Sporty 2019 Hyundai Kona: A surprise leader in subcompact segment Featured

Posted On Sunday, 19 May 2019 20:02 Written by
Rate this item
(1 Vote)
The 2019 Hyundai Kona is making a name for itself quickly due to share design and even sharper performance./Users/Myftiu/Desktop/Hyundai Kona_opt.jpg The 2019 Hyundai Kona is making a name for itself quickly due to share design and even sharper performance./Users/Myftiu/Desktop/Hyundai Kona_opt.jpg Photo by Matt Myftiu/

The Hyundai Kona came seemingly out of nowhere this past January, and took home Utility Vehicle of the Year honors at the 2019 North American International Show. This continues a recent trend of successful launches for Hyundai, which has garnered significant critical acclaim and growing market share.

So what's all the hype about? I'm here to break it down for you after spending some time in the Kona, a vehicle on a mission to disrupt the ever-growing subcompact crossover market.


The 2019 Hyundai Kona is short, as all subcompacts are, but also sharp-looking. Hyundai includes unique and stylish headlights and a chrome-framed grille. The inside is not fancy (there’s plenty of plastic to be found), but also not cheaply put together, even offering leather seating, steering wheel and shift knob.

It comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, auto on/off headlights, LED headlights and taillights, power tilt and slide sunroof, rain sensing windshield wipers, heated side mirrors with turn signal indicators, heated front seats and a center armrest in the rear.

Typical for the segment, there is limited space in the back seat unless driver and passenger up front are very short. Seating is comfortable for the front passengers on long and short trips, and the back seat folds down to increase storage space. Speaking of storage space, it’s not bad for the class, but don’t expect miracles. This isn’t a full-size, or even mid-size, SUV.


Two engines are offered on the Kona: One turbo, and one non-turbo. The standard engine, a 2.0-liter four cylinder, offers 147 hp and 132 lb.-ft. But I wholeheartedly recommend skipping this more sluggish option and going for the turbo engine.

My test vehicle featured the 1.6-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, paired with a 7-speed automatic transmission. Drive Mode Select lets you choose between Regular or Sport settings (once you experience it, you’ll want to stay in Sport whenever possible), and the numbers on this engine are 175 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. In my experience, the Kona went 0-to-60 in under 7 seconds, which is battling for best in class.

The turbo engine offers lots of pep and is extremely agile, making this one sporty subcompact. Typically, I’m unimpressed with the drive in these subcompacts, but to my surprise the Kona offered a more enjoyable overall driving experience than most (or possibly all) of its competitors. The handling is top-notch, you never feel sluggish or slow, and the vehicle does everything you want it to do without delay.

The engine can be a bit noisy when you get moving, but it's not an unpleasant type of noise.

The Kona is also available in both FWD and AWD options. Adding AWD will also upgrade your rear suspension, which in turn will boost the overall handling of the Kona.

The overall positive experience of driving the Kona may be what sells it best, as its stock grows in coming years. It never struggles like some smaller crossovers can, and should win lots of converts from other subcompacts like the Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR and Nissan Kicks.


One area where Hyundai doesn’t disappoint with the Kona is tech and safety, where you get a bevy of standard features to help improvement your entertainment and safety experience.

All Kona trim lines will include at least a 7-inch touchscreen, compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for smartphone mirroring, as well as Bluetooth connectivity. Higher trim levels come with an 8-inch touchscreen. You get push button start, plus well-placed steering wheel controls for audio, phone and cruise control.

Among standard safety features on the Kona are: Anti-lock brakes, rearview monitor with parking guidance, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and a driver-attention monitoring system, as well as a bevy of air bags, and a tire pressure monitoring system with individual tire indicator.

Other safety features you can add include: Lane change assist; blind spot and rear cross traffic collision warning and pedestrian detection.In higher trim levels, wireless phone charging is offered, as well as a heads-up display that is helpful for keeping your eyes on the road.  

Overall, the infotainment system was user-friendly, and responded quite well to both touch commands and voice instructions. You can upgrade to a stout 315 watt sound system, including Infinity premium audio with Clari-Fi music restoration tech. A 90-day trial of Sirius satellite radio is included.

The official fuel mileage numbers on the Kona are 28 city/32 highway/30 combined, but I met and even slightly exceeded these numbers during my time driving the Kona. Still, it falls just a little bit short of the subcompact segment leaders.

The Kona i tested was an Ultimate model and priced at $28,680. base price starts about $20K, and trim levels include SE, SEL, Limited and Ultimate. It’s also hard not to be impressed with Hyundai’s industry-leading warranties, including 5-year/60K new vehicle warranty, 10-year/100K powertrain warranty and a 5-year unlimited mile roadside assistance guarantee, which increase the long-term value proposition considerably for the Kona (which has one of the lowest total ownership costs for the segment).


Of all the smaller SUVs I have driven in recent years, the Kona is the first one I can remember where, outside of the size issues, I have no major complaints. So if you're comfortable with the space limitations of the Kona, I highly recommend a test drive (with the turbo engine) so you can experience the quality of the drive it offers. There's a good reason the Kona won NAIAS Utility of the Year honors … it earned it, and the Kona is poised to make a considerable impact on the subcompact crossover segment.


----- can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page.

Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.

Search Reviews by Make

AutoTechReviews  is your home for In-depth reviews of the latest cars, trucks, and SUVs; information on all the emerging vehicle technology; and breaking news from the world of NASCAR and other motorsports.