In the hot compact crossover segment, the 2019 Hyundai Kona shines bright, offering attractive styling, numerous features and an unbeatable warranty. About a foot shorter than the larger Tucson, the Kona isn’t intended for large families or people who need to carry lots of gear. Instead, it’s a smart small crossover perfect for maneuvering through confined urban settings. The Kona even offers the option of all-wheel drive in case that urban setting happens to be someplace like Chicago or Boston. With its car like ride and driving dynamics, the Kona is designed to take on such challengers as the Mazda CX-3, the Toyota C-HR and the Honda HR-V. The Kona is shorter than all the above-mentioned players, and significantly shorter than the C-HR and the Subaru Crosstrek. Because its wheelbase is in the middle of the segment mix, however, the Kona’s passenger space is competitive in this segment. And, it has more cargo room behind the second-row seat than most named competitors.
What’s New for 2019?
For 2019, the Kona carries over with only a few minor upgrades. Forward-collision avoidance, lane-keeping assist and driver attention warning are now standard, as are dual front USB ports. The SEL tech package is revised to include a power sunroof, Infinity audio and a shark fin antenna. See the 2019 Hyundai Kona models for sale near you
What We Like
Standout styling; entry-level trim has 7-in touchscreen; available Blue Link with Alexa capability; available 1.6-liter turbo and AWD; available locking center differential
What We Don’t
Uncomfortably low; fixed front-passenger seat; lots of hard plastic surfaces; no adaptive cruise control
The two lower Kona grades use a 147-horsepower 2.0-liter Atkinson Cycle 4-cylinder engine mated with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The two upper trims qualify for the 175-hp 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine married to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. According to government measurements, both engines deliver 30 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving. The 2.0-liter does it with 27 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. The 1.6-liter, however, achieves it with 28 mpg city/32 mpg hwy.
We have only driven the top-end grade with the 1.6-liter/7-speed setup. Working well with the 7-speed, it has plenty of get-up-and-go.
Standard Features & Options
The 2019 Hyundai Kona comes in four trims: SE, SEL, Limited and Ultimate.
The SE ($21,035, FWD) ($22,435, AWD) comes fairly well equipped with a 2.0-liter engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, 16-in alloy wheels, a backup camera, hill-start assist, forward-collision avoidance, lane-keeping assist, driver attention warning, 7 airbags, power windows, power door locks, power outboard mirrors, remote keyless entry, LED headlights with auto on/off, LED daytime running lights, air conditioning, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, two USB port, driver’s-seat height adjustment, 6-way driver’s-seat adjustment, 60/40-split fold-down rear seat, a 7-in touchscreen, an audio system with satellite radio capability/Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, cargo cover and dual-level cargo floor.
The SEL ($24,445, FWD) ($25,845, AWD) beefs up the SE content with 17-in alloy wheels, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, keyless entry, heated outboard mirrors with turn-signal indicators, leather-wrapped steering wheel/shift knob and heated front seats. Options include the Tech Package that brings a power sunroof, 8-speaker Infinity audio, an 8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, fog lights and Blue Link.
The Limited ($26,595, FWD) ($27,995, AWD) adds all SEL options plus the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, leather seating, 18-in wheels, lime color paint and interior accent option and LED headlights and taillights.
The Ultimate ($28,545, FWD) ($29,945, AWD) comes fully loaded and adds to the Limited’s features with high-beam assist, rear parking distance warning, a head-up display, Blue Link with remote care/remote access/destination guidance, wireless device charging and an 8-in touchscreen navigation radio with traffic info.
The government has yet to crash-test the 2019 Kona, but the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 2019 Kona top marks in every crash test as well as bestows upon it a Top Safety Pick Plus honor.
Behind the Wheel
Settling back into the driver’s seat, which is supremely comfy and supportive, a quick look around doesn’t offer much in the way of polarizing styling. That is, the rather dynamic exterior styling doesn’t carry through to the interior. Yes, it’s well built and the bulk of the materials are top-notch, but there’s nothing outrageous in terms of the lines or component arrangement. If you pony up for a Limited or Ultimate grade, you can get some lime-green accents. Otherwise, there’s nothing crazy happening.
We found the 1.6-liter turbo to be engaging and spunky. The 7-speed DCT is a good match. Steering is responsive, and the turning radius remarkably tight. Our test Kona had AWD, so it came with a multi-link rear suspension rather than the FWD’s solid beam rear axle. Regardless of the suspension, torque vectoring through the brake system increases the Kona’s cornering acumen. The ride is surprisingly smooth and quiet.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Subaru Crosstrek — With its standard AWD, the Crosstrek is a smart pick for anyone with an eye on some outback adventure. Solid fuel economy and a roomy cabin are big pluses.
2019 Jeep Renegade — The most off-road capable of the Kona’s competitors, the Renegade, when properly equipped, can take on terrain that most in this class would need to detour around. People love or hate its styling, but the Jeep DNA is apparent.
2019 Toyota C-HR — If the Kona’s looks aren’t far enough out there for you, and you don’t want AWD, the C-HR is a good place to begin your search. Quirky styling, loads of safety tech and decent fuel economy, it’s like the Venza reflected in a fun-house mirror.
Used Hyundai Santa Fe Sport — A 2014-2017 Santa Fe Sport will give you a lot more interior room, horsepower and features, plus if you buy a certified pre-owned model, Hyundai reinstates the duration of the original 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.
When considering price, content and options, we think the SEL with the $1,600 Tech package is the way to go. No doubt the turbo is more fun to drive, so if you go that route, go big and get the Ultimate. Find a Hyundai Kona for sale