Compact and subcompact crossovers and SUVs are hot sellers right now. And they’re especially attractive for those needing a second car, or even a primary car.
The reason? They’re more affordable, offer miserly fuel economy, are exceptionally maneuverable and fun to drive. And Hyundai’s subcompact Kona is a top pick with all of the aforementioned plus is comes with impressive government safety ratings. It also received Kelly Blue Book’s Best Buy among subcompact SUVs.
Kona is offered in FWD and AWD and in SE, SEL, SEL Plus, Limited, top line Ultimate (that was tested) and an electric version in selected states.
First off, Kona has a youthful, sexy design with its protruding fender flares, cladding around the fenders and bumpers and slick looking head and running lights. Its interior sports leatherette seats with textured inserts that resemble cloth. Front seats are heated, supportive and a tad on the firm side, but still comfy.
An 8-inch touchscreen, with voice recognition, serves a host of apps including Blue Link, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, rearview camera, audio, sports reports, a weather screen plus others. There’s also a 4-inch vertical driver information display between the gauges for to show a variety of operating conditions and functions.
The vertical stack has super simple HVAC controls that can be operated without having to take the eyes off the road once acclimating to their positions.
The base of the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission shifter is flanked by seat heat controls and a Drive Mode button that offers Normal and Sport modes, the latter provides earlier shift points for sportier, spirited driving.
To the front of the shifter is a built-in and convenient wireless smartphone charger pad. Even some more expensive cars don’t offer this.
With an easy 16-inch step-in, the back seats have adequate leg room provided the fronts aren’t racked well rearward. But that’s normal for a car of this size as the condition is shared by comparable competitive vehicles. Head room though is spacious.
With the 60/40 rear seats upright, the cargo area is rated at 19.2 cubic feet that measures 28 inches deep, 42 wide and 28.5 high. Flip the seat backs and cargo depth expands to 59 inches.
Beneath the cargo floor and atop the space saver spare tire is a handy 5-position hard foam bin for a myriad of small item storage.
With a ground clearance of 6.7 inches, Kona is suited for mild off roads and light snow depths.
This nifty SUV is offered with a choice of two powertrains depending on model chosen. The SE, SEL, SE2, Plus get a 2.0-liter 147-hp inline 4-cylinder with 132 lb/ft of torque, while the Limited and Ultimate get a 1.6-liter, 175-hp direct-injected turbocharged inline 4-cylinder that generates 175 lb/ft of torque. Mated to to the 7-speed auto transmission, the 1.6L is EPA rated at 28 city, 32-highway mpg.
So powered, Kona provides quick acceleration and robust passing power when needed. It’s actually a mild pocket rocket when in Sport mode which adds 1,000 rpm on the tachometer.
Ride wise on Goodyear 18-inch tires is on the taut side, but that’s to be expected on a short (164 inch) wheelbase crossover.
Kona shines though in the handling department as it parks easily with a tight 34.8 foot turning radius that requires a mere 2.5 turns lock-lock of the steering wheel. It also remains planted in sharp turns.
The window sticker showed only one option - $135 for carpeted floor mats. Otherwise the standard list is extensive and includes a host of safety features such as forward collision avoidance with pedestrian alert, lane keeping assist with driver attention warning, tire pressure monitoring, head-up display, heated side mirrors (few cars offer these) sunroof, satellite radio and many more.
As such, Kona Ultimate FWD tested carried a bottom line of $28,980 with delivery. This price surely appeals to younger drivers on a tight budget and seniors who need a versatile, economical vehicle for their travels.
And here’s the closer. Kona was awarded the governments full 5-star overall safety rating; 5-stars for driver/passenger frontal crash; 5-stars for front/rear seat side crash and 4-stars for rollover. Impressive safety ratings for a car that’s fun and economical to drive.
As with all Hyundai vehicles, the carmaker offers one of the best warranties on the market. Kona comes with a 5 year/60K new vehicle warranty; 10/100K powertrain; 7/Unlimited perforation; and 5/Unlimited roadside assistance.
I rarely if ever say this, but I’d buy one but with AWD for our winters here in the Snowbelt.