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by Bill P. and Ken J. – Special Correspondent
The new Hyundai Kona and Kona Electric just snatched up a major accolade, “Best Crossover for Hispanic Families” by the Hispanic Motor Press Foundation. The 2019 Hyundai Kona just won the North American Untility Vehicle of the Year at NAIAS 2019!
Since our First Drive feature over the summer, popularity has grown three-fold. The Hyundai Kona strikes a unique balance of efficiency, comfortable style, and fresh technology. With a MSRP starting at just $21k, the whip is ideal for millennials and young professionals.
We took the 2018/19 Hyundai Kona SEL on special test drive to Detroit, Michigan to test the resilience, and comfort for Ken, a 6-foot-3 banker from Chicago. Ken, a frugal commuter was impressed with the Hyundai Kona’s optimal comfort and 30 mpg combined fuel economy.
Simple Design with Striking Subtlety
The 2019 Hyundai Kona is offered in a base SE, SEL, Limited and Ultimate grades. The CUV is low and short with a cool contrast roof. Seventeen inch alloy wheels are standard. Also cool are LED daytime running lights and on/off headlights that are shaped like a cat eye, and body color rear spoiler. LED headlights and tail lights are standard in the Kona Limited and Kona Ultimate with Auto High Beam. Remote keyless entry and push button start is standard on all models.
The Kona’s low profile and 102 inch wheelbase doesn’t compromise headroom or legroom. Instead it optimizes aerodynamics and enhances sporty performance. Since the Kona is small, it makes a small imprint on emissions and fuel consumption.
A sunroof is standard on the Kona Ultimate and Kona Limited and optional on the Kona SEL we reviewed. A rear privacy glass, standard on the Kona SEL adds more style against the Pulse Red paint job and black roof. The best part is the expansive interior that seats five and is full of stylish new tech.
The Kona SEL offers cloth seats with a leather wrapped tilting steering wheel and leather shift knob. Two-tone cloth seats have heated front seats with an optional 8-way power driver’s seat. The Kona Ultimate and Limited both have leather seats.
Black is the basic interior color with contrast stitching and metallic accents. The driver’s instrument cluster has a small center digital display for important stats like outside temperature, mileage, range and average fuel economy.
A wireless charging port is available on the Kona Ultimate while Kona SEL has standard dual USB ports. The Kona also offers a Heads-up-Display standard on the Kona Ultimate that shows speed and other useful driving information.
A seven inch touch screen is standard on the Kona featuring navigation with traffic predictions plus the optional Infinity Premium Audio System. The eight speaker Infinity system includes Clari-Fi restoration. The Kona Ultimate offers an eight inch touch screen with Sirius XM Satellite radio and a rearview camera.
The Kona cabin isn’t the most spacious in the segment. But its storage capability is high. A dual level cargo floor is standard on all models. And 60/40 folding rear seats allow for 45 cubic feet of cargo space. With the rear seats up, the trunk offers 19 cubic feet of trunk space. The trunk seems larger than a mid-sized SUV.
More storage is optimized with the medium sized center console and side pockets that can fit a few bottles. One issue, front seats have to be pushed forward to allow the rear seats to fold completely down with its fixed headrest.
At just 5 feet tall, the Kona offers 39 inches of front headroom and 37 inches of rear headroom, and 41 inches of front legroom 34 inches of rear legroom. This means rear seats aren’t huge but can fit a nearly six-foot tall person comfortably. The ceiling is higher than expected – until passengers get out next to a larger CUV. Perhaps the whip is more ideal for young adults with smaller kids or none at all.
In the driver’s seat, Ken enjoyed the Kona’s easy functionality and easy maneuverability. The Kona is a truly special SUV appealing to young and old, male and female, professional and adventurer. Plus, the interior offers advanced infotainment and safety technology.
Outstanding CUV Performance Takes the Lead
The 2019 Hyundai Kona’s best attribute is its amazingly efficient, fun powertrain. Ken loved the performance, easy to maneuver with abundant safety technology. The Kona SE and Kona SEL we reviewed features a 2.0 liter Atkinson cycle 4 cylinder engine with 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque (4,500 rpm.) The Kona Limited and Ultimate boast a 175 horsepower 1.6 liter DOHC 4 cylinder with 195 lb-ft of torque. Both engines feature aluminum components, dual continuously variable valve timing and gas direct injection.
The Hyundai Kona is super smooth on the highway with awesome suspension, agility and stopping ability. Sometimes when cruising the whip feels like a sedan, low and planted while shooting down the road with a lightness and springiness.
In sport mode, the Kona is peppy with an open throttle and tighter and more responsive steering. While in normal driving mode the whip gets up after a long huff and hard acceleration.
A 33 mpg highway fuel economy makes the Kona efficient as hell. Even in Chicago, where gas was over $3 a gallon, and on the road to Michigan the Kona could be filled up for less than $30. All-wheel drive works in harmony with MacPherson strut front suspension and multilink rear suspension to aid efficiency.
A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard on the Kona SE and Kona SEL with Shiftronic manual shift mode. A 7-speed Ecoshift trans is available for the Kona Limited and Kona Ultimate. Rack and pinion steering is precise and responsive.
In stop-and-go traffic the Kona is super convenient with torque vectoring and ventilated disc brakes.
Though insulation is good, turbulence is loud on the highway with the windows down. On the road to Detroit it was sometimes hard to have a conversation.
Standard safety features on the Kona SEL include the Hyundai SmartSense system, Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Driver Attention Warning, Blind Spot Collision Warning, Rear Cross-traffic Collision Warning, a rear camera, electronic stability control, hill start assist control, vehicle stability management system, and brake assist. The Kona Ultimate offers a parking distance warning and Pedestrian Detection.
The 2019 Hyundai Kona fully-loaded retails for just $22k, and it’s worth every penny. Its main competitors, the reigning Mazda CX-3, Subaru Crosstrek and Honda HR-V better innovate their interiors and ‘fun factor’ to stay ahead.