Hyundai has a new hot hatch, the Kona, and it is a kick to drive. It has distinctive styling, sporty handling and ample power with the optional engine. Moreover, it’s available with luxury features, and the latest safety technology.
I have to say that I was a bit put off when the Kona first arrived. The “Lime Twist” paint job on my test car almost hurt my eyes on a bright, sunny day. But when my eyes adjusted, I could see that the styling had a lot of appeal. The Kona incorporates many of the styling touches common in its class. It’s got a broad honeycombed grille, slit-shaped LED running lights, thick gray cladding around the wheel wells and black trim in place of chrome.
In contrast to the flashy exterior, the cabin is rather subdued. The highlight of the dash is a tablet-like touchscreen with clearly marked short-cut buttons that are easy to reach. Although the surface on the dash and doors is mostly hard plastic, the finish has a fine-grain texture, and doesn’t look cheap. Yet, a little bright-work would be welcome. Seats on the low range models are covered in cloth, while upscale versions get leather.
The Kona carries four passengers in reasonable comfort—five in a pinch. The seats up front are well bolstered, and there’s an available power adjuster for the driver. Those in the rear have tighter accommodations with head-and legroom just suitable for average size passengers. The cargo area behind the seats is a decent size at 19.2 cu.-ft., and doubles in volume with the rear seats folded down.
Hyundai offers the Kona in four levels of trim, SE, SEL, Limited and Ultimate. For $20,480, SE buyers get a 147-hp. engine, teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission, a six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay. The SEL ($22,130) adds safety features, like blind-spot warning, rear-cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist, plus heated front seats.
The Limited ($25,680) adds power and luxury, with a turbocharged engine, a power driver’s seat, leather upholstery, and a sunroof. The top-of-the-line Ultimate is a bit pricey at $28,380. However, you do get more technology and luxury, with a pre-collision warning and braking system, reverse sensing, navigation and a premium stereo.
Under the hood, Hyundai equips the SE and SEL models with a 2.0-liter, naturally aspirated, 147 hp., four-cylinder engine. It is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. This drive train delivers decent power, but won’t give you whiplash when you hit the gas. For those wanting more spunk, the Limited and Ultimate feature a 1.6-liter turbo teamed with a seven-speed, dual-clutch, automated-manual gearbox. Front-wheel drive is standard, and AWD is a $1,300 option. Gas mileage is rated at 30 mpg. with FWD—27 mpg with all-wheel drive.
Enthusiasts will want the turbo engine. It has more snap right off the bat, and you can get even more punch by pressing the “Sport” button on the console. The Sport setting quickens acceleration, alters the shift pattern, and tightens up the steering a notch. The result is that the Kona reacts immediately to your input. It feels eager to do your bidding.
On the road, the Kona is remarkably agile. The steering is sharp and precise. The balance is impressive, there’s very little body lean. The Kona gobbles up corners like a higher priced European hatch, and furthermore, the ride is surprisingly compliant. It’s slightly firm to be sure, but the suspension takes the edge off the bumps in the pavement.
The Kona is on sale at Hyundai dealers now. I think it will be a big hit with young enthusiasts. Although, I’m not so sure about that Lime Twist color.
A “Sports Car” Hatch
Available Safety Technology