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2022 Hyundai Kona First Look


It’s not easy to stand out amongst all the subcompact crossovers. After all, at last count there were around 20 of them. But the 2022 Hyundai Kona has chops. Thanks to its expressive style, fun-loving personality and benchmark EV tech — the Kona has become one of our favorites. In fact, our sister publication KBB has named the Kona a Best Buy in its class for 2019 and 2020.

The Kona receives a fairly extensive refresh for 2022 making this excellent subcompact SUV even better. Value is key at this end of the market. And the Kona packs quite a bit into its small package from standard safety tech, to multiple engines (including two fun turbocharged models) and even a fully-electric version that can travel a very respectable 258 miles on a charge (reviewed separately).

Downside? The Kona isn’t as large or roomy as some in this class of vehicle. And the cargo capacity of 19.2 cubic feet with the rear seat up and 45.8 cubic feet with that seat folded are towards the middle of the pack. Although those specs haven’t changed for 2022, its impressive that Hyundai was able to carve out an extra 0.6-inch of rear seat legroom for the new Kona, a small improvement that could make a big difference for taller backseat rider.

In fact, Hyundai has taken a detailed approach to the improvements they’ve made in the 2022 Kona. It’s a more extensive refresh than most SUVs receive at this point in their lifecycle. And that speaks to just how competitive this segment has become in recent years. Find a 2022 Hyundai Kona for sale

What’s New for 2022?

The Kona receives a sophisticated new look for 2022. The new grill and light shape signature help make the Kona appear lower and wider than before, without losing the model’s distinctive style. The new appearance generally looks more upscale, especially on the Limited models—and that’s no bad thing. The changes to the rear are subtler and include a new lower lighting design. The new Kona is slightly longer than the outgoing model too, likely a result of the new front and rear facias. And that new front-end design, Hyundai says, improves airflow.

The Kona model line has been trimmed down to four. And the newest is the sporty N-Line version that adds its own design to the mix with body-colored cladding, extended aerodynamic sills and a more aggressive lower spoiler section. N-Line models also receive a new 18-inch wheel too. The N-Line might look sporty but the suspension is tuned just like every other Kona.

The standard 147-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder remains unchanged for 2022 and send power to the front wheels or an optional all-wheel-drive system. It’s the only engine choice on SE and SEL models. But the 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that comes on N-Line and Limited trims receive a bump to 195 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. And that torque is available way down at 1,500 rpm — one benefit of turbocharging. And it’s paired to a re-tuned 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT).

Hyundai focused upon reducing noise in the new Kona. So, every model has a new acoustic windshield, improved insulation around the dash and instrument panel area and more in the cargo area. And that should help lower fatigue on both short and longer drives.

Inside, there are some small but notable improvements like the redesigned center console. But most of these affect the upper N-Line or Limited trims like the ambient lighting added to the cupholders and floor area. As mentioned earlier, there’s slightly more rear seat legroom and Limited models gain a USB there too. The biggest improvement inside? Big screens. SE and SEL models have a larger 8-inch display. But standard on the Limited (and optional on N-Line) are the huge new 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.25-inch infotainment display. That infotainment screen adds improved voice recognition, split-screen functionality and the ability to handle multiple Bluetooth connections.

And there are quite a few upgrades for the company’s Blue Link connected car technology that comes free for three years on some models. For example, the system has cloud-based storage for vehicle settings which can be remotely updated. Cool.

Hyundai has added some safety tech to the menu for 2022 including a new rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist system which applies the brakes if it detects another car approaching. This small but significant tech addition is a real benefit for those that park on high-traffic streets and a real improvement over the conventional cross traffic alert systems. Find a 2022 Hyundai Kona for sale

What We Like

  • Updated design
  • Sporty N-Line and improved turbo power
  • Large screen infotainment display

What We Don’t

  • Most desirable features reserved for most expensive models
  • Cargo area still small
  • Styling may not be for everyone
  • All-wheel drive not standard on the highest trims

How Much?

The 2022 Hyundai Kona SE starts at $20,950. Another front-wheel-drive (FWD) model, the Kona SEL, begins at $22,750. With all-wheel-drive (AWD), the Kona SE and Kona SEL start at $22,450 and $24,250, respectively. These are the Konas powered by the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

As a new Kona N Line, which is powered by a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, this Hyundai starts at $25,500 (FWD) or 27,000 (AWD). As a luxurious 2022 Kona Limited, also powered by the 1.6, this Hyundai starts at $28,250 (FWD) or $29,750 (AWD). The destination fee is $1,185.

Fuel Economy

Hyundai’s 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, which comes on SE and SEL models, is unchanged for 2022 and delivers 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque. It comes paired to Hyundai’s Intelligent variable transmission — in other words, a CVT.

A front-wheel-drive (FWD) 2022 Hyundai Kona, equipped with said CVT and the 2.0-liter engine, returns EPA fuel economy of 30 miles per gallon in the city/35 mpg on the highway/32 mpg combined. With all-wheel-drive (AWD), the 2.0-liter Kona is rated at 28 mpg city/33 mpg highway/30 mpg combined.

The new N-Line and the top Limited trim come standard with the turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder. For 2022, this powerplant delivers 195 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque — that’s a 20 hp bump over last year. And like before, the turbo motor is paired to a sporty 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.

With the turbo 1.6, the FWD and AWD versions of the 2022 Hyundai Kona are both rated at 27 mpg city/32 mpg highway/29 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2022 Hyundai Kona comes in a more simplified lineup. There are now just four trim levels: SE, SEL, N-Line, and Limited. All-wheel drive is a stand-alone option. Because pricing hasn’t yet been announced, the below pricing is estimated based on the 2021 Kona.

SE ($20,950) comes well equipped with 16-inch wheels, LED daytime running lights, cloth 6-way driver’s seat, 8-inch display audio infotainment screen, 4.2-inch information display, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, dual front USBs, tilting and telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, power windows and door locks, and more.

SEL ($22,750) brings 17-inch wheels, heated mirrors with turn indicators and roof rails. The SEL also adds satellite radio and Blue Link to the 8-inch infotainment system, and push-button start with a proximity key.

N-Line ($25,500) offers unique bodywork standard along with 18-inch wheels, body-color cladding, N-Line cloth interior, heated front seats, 8-way driver’s seat, N logo shift knob and leather-wrapped steering wheel, alloy sport pedals, automatic climate control, and Hyundai digital key.

Limited ($28,250) has unique 18-inch wheels, LED headlights/taillights, high beam assist, rain-sensing wipers, sunroof, leather seats with front power lumbar support, 10.25 color touchscreen, Harmon Kardon premium audio, rear USB port, soft door panels, leather shift knob, smart cruise control with stop and go, 10.25 digital instrument cluster, ambient lighting, and more.

Safety

The previous Kona was a safety standout with a 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as well as a Top Safety Pick award winner from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). And because the 2022 model is the same basic vehicle, structurally, we can probably expect similar performance.

And when it comes to safety technologies, the Kona brings quite a bit along on its base SE models like forward-collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, lane-following assist, driver attention warning, and rear occupant alert.

The SEL and N-Line Konas receive all this tech plus, blind spot collision avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist, and safe exit warning.

Top Limited models add park distance warning, highway drive assist, and high beam assist.

Behind the Wheel

We haven’t had a chance to experience the 2022 models, but with so few mechanical changes it’s probably safe to say that we’ll enjoy the drive experience of Hyundai’s newest small SUV as much as we did last year. However, we predict the performance gap between the powertrains will seem more noticeable now.

That’s because the base 2.0-liter engine, which we found somewhat underpowered before, is no longer mated to a 6-speed automatic but a CVT. These transmissions typically don’t offer the same kind of rewarding drive as a conventional automatic. So, the acceleration response from the SE and SEL models will likely feel somewhat soggy.

But our prediction for the N-Line and Limited is the opposite. We quite enjoyed the turbocharged 4-cylinder powertrain in past Konas. And because Hyundai gave this engine more power and re-tuned the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, the experience should be even more enthusiastic and fun.

In both cases, we’d opt for the all-wheel-drive system because it replaces the old-timey twist-beam rear axle with a more sophisticated and precise handling multilink suspension.

Other Cars to Consider

2021 Honda HR-V: If the Kona is a little on the small side, consider the HR-V. It’s roomy, offers Honda’s sweet magic seat for hauling tall objects and has amazing cargo space. Plus, this is a Honda so the build quality and reliability are excellent.

2021 Mazda CX-3: When the subcompact SUV needs to behave more like a sports sedan, choose the Mazda CX-3. The CX-3 is one of the most fun-to-drive of all small crossovers. In addition, the styling is crisp and the interior is trimmed with materials that seem to come from a class above.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek: There’s no reason a subcompact SUV has to look trucky. The Subaru Crosstrek is the vehicle for those that want utility mixed with the comfort of a car. The Crosstrek is a Subaru so the all-wheel drive comes standard and it receives excellent safety scores too. Our pick? The plug-in hybrid model — to save some fuel.

2021 Kia Seltos: The Seltos is like the Kona’s bigger brother. The two ride upon a shared chassis but the Kia is the one that sits taller, looks more SUV like and has more room on the inside. Good news? The Seltos offers the same sharp handling as the Kona.

Used Hyundai Kona: A second-hand Kona will offer nearly the same driving experience as a new 2022 model. And because the overall design hasn’t changed too much, a used Kona still looks fresh today. Our pick would be an all-wheel-drive model in SEL or higher spec.

Used Nissan Kicks: The Kicks is one of the roomiest subcompacts in the class. And we really like the high seating position and excellent fuel economy. The Kicks received a refresh this year. But the update was almost entirely cosmetic and rather subtle, so a used Kicks will bring most of what we value about the new Kicks at a much lower price.

Autotrader’s Advice

The Kona’s refresh is comprehensive, bringing many small enhancements to a subcompact SUV we already really liked to drive. However, to get the best of this vehicle the buyer needs to steer toward the top two (N-Line and Limited) trim levels. That’s where you can get the more powerful engine, the larger infotainment and gauge cluster displays, and the best luxury and safety features. Make ours a sporty N-Line with all-wheel drive. Find a 2022 Hyundai Kona for sale

Ben Stewart
Ben Stewart is an author specializing in automotive testing and technology. He has a unique perspective—as a lifelong 4WD enthusiast Ben has driven just about every production 4X4 on road and off for the last 20 years. But his expertise and experience goes deeper. Ben has had the opportunity to drive and report on a wide variety of vehicles ranging from pre-production fuel cell cars to... Read More about Ben Stewart

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