The 2018 Hyundai Kona is a small crossover with big value. MSRPs start at just $19,500 and top out at $27,400, helping make the Kona look like a serious contender in the auto industry’s newest segment: small crossovers.
Sensing a shift from mid-size crossovers to smaller models, carmakers are rushing to build these new small CUVs and get them into showrooms.
“This is where the action is,” said Mike O’Brien, vice president of Product, Corporate and Digital Planning for Hyundai Motor America. Because so many automakers are moving into the segment with new models, O’Brien referred to the small crossover segment as the “Wild, Wild West.”
And like James West and Artemus Gordon, Hyundai aims to tame as much of the wild, wild west as it can with the new Kona.
Speaking to auto journalists invited to the Kona’s launch in the Hawaiian city of the same name, O’Brien and other Hyundai officials said that while buyers want to downsize their cars, they don’t want to give up features they’ve gotten used to in their larger crossovers.
Many of those features are standard in the Kona, including a 7-inch display audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a rearview monitor with parking guidance, LED daytime running lights, automatic headlights, Bluetooth, cruise control and tire pressure monitoring.
Some of the major available features include 18-inch alloy wheels, an 8-way power driver’s seat, leather seating surfaces, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlights and taillights, automatic climate control and a proximity key with pushbutton start.
The Kona, which has already begun arriving in dealerships, is available in five trim levels: SE, SEL, Limited and Ultimate. The trim I spent the most time with was the Ultimate, which had all the above features plus navigation, heated seats and mirrors, an 8-inch touchscreen, wireless phone charging and the best heads-up system on the market.
The class-leading HUD is eight inches of full color information projected brightly on the windshield in right front of the driver. Projected information includes speed, navigation instructions, lane departure warning and audio system details.
The Kona is available with two engine choices. The standard engine in the SE and SEL trims is a 2.0-liter Atkinson Cycle 4-cylinder that develops 147 horsepower and 132 lb.-ft. of torque. Limited and Ultimate trims get a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that kicks out 175 horses and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. The transmission on the 2.0-liter engine is a 6-speed automatic, while the turbo-four gets a 7-speed dual clutch automatic. AWD is an option on all trim levels.
The Kona has a stylish and surprisingly roomy cabin with durable materials and good visibility all around. The “floating” touchscreen governs most vehicle functions and the rest of the center stack is simple and intuitive.
Front seat headroom is 39.6 inches, and in the back seat its 37.8 inches. Rear seat legroom is 34.6 inches. The Kona seats five adults comfortably, although you wouldn’t want to be the middle seat passenger in back on a cross-country trip.
On the road, the Kona offers a solid ride with responsive performance. Tooling along coastal and inland roads on the Big Island, I found the Kona surefooted and confident on the road, with virtually no body roll in hard cornering. Normal and Sport driving modes are driver selectable.
The Kona has not yet been smashed up by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor by the government, but Hyundai officials are confident that its crash test scores will be good.
Advanced safety features include a Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist system that uses a front-facing camera and radar to detect an imminent collision and avoid impact or minimize damage by braking autonomously. The Kona’s lane keeping assist, high beam assist and driver attention warning systems also use the front-view camera.
Lane keeping assist uses road markings to keep the car in its lane, automatically bumping the steering wheel back when the car wanders over the line. High beam assist, traditionally seen in more expensive models, automatically turns the high beam headlights on when no cars are ahead and off when cars are approaching. The driver attention warning system monitors a spectrum of driver-related characteristics to detect driver fatigue or careless driving. The Kona also has a blind-spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert.
If this new crossover’s safety scores are what Hyundai expects, I’d absolutely put the 2018 Kona on my test-drive list.
2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD
1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
7-speed dual clutch automatic
EPA mileage estimates:
26 mpg city/29 mpg highway/27 mpg combined
Estimated highway range: