As demand continues to grow for SUVs, so too does Hyundai’s crossover/SUV lineup. A few years ago, Hyundai showed us their Palisade – the largest SUV made by the South Korean automaker. But at the same time, at the other end of the Hyundai lineup, another new SUV was making its debut. The Kona overtook the Tucson as Hyundai’s smallest SUV. And it turned out to be a great rookie year for the Kona – as it took top honors in the Sub-Compact SUV class at the Texas Auto Writer’s Association annual Truck Rodeo.
The Hyundai Kona has a lot going for it. Not only does its small footprint make it special, but it’s 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. Certain colored Kona’s are offered with a contrasting black roof, which really makes the Kona stand apart in a crowd.
Hyundai offers 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 features? 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.
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 heads-up display, a larger 8-inch touchscreen, a navigation system, a wireless charging pad, and an Infinity premium audio system. This is how this weeks test vehicle arrived.
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 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.
Having driven a SEL with the base engine last year, I was eager to see how the tester performed, with its turbocharged engine and additional 28 horses. I wasn’t disappointed. With the boosted engine, the Kona felt very eager, able to scoot to 60 mph in under 7 seconds. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic shifts quickly and smoothly and the Kona is very agile when thrown into turns. All this makes for a surprisingly fun little SUV
For 2020, changes are minor – the one most noted is that Hyundai’s Adaptive Cruise Control has been added to the Ultimate trim level.
With a starting price at $20,300 mark, the Kona seems to be a good deal. Even going all out with the Ultimate trim, the tester maxed out right under $29,000.
While the Palisade is making waves in the mid-size SUV market, the Kona is doing the same in its class. It may not be as big as the Palisade, but it’s huge on personality and style.
— Christopher A. Randazzo
By The Numbers:
2020 Hyundai Ultimate SEL AWD
Base Price: $27,750.00
Price as Tested: $28,980.00
Layout: front-engine / front-wheel drive
Engine: 1.6 liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder
Transmission: 7 – speed dual-clutch automatic
Horsepower: 175 hp
Torque: 195 ft-lbs
EPA Fuel Economy: 28 mpg city / 32 mpg highway
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