RSS icon Home icon
  • 2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD

    Posted on November 28th, 2018 ninarussin

    Small but mighty

    By Nina Russin

    Hyundai Kona

    I love it when a new car surprises me with useful features I don’t expect. The subcompact Hyundai Kona, baby brother to the larger Tucson crossover, is case in point. What looks like another in the growing sea of crossovers is much more, with a slew of available active safety features, versatile interior, infotainment and all-wheel drive.

    Kona is the home of the original Ironman competition, and continues to be the most desirable of the endurance triathlon series to compete in. It’s a tough course: hot, humid, sometimes windy and always unpredictable. An athlete who finishes Kona with his/her head up has accomplished what few individuals on the planet can.

    In similar fashion, the Hyundai Kona is small but mighty, with a peppy 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, which when combined with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission delivers 27 miles-per-gallon according-to the EPA. That figure might not seem exceptional, but remember this is all-wheel drive: better traction than two-wheel drive but typically a drain on fuel economy of at least 2-3 MPG.

    Base price for the upscale Kona Ultimate AWD is $28,700 excluding the $980 delivery charge. To keep things simple, Hyundai includes a complete roster of convenience and safety features: LED headlamps and tail lamps, rain sensing wipers, heated side mirrors, eight-way power driver’s seat, 60/40 split folding rear seat, leather upholstery, LCD information screen, navigation, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, Infinity premium audio system, Blue Link connected services and more. Final MSRP is $29,805.

    Test drive in Southern Arizona

    Hyundai Kona

    Over the past week I drove the Kona throughout the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area including downtown Phoenix and east valley cities. The Kona is a peppy, maneuverable adventure partner that’s as much at home on the daily commute as it is being a weekend warrior.

    The turbocharged engine delivers 175-horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque at speeds as low as 1500 rpm. A tip of the throttle and the Kona sprints to the head of the pack on highway entrance ramps.

    A heads-up display includes graphics for the blind spot monitoring system, so the driver doesn’t have to look to the side view mirrors to see if there are vehicles on either side. That’s a pretty big deal when drivers are playing bumper car at peak traffic times.

    At a time of year when most of us are going to work and coming home in darkness, headlamp performance is very important. My own drive involves about six miles down a high-speed unlit road, so I appreciate LEDs that produce longer beams of light than halogen. A dynamic bending feature follows steering inputs, lighting dark corners where pedestrians (think runners and cyclists) might be waiting to cross.

    Hyundai Kona

    I’m not especially fond of lane departure warning (also standard) because the systems don’t do a particularly good job of reading re-marked lanes in areas of road construction. Fortunately, the system is easy to turn off using a button on the instrument panel.

    The Kona suspension consists of an independent MacPherson strut setup in front and on the all-wheel drive car, a multi-link rear end. While the torsion beam rear axle that comes on the base model works fine in most situations, it’s nice to have the independent setup, especially for second-row occupants.

    An electric power steering system is nicely tuned, with plenty of low-speed assist and solid on-center response on the highway.

    Visibility around the vehicle perimeter is good, thanks to a standard rearview camera and the blind spot monitoring. Engineers did a good job of minimizing noise intrusion to the interior, so occupants can enjoy the premium audio system or converse on the highway.

    Versatile interior

    Hyundai Kona Interior

    The Kona is on the small end of vehicles that work well for active lifestyles, since the wheelbase is just a touch over 102 inches. If you plan to carry a lot of gear and/or multiple bicycles on a regular basis, buy the larger Tucson. But if your cargo needs are simpler: an accessible area big enough to stash the occasional road bike with the front wheel removed, the Kona will work.

    Keyless entry and start saves the driver from fumbling for a key fob after dark. I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust with good lower back support. Climate and infotainment features are easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate.

    While I love the functionality of the heads-up display, I did find the glass display panel in front of the steering wheel a bit annoying. It’s not a deal breaker but does take some getting used to.

    Because of its small wheelbase, there isn’t a tremendous amount of room in back, but enough to make the rear seats functional for short trips around town.

    Standard safety

    Active safety features on the Kona Ultimate include forward collision avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, rearview camera with cross traffic alert, lane departure warning and drowsy driver warning.

    The Kona also comes standard with six airbags, four-wheel disc antilock brakes, electronic traction and stability control and tire pressure monitoring.

    Hyundai builds the Kona at its Ulsan, Korea assembly plant.

    Like: A subcompact crossover with a high level of available active safety technology, good fuel economy, all-wheel drive and a versatile interior.

    Dislike: Glass heads-up display monitor can be distracting.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Hyundai
    Model: Kona Ultimate AWD
    Year: 2018
    Base price: $28,700
    As tested: $29,805
    Horsepower: 175 HP @ 5500 rpm
    Torque: 195 lbs.-ft. @ 1500 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Towing: No
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 26/29 mpg city/highway

    Comments are closed.