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2023 Hyundai Kona: Choosing the Right Trim


Where most subcompact SUVs fit into the small and slow but fuel-efficient category, the 2023 Hyundai Kona is something altogether different. Within its five trim offerings are two miserly models with attractive price tags and three turbocharged versions, including a high-performance model that knows no equal.

The Kona is a strong performer against rivals like the Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR, Chevrolet Trailblazer, and Subaru Crosstrek. While its fuel economy isn’t the best in class, figures in the mid-30 mpg range are more than acceptable. All-wheel drive (AWD) is available on all but the Kona N.

Hyundai makes the Kona Electric (reviewed separately) for those seeking zero tailpipe emissions.

2023 Hyundai Kona SE (starting at $21,990)

The most basic Kona is the SE trim. It comes standard with a host of safety and driver-assist systems, including forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, a blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic detection, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist.

Additional assists include driver attention warning, a rearview monitor, Safe Exit Warning (warns exiting passengers of danger from approaching traffic), and a rear seat reminder system that prompts the driver to check the back seat for kids or pets before leaving.

The SE comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic on/off headlights, LED daytime running lights, remote keyless entry, power heated side mirrors, and a rear window wiper.

Pop open the door, and you’ll find cloth upholstery covering manually adjustable front seats and a 60/40-split fold-flat rear seat.

Standard conveniences include cruise control, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, manual air conditioning, power door locks, and power windows with a driver’s side auto-down feature.

The SE’s infotainment system consists of an 8-inch touchscreen display hooked to a 6-speaker AM/FM stereo. Media features include wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The system includes dual USB outlets up front and a rear USB charge port.

Powering the Kona SE is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder rated at 147 horsepower. It’s paired with continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with manual shift mode.

All-wheel drive is optional and adds $1,500 to the bottom line. Adding AWD also brings a more substantial independent rear suspension.

With the $1,295 destination fee, the 2023 Hyundai Kona SE costs $23,285. On a 60-month loan at 3% financing and zero down, the monthly payment comes to about $418. See 2023 Hyundai Kona SE models for sale

2023 Hyundai Kona SE includes:

  • Blind-spot monitor – When you’ve used your turn signal, this alerts the driver to cars in the adjacent lane. Rear cross-traffic alert does the same for vehicles about to pass behind the Kona when you’re backing up.
  • Heated side mirrors – These activate when the rear defroster is on, helping to prevent ice and snow from building up on the side mirrors.
  • Wireless Android Auto/Apple CarPlay – Via wireless streaming from your smartphone, these provide access to your maps, apps, music, and messages.

2023 Hyundai Kona SEL (starting at $23,800)

The SEL uses the same engine and transmission as the SE and offers AWD as an option.

Building off the SE’s standard features, the Kona SEL adds 17-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, roof rails, and a proximity key fob that allows locking and unlocking the doors by pulling on the handle. A push-button start comes standard.

The SEL gains an 8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, automatic up/down power front windows, HD Radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, and access to Hyundai’s Bluelink connected car services.

Optional equipment for the SEL includes the Convenience Package that adds navigation with over-the-air updates, a 10.25-inch touchscreen display, heated front seats, a power sunroof, automatic climate control, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

Also in the package are a wireless charging pad, a hidden cargo area storage compartment, and Hyundai Digital Key that lets your smartphone lock, unlock, and start the car, just like a standard key.

We also should point out that when moving to the larger 10.25-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto require a cable connection.

With the $1,295 destination fee, the 2023 Hyundai Kona SEL costs $25,095. On a 60-month loan at 3% financing and zero down, the monthly payment comes to about $451. See 2023 Hyundai Kona SEL models for sale

2023 Hyundai Kona N Line (starting at $27,700)

The N Line brings a sporty feel to the Kona with a more powerful 195-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The N Line builds off the SEL with the Convenience Package, adding a power sunroof, 18-inch alloy wheels, N Line exterior styling cues, aero wiper blades, and body-colored cladding.

Exclusive N Line cloth sport front seats are perfect when tearing up twisty back roads, while metal sport pedals add a racy look. A 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster replaces the SEL’s more traditional analog set.

With the $1,295 destination fee, the 2023 Hyundai Kona N Line costs $28,995. On a 60-month loan at 3% financing and zero down, the monthly payment comes to about $521. See 2023 Hyundai Kona N Line models for sale

2023 Hyundai Kona N Line includes:

  • Digital instrument cluster – Replaces analog gauges with digital reproductions and features different themes allowing the driver more choices in how the display looks.
  • 1.6-liter engine – Though smaller in displacement, this turbocharged engine offers more power and nearly identical fuel economy as the base 2.0-liter.
  • Sport seats – Thanks to a bit more bolstering, these seats hold you in place during spirited drives.

2023 Hyundai Kona Limited (starting at $28,800)

The Limited brings Hyundai’s best luxury and tech touches to the Kona.

Building off the SEL with the Convenience Package, the Limited adds the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine from the N Line and the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.

Highlights for the Limited include an electronic parking brake, cyclist detection for the forward collision avoidance system, LED headlights, LED taillights, and automatic high-beam headlights.

Interior upgrades include leather upholstery, a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, and ambient interior lighting.

Adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go comes standard, as does an 8-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. The Limited features rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, and Highway Driving Assist I that keeps the car centered in its lane when using the adaptive cruise control. It also monitors posted speed limits.

With the $1,295 destination fee, the 2023 Hyundai Kona Limited costs $30,095. On a 60-month loan at 3% financing and zero down, the monthly payment comes to approximately $541. See 2023 Hyundai Kona Limited models for sale

2023 Hyundai Kona Limited includes:

  • Automatic high beams – These automatically illuminate in low light situations and dim for oncoming traffic.
  • Harman Kardon audio – A definite improvement over the stock system, it’s a must-have for those who like their music loud and clear.
  • Leather upholstery – Gives the Limited an upscale look and feel. It’s also easier to clean than cloth.

2023 Hyundai Kona N (starting at $34,700)

The Kona N takes everything we like about the N Line and adds considerable power and handling. The N deletes the N Line’s sunroof, a subtraction that helps improve the SUV’s overall structural rigidity.

Under the hood, the N gains a 276-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT). The Kona N is a front-drive-only prospect with no option for AWD.

The N rides on 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero performance tires. It also features a large wing-type rear spoiler and an N Corner Carving differential, which improves cornering by distributing torque where it’s needed most.

A comfortable set of leather and suede sport seats has large side bolsters and padded thigh support for maximum comfort.

Unique to the N is the N Grin control system, activated by two steering-wheel-mounted buttons. The system changes the throttle mapping and transmission shifts with five possible modes: Eco, Normal, Sport, N, and N Custom.

The N also gets a unique digital cluster screen, heated front seats, automatic climate control, LED headlights, automatic high beams, a Harman Kardon audio system, standard cruise control, and ambient interior lighting.

With the $1,295 destination fee, the estimated cost for the 2023 Hyundai Kona N is $35,995. On a 60-month loan at 3% financing and zero down, the monthly payment works out to about $647. See 2023 Hyundai Kona N models for sale

2023 Hyundai Kona N includes:

  • 276-hp engine – No other subcompact in this class even comes close. We only wish it offered the option of AWD.
  • N Grin Control –  This system, with a fun name, allows the driver to vary the degree and intensity of the N’s acceleration via selectable drive modes.
  • Torque vectoring – The N’s Corner Carving differential distributes torque to the wheel with the best grip, helping improve traction when cornering at high speeds.

FAQ

What is the best 2023 Hyundai Kona trim?

If you’re on a budget, the Kona SEL is the best choice. It offers features and technology we think most people expect, plus the optional Convenience Package for those who want a little more.

The Limited has more features, a better stereo, and more driver assists, something to consider if your all-in budget tops out at around $30,000.

Of course, the Kona N is all about performance, but its price tag puts it in the same zone as cars like the VW GTI, Mini Cooper S, and the all-wheel-drive Subaru WRX.

How many miles per gallon does the 2023 Hyundai Kona get?

The 2023 Hyundai Kona SE and SEL with the 2.0-liter engine have EPA figures of 30 mpg city/35 mpg highway/32 mpg combined. Adding AWD brings the figures down to 28 mpg city/33 mpg highway/30 combined.

The N Line and Limited with the turbocharged 1.6-liter engine get 29 mpg city/35 mpg highway/32 mpg combined, or 27 mpg city/32 mpg highway/29 mpg combined when equipped with AWD.

The high-performance Hyundai Kona N is rated by the EPA at 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway/23 mpg combined.

Which 2023 Hyundai Kona trim offers the most safety?

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

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also gives the Kona good marks, although it didn’t receive any additional accolades above Good in all crash test categories.

The SE and SEL include most of the driver assists we like to see in a car, but if you want things like adaptive cruise control, semi-autonomous steering, and rear parking sensors, you’ll have to move up to the Limited trim.

Joe Tralongo
Joe Tralongo
Joe Tralongo is a longtime contributor who started in the industry writing competitive comparison books for a number of manufacturers, before moving on in 2002 to become a freelance automotive journalist. He’s well regarded for his keen eye for detail, as well as his ability to translate complex mechanical terminology into user-friendly explanations. Joe has worked for a number of outlets as... Read More about Joe Tralongo

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