2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD

Subcompact SUVs and crossovers are hot. They’re practical and versatile, have good fuel efficiency, cost less than larger vehicles, and often have all-wheel-drive. They’re a good option for folks who just don’t need a large vehicle.


The five-passenger Hyundai Kona was introduced for the 2018 model year and immediately became a contender in the growing subcompact SUV class with its zippy handling, attractive interior, long list of standard features and relatively low sticker price. For 2019, Hyundai adds some additional standard safety features and also introduces an all-electric model.


The gas-powered Kona is available in four trims: SE, SEL, Limited and Ultimate. Starting prices range from $19,990 to $31,950. Front-wheel-drive is standard and all-wheel-drive is available. (The Kona Electric EV comes in three trims: SEL, Limited and Ultimate. Starting prices range from $36,950 to $44,900. It’s only available with front-wheel-drive)


The traditional Kona has two available engines. Standard is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. My tester has the turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 175 horses and 195 pound-feet, paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.


The Kona is fun to drive. The turbo makes for zippy handling. Acceleration is quick for the class and the Kona stays planted when cornering. Driving in busy city traffic and squeezing into tight parking spaces is easy thanks to the Kona’s small size. The ride is fairly firm and you will notice large bumps and rough roads.


Fuel economy is pretty good for the class. EPA ratings for my AWD tester are 26 mpg city and 29 mpg highway with a combined rating of 27. I got 27 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving.


The cabin is more upscale than what you’d expect at this price. The first thing you’ll notice is the quality feel you get when you open the car doors; The Kona doesn’t have that tinny feel of other small vehicles. Inside there are hard plastics but they still look and feel nice. Front seats are roomy. The second row is okay for average-sized adults but taller folks will wish for more leg- and headroom.


The Kona has a long list of standard features for the price including remote keyless entry, rearview camera, cloth upholstery, seven-inch touch screen, six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, two USB ports, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. New for 2019 are several standard safety features including lane keep assist, forward collision warning, and a driver-attention monitor.


Available features include proximity keyless entry, push-button start, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, power-adjustable driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, head-up display, eight-inch touch screen, navigation, eight-speaker Infinity audio system, HD Radio, satellite radio, wireless device charging, and a sunroof.


Available driver assistance technologies include blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, rear cross traffic alert, rear parking sensors, and automatic high beams.


The infotainment system is easy to reach and use. The system responds quickly to touch and voice commands. There are handy physical buttons and knobs for commonly used functions such as audio and climate settings so you don’t have to go through the touchscreen for these.


Many rivals have more storage space. The Kona has 19.2 cubic feet behind the second row and 45.8 cubes with the back seats folded. Standard 60/40 split-folding rear seats provide flexibility in hauling passengers and cargo.


The Kona comes with Hyundai’s impressive five-year/60,000-mile limited warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.


The good:

Peppy handling

Attractive interior

User-friendly infotainment system

Lots of standard features

Standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

Good value for the money

Also available as an EV

Excellent warranty


The not-so-good:

Rivals have more cargo room

Ride can be bumpy


Pricing info:

My tester starts at $28,900. Carpeted floor mats are $135. Delivery fee is $1,045 bringing the grand total to $30,080.


Bottom line:

The Hyundai Kona is worth considering by anyone shopping for a subcompact SUV. The Kona is fun to drive, has a nice interior, decent fuel efficiency and is an excellent value for the money.

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