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2021 Hyundai Kona Review

The 2021 Hyundai Kona is a subcompact SUV/crossover that would still be a tempting proposition even if subcompact SUV/crossovers weren’t suddenly the most popular new vehicle in the world. A slight exaggeration, perhaps, but this kind of vehicle does seem to be proliferating in a big way.

They come with the much-cherished raised driving position, a good helping of practicality and quite often with the option of all-wheel drive. Manufacturers are also loading them up with plenty of features that were once rare in this price bracket. The Kona can compete with the best of them. Heck, the Kona is among the best of them.

It sports styling that’s a) not like any other Hyundai and b) arguably attractive. The Kona is a pleasure to drive, especially with the turbocharged engine or electric motor (more on that model in a moment). Resale values are expected to be strong, safety features are abundant, technology is accessible and Hyundai makes a class-leading 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty as part of the deal.

The 2021 Kona Electric is a superb choice for zero-emissions driving. Although only on sale in 10 states for the time being, its maximum range is 258 miles. Also, Hyundai has partnered with Electrify America to provide 250 kWh of free charging to owners of the 2021 Kona Electric. This offer applies to new owners as well as folks who have already purchased a 2021 Kona EV.

Hyundai says that 250 kWh of charging at the Electrify America fast charger equates to about 1,000 miles of free driving.

What’s New for 2021?

The most significant change for this model year is the 250 kWh of free charging of the Kona EV provided by Hyundai. Also new is Night Edition Kona, which comes standard with the turbocharged engine.

The wilder Lime Twist and Sunset Orange color schemes have been discontinued. See the 2021 Hyundai Kona models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Superb value for money
  • Smartphone integration is standard
  • 1.6-liter turbo engine on the menu
  • All-wheel drive with locking center differential is also optional
  • Electric variant can cover 258 miles
  • 250 kWh of free Kona EV charging with Electrify America

What We Don’t

  • Cargo capacity could be better
  • Non-adjustable front passenger seat
  • Some hard plastic surfaces in the cabin

How Much?

$21,540-$29,190 (2021 Kona Electric: $37,390-$45,600)

Fuel Economy

The lower three trims have a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. The basic setup is that drive goes to the front wheels through a 6-speed manual transmission. All-wheel drive is optional.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the 2021 Hyundai Kona, in front-drive form, is rated at 27 miles per gallon in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg in combined driving. All-wheel drive adjusts those figures to 25 mpg city, 30 mpg hwy and 27 mpg combined.

The top three trims employ a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine linked to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Output is 175 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Again, front-wheel drive (FWD) is standard and all-wheel drive (AWD) is on the options list.

The EPA puts consumption of the 1.6-liter Kona at 28 mpg city, 32 mpg hwy and 30 mpg combined (FWD) or 26 mpg city, 29 mpg hwy and 27 mpg combined (AWD).

The front-drive-only Kona Electric is propelled with 201 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque from an electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery. The EPA rates the Kona EV at 120 MPGe combined (132 MPGe city, 108 MPGe hwy). Maximum range is an impressive 258 miles and the fastest charger — a Level 3 unit — can deliver 80 percent capacity in 54 minutes.

Standard Features and Options

The 2021 Hyundai Kona comes in SE, SEL, SEL Plus, Night Edition, Limited and Ultimate trim levels. All-wheel drive is available at every trim level, costing $1,400. The 2021 Kona Electric’s trim levels are SEL, Limited and Ultimate, with virtually the same inventories as the regular counterparts.

SE ($21,540) comes fairly well equipped with a 2.0-liter engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, 16-in alloy wheels, hill-start assist, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assistance, driver attention warning, seven airbags, power windows/door locks/side mirrors, automatic on/off LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, air conditioning, 60/40 split/fold rear seat, Bluetooth connectivity, two USB ports, 7-in infotainment touchscreen, audio system with satellite radio capability, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, dual-level cargo floor and a cargo cover.

SEL ($23,340) adds 17-in alloy wheels, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, keyless entry/ignition, rear privacy glass, heated outboard mirrors with turn signal indicators, illuminated vanity mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel/shift knob, and heated front seats.

SEL Plus ($25,190) brings a powered sunroof, 8-speaker Infinity audio setup, 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat (including lumbar support), wireless charging, LED fog lights and Blue Link (giving users the ability to perform various functions like remote locking/unlocking using a smartphone).

Night Edition ($26,740) puts the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine/7-speed transmission combination under the hood. It also includes black upholstery and black covers for the side mirrors, plus LED headlights/taillights and 18-in alloy wheels made by RAYS (a high-quality Japanese manufacturer). 

Limited ($27,340) has leather seating surfaces, 18-in alloy wheels and automatic climate control.

Ultimate ($29,190) receives automatic high beams, rear parking sensors, head-up display, rain-sensing wipers, Blue Link with remote care/remote access/destination guidance, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, pedestrian detection for the forward collision mitigation system, navigation radio with traffic updates, and an 8-in touchscreen.

Pricing for the 2021 Kona Electric starts at $37,390 for the SEL, $42,000 for the Limited, and $45,600 for the Ultimate. Keep in mind that a federal tax credit of $7,500 and various state incentives apply.


In crash tests, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Hyundai Kona a 5-star rating overall, with five stars in the front and side impact tests, and four stars in the rollover test.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) made the Kona a Top Safety Pick after taking top marks in every major category.

Every 2021 Kona has a driver attention alert. A good reason to think seriously about at least the SEL trim level is that it comes with blind spot monitoring as standard.

Behind the Wheel

The distinct exterior design approach doesn’t carry through to the interior. But that’s OK. User-friendliness is better than making style statements. The driver’s seat is supremely comfortable and supportive, fit and finish are great. Most of the materials are top-notch, but there are some hard plastics here and there.

Although the base engine has adequate muscle, the 1.6-liter turbo is engaging and energetic, with the 7-speed DCT acting as the perfect partner. The extra muscle makes better use of what is a stable yet nimble suspension. Brake-based torque vectoring enhances the Kona’s cornering talents, while the steering is responsive and the turning radius is tight.

Front-drive versions of the 2021 Kona have what’s known as a torsion beam rear suspension. It’s a simple and cost-effective setup for car makers, and Kia has done a decent job with the ride quality. Especially when taking the short wheelbase into account.

When all-wheel drive is in the mix, it’s joined by a more sophisticated independent rear suspension setup. The resultant ride is surprisingly smooth and quiet.

We mentioned above that cargo space isn’t so impressive. Behind the rear seats is 19.2 cubic feet, which is still bigger than the trunk of an average midsize sedan. Folding the seats down makes 45.8 cubic feet. Compare that, though, with the Honda HR-V’s 24.3 and 58.8 cubic feet. Rear legroom is another place where the HR-V does better: 39.3 inches as opposed to the Kona’s 34.6.

The 2021 Kona Electric delivers wonderful acceleration, while its battery pack lowers the center of gravity compared with the regular model. This makes the vehicle feel even more stable. The regenerative braking system can be adjusted and, at its most aggressive, it can get close to one-pedal driving. There are other differences inside, such as the buttons for Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive taking the place of a shift lever.

Other Cars to Consider

2021 Subaru Crosstrek — All-wheel drive is standard, so the Crosstrek is a smart pick for those yearning outdoorsy adventures. Solid fuel economy and a roomy cabin press home the Crosstrek’s advantage. Updated for 2021.

2021 Honda HR-V — Just as the CR-V is a titan among compact crossovers, the HR-V fills the same role one size down. Great build, reliability, versatility and resale values.

2021 Jeep Renegade — The most off-road-capable of the Kona’s competitors. When properly equipped, the Renegade can take on terrain that most in this class would need to detour around.

2021 Mazda CX-3 — Great styling, solid economy and athletic dynamics make the CX-3 a must-consider for potential buyers. There’s plenty of technology as well.

2021 Toyota C-HR — Quirky styling, lots of safety tech and decent fuel economy. Front-drive only, but still with a certain poise.

2021 Nissan Kicks — Also front-drive only. Keenly priced and relatively spacious.

Used Hyundai Santa Fe Sport — A 2014-2017 Santa Fe Sport will have a lot more interior space, horsepower and features. Plus, with a certified pre-owned model, Hyundai reinstates the duration of the original 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Questions You May Ask

Does the 2021 Hyundai Kona offer a manual transmission?

No. All variants of the Kona have an automatic transmission. The smaller Hyundai Venue crossover, however, has a 6-speed manual as standard.

How old is the Hyundai Kona?

Not old at all. This first generation only debuted for the 2019 model year, so all the technology is still fresh.

Where is the 2021 Hyundai Kona Electric available?

Currently (pardon the pun) California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Autotrader’s Advice

At the very least, choose the SEL to gain blind spot monitoring and several other things that will make driving more pleasant. After that, it all depends on taste and budget. Potential buyers living in the relevant parts of the United States should also check out the excellent 2021 Kona Electric. Find a Hyundai Kona for sale

Our editors are here to make car buying easier. We’ve driven, reviewed and compared thousands of cars. We’ve bought and sold more than our fair share, too. And as part of the sprawling Cox Automotive group of companies, we have exclusive access to a range of valuable data and insights. Whether you’re looking for the best car, the best deal or the best buying advice, you can trust... Read More about Autotrader

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