Monday, June 18, 2018

IN THE DRIVEWAY: 2018 Hyundai Kona

As demand continues to grow for small crossovers SUVs, so too does Hyundai's crossover/SUV lineup. For 2018, Hyundai debuts their latest, SUV - the Kona, as it overtakes the Tucson as Hyundai's smallest SUV.

But the Kona's small size isn't the only thing that makes it special. Exciting exterior styling, a roomy cabin and a choice of engines makes the Kona an attractive choice.

Just looking at the front of the Kona, it's easy to see that Hyundai got it right. Little slits at the edge of the hood and fender make up the LED running lights. The larger headlights can be found right under them. In the lower intake at the bottom of the grill are the fog lights. Add in a contrasting roof, like the testers black top over it's pulse red body, and the little Kona is bound to get some looks.

Hyundai will offer the Kona in four trim levels: SE, SEL, Limited and Ultimate. Even as the base model, the SE comes decked out in 16-inch alloy wheels, remote keyless entry, and plenty of tech features such as Bluetooth, a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen, a USB port, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, and a six-speaker audio system.  Not bad for a base model.

Want a few more goodies? The SEL trim adds 17-inch wheels, heated side mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, heated front seats, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and satellite radio.  This is how the tester arrived.

The Limited trim gets 18-inch wheels, LED taillights and leather upholstery. Going all out is the Ultimate, which includes automatic wipers, Hyundai's Blue Link communications, a head-up display, a larger 8-inch touchscreen, a navigation system, a wireless charging pad, and an Infinity premium audio system.

When it comes to powertrains, Hyundai gives you a choice there, as well. SE and SEL models are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque hooked up to a six-speed automatic. But the Limited and Ultimate uses a a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (175 hp, 195 lb-ft) that's mated to a seven-speed automated dual-clutch transmission. Standard on all Konas is front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive, which also incorporates a much more sophisticated rear suspension for a better ride, is optional. 

Room in the Kona is good for a vehicle of its size. Front seats are supportive, comfortable and roomy. Backseat passengers will be comfortable as long as front-seat passengers are not six-foot-something, or else leg room will be in short supply. When it comes to cargo, there is 19.2 cubic feet of room behind the rear seats, which expands to 45.8 cubic feet if the rear backseats are folded down. As little as it may be there is some decent utility room found in the Kona.

On the road, the Kona feels smooth and 2.0 liter four-cylinder that my tester has delivers plenty of pep. A Drive Mode button next to the shifter changes from Normal mode to Sport mode, the latter injecting a little more excitement into the way Kona behaves. I was quite surprised with the way the Sport mode felt, it really makes me wonder how the turbocharged engine, with it's 25 plus horsepower advantage will feel.

With a starting price just under the $20,000 mark, the Kona seems to be a good deal. Even going all out with the Ultimate trim, the Kona maxes out right under $29,000.

It seems as if the small crossover market is growing by the day, giving buyers many vehicles to choose from. The Kona is yet another one of those choices. But while the Kona may be small, it's big on personality.