The 2018 Kona is a new entry into the subcompact crossover segment for Hyundai, which has had success with two larger SUVs, the Tucson and Santa Fe. The model directly takes on the Nissan Kicks and Toyota C-HR as its closest competition. How does it shape up? I spent three full days behind the wheel and in the passenger seat finding out, logging nearly 24 hours of time in the car, finding out.
2018 Hyundai Kona exterior
The face of the Kona was designed to be reminiscent of a Spartan helmet and it certainly fits the bill. Eye slits translate to squinty but capable headlamps. The black grille is a wide-open space that could easily be seen as being inspired by the gap in the helmet for the mouth.
The Kona comes in a number of paint jobs including bright, bold colors like Thunder Gray, Surf Blue, Pulse Red, Lime Twist, and Chalk White. A two-tone paint job is available in various color combinations giving the roof and body two different colors.
Exterior accents are mostly plastic bits that add Fisher-Price-like accents to the outside of the Kona. They’re more attractive when paired with some paint jobs than others.
2018 Hyundai Kona powertrain
Getting from here to there around Hawaii’s biggest island, including climbs of over 7,000-feet in altitude, was easy in a Kona that came equipped with the optional turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. It is matched with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, and it achieves 175 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. Put the Kona in Sport mode and it becomes impressively peppier for a subcompact crossover. I did not test the less powerful 2.0-liter four-cylinder base engine
2018 Hyundai Kona interior
The Kona wins points for having ample passenger and cargo space, comfortable seats, an easy-to-use infotainment system. The crossover does have some significant disadvantages, however.
I was disappointed with the cruise control and the car’s head up display (HUD) icons. The HUD generally showed a speed that was two or three miles per hour off of the speed shown by the analog speedometer in the dashboard. It was a bit of a surprise that the HUD doesn’t show the speed that you’ve set the cruise control at, only the traveling speed of the vehicle. I would have preferred to see both. Paired with sluggish acceleration when using strictly the cruise control switches, it was frustrating to continually bump the speed up and down to get the proper pace.
The use of hard plastics for some parts of the interior is okay at the Kona’s price point. However, in some of the color palettes, especially the gray and black two-tone option, the materials look dated and cheap. When equipped with an all-black interior, the car appears more attractive.
2018 Hyundai Kona cargo
The Kona has 19.2 cubic feet of cargo space with the second-row seats erect. That number expands to 45.8 cubic feet with the seats folded. While the first number is similar to what the C-HR offers, the Kona has significantly more cargo space with the second-row lowered.
2018 Hyundai Kona safety
The base model Kona comes loaded with traditional safety equipment, but the top tiers of the crossover have the most advanced safety technologies including lane keeping assistance, forward collision-avoidance assistance with pedestrian detection, and a driver attention warning.
2018 Hyundai Kona pricing
The base model 2018 Kona starts at $19,500 and is on sale now. The starting MSRP is in line with the price of other vehicles in its class. The top grade Kona Ultimate trim with all-wheel drive comes in at $28,700. Hyundai expects the well-equipped mid-grade SEL trim ($21,150) to be the top Kona seller. For around $20,000, the Kona is a good deal but for the price of a fully loaded Kona you can get a number of great SUVs that are better appointed.
Each new 2018 Kona comes with a 5-year/60,000-mile limited warranty, 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, 7-year/unlimited miles perforation warranty, and 5-year/unlimited miles roadside assistance plan.
2018 Hyundai Kona final thoughts
The Hyundai Kona is the right vehicle at the right time to take on the subcompact SUV segment. Its pricing structure, drivability, and outstanding warranty set it apart from the already established category models. But, it may not be at the top for long.