson (compact) and Santa Fe (mid-size), two larger utility vehicles that happen to have been redesigned this year. The market demands SUVs, and Hyundai is listening.
We had a chance to take the Kona for a spin on Vancouver Island last month, and I have to say that if I were in the market for a subcompact SUV, this would probably be the one I would get. It’s typical Hyundai which means it achieves a very fine balance between comfort and driving enjoyment, and it looks really good too in my opinion. Sure the lime green may be a little much, especially considering there’s lime green trim inside, but the fact remains that the Kona is quirky in a good way.
But that’s just my opinion. Ultimately, you won’t turn heads in a Kona nor will you in a Qashqai, an HR-V, a CX-3, a Crosstrek or any other model the new Hyundai competes against. What you will get is a vehicle that’s almost as sharp and agile as a CX-3 with the comfort level of a Qashqai. Its closest competitor is actually the Toyota CH-R, but because that one only features front-wheel drive and starts at more than $ 25,000, we don’t really talk about.
The Hyundai Kona, on the other hand, starts at 20,999 and packs quite a bit of equipment in its entry-level model. Heated seats, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, 16-inch alloy wheels and a 7-inch touchscreen are all standard. Front-wheel drive is also standard while all-wheel drive starts at $ 22,999.
You can also opt for the Preferred model which adds Blind Spot Detection, a heated steering wheel, keyless entry with push-button start and 17-inch wheels, all for $22,749. Again, add $2,000 for all-wheel drive. A top-of-the-line Luxury model with a range of active safety systems, a sunroof and leather seats will set you back about $ 27,500 and this time, power is sent to all four wheels standard.
Ultimately, the value proposition is impressive here, minus the fact that a sunroof can only be had in the loaded Kona.
All the versions described previously feature at 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that delivers 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. That’s in the same range as the competition and in the end the Kona doesn’t seem any faster than other models nor does it seem slower.
Power is ok and will answer the needs of most buyers in this segment. The engine certainly feels refined and modern, and very well suited to the Kona. Moreover, the Kona is equipped with a six-speed automatic gearbox and not a CVT which still means that accelerations feel more natural and the vehicle seems more comfortable when you floor the right pedal.
That said, Hyundai gives buyers an option when it comes to the powertrain under the hood, something Honda, Mazda, Toyota, and Nissan don’t do. It comes in the form of a 1.6-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder optional engine which can be paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
Yes, you read that right. There’s a turbocharged engine available in the Kona as well as a dual-clutch gearbox. The 1.6-liter unit gives you 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque at just 1,500 rpm.
Although they didn’t need to, Hyundai brought in a few competitors that we could drag race with behind the wheel of a turbo Kona. As you may expect, it blew the HR-V out of the water as it will any other 140-ish horsepower subcompact SUV on the market right now. Do you need a turbocharged Kona? Not really. Do you want one? Yes.
Fuel economy numbers are middle of the pack for the segment, and the turbo doesn’t really penalize you either. It’s also a blast to drive, but ultimately any Kona regardless of the engine feels stiff and in complete control when in the twisties. You’ll enjoy driving this more than a HR-V or Qashqai, and although it’s not as tight as a CX-3, it has a lot more interior volume than the Mazda.
Cargo capacity is set at 544 liters with all seats in place, and so you can certainly do better in that area. The Kona is on the small side when it comes to interior space, and that may be it’s only real drawback. If it offered the same versatility as a Honda HR-V or Nissan Qashqai, it would have been perfect.
That’s not the case. You’ll have to decide where your priorities are and if interior space is at the top of the list, you’ll do better with a Honda or Nissan. If you want balance, the 2018 Hyundai Kona is the way to go.