Subcompact SUV Best Buy of 2019
- Practical, attractive, fun to drive
- Loaded with standard safety equipment
- Choice of turbo or non-turbo engines
- Good EPA fuel economy
- Excellent warranty protection
- Pricing starts at $20,970 (including $980 destination charge) | Price yours
- On sale now | See Kona models for sale near you
After thoughtful consideration and a healthy amount of spirited debate, KBB has named the Hyundai Kona as its Subcompact SUV Best Buy of 2019. Although the extremely space-efficient Honda HR-V has an enticing resume (and is a known commodity as a KBB 5-Year Cost to Own winner), the new Hyundai Kona has won us over with its entertaining driving manners and lively style, not to mention its superb controls, abundant high-tech safety equipment and impressive warranty, highlighted of course by its 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain protection, the best in the business.
What Makes the Kona Special?
It’s not just one thing. For a subcompact crossover SUV, the 2019 Hyundai Kona feels low and wide, which helps explain why this solidly built 5-seater drives more like a hot hatchback than a subcompact SUV. Indeed, the Kona is a delight on a twisty mountain road. On the outside, the Kona looks youthful and fun, what with its bright paint colors (check out Lime Twist) and thin LED driving lights mounted high up front. What’s more, thick fender lips made of dark plastic lend this subcompact Hyundai crossover an SUV-like appearance. The goodness continues inside, where the overall look is a bit more conservative but still very handsome. The dash, bookended by large circular air vents, features a large central touch screen framed by switches that technically are redundant but dramatically improve the user interface and help drivers keep their eyes on the road.
Also in the Kona’s favor: Hyundai’s new subcompact crossover is a line of new Hyundai models, not just a single vehicle with one powertrain. For Best Buy consideration, KBB tested the flagship Ultimate AWD model, powered by a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. The Ultimate, with 175 horsepower, carries an MSRP of $29,880, which includes a destination charge of $980. At the entry level, a front-wheel-drive Kona SE powered by a naturally aspirated 147-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder mated to a traditional 6-speed automatic is available, starting at $20,970. All-wheel drive, with a pushbutton lock for the center differential, adds $1,400 with either engine. Completing the Kona range is the brand-new Kona EV, a California-only electric model with a 64-kWh lithium-ion battery and an impressive range of 258 miles. The Kona EV, arriving early in 2019, has not been priced yet.
Safety, Safety, Safety
Yet another feather in the Kona’s cap is its abundant standard safety technology. Besides forward collision-avoidance software, lane-keeping assist and a driver-attention warning, all 2019 Hyundai Konas are blessed with rear cross-traffic alert, a blind-spot collision warning (with lane-change assist) and a parking distance warning that works in reverse. Traditional safety efforts are highlighted by side-curtain airbag protection with rollover sensors.
Very Well Equipped
Beyond the safety hardware, the Kona Ultimate is otherwise remarkably well equipped. In addition to a leather interior, pushbutton start, a sunroof, automatic headlights and an Infinity stereo with Sirius satellite radio (and actual twist knobs for volume and station), our Kona Ultimate boasted hill-descent control, heated front seats, selectable drive modes and even a pad to wirelessly charge your smartphone. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also are standard, as is a pop-up head-up display offering lots of handy information. Be warned, though: Screen adjustability is buried deep in the User Settings menu, accessible via your right thumb.
Although the 2019 Hyundai Kona pays big dividends in front-seat headroom and legroom, the same can’t be said of the 3-seat rear bench, which falls short in both categories, especially compared to rivals such as the Honda HR-V and Subaru Crosstrek. On a positive note, the quality of the Kona’s interior materials is excellent, with satisfying textures and many soft-touch surfaces. Also notable: The cargo area beneath the Kona’s hatch is 19.2 cubic feet, which more than doubles (to 45.8) when the rear seat is folded flat.
Then there’s resale values. While Hyundai resale values aren’t quite up to Honda’s lofty standards, they are good and improving. Also, although the Kona hasn’t been around long enough to have a KBB 5-Year Cost To Own rating yet, it’s important to understand that depreciation in this class tends to be less of a concern because, well, there’s less to depreciate here. Last, we’re happy to report that that the 2019 Hyundai Kona gets the fuel economy you’d expect of a subcompact SUV, with EPA Combined ratings of 30 mpg for front-drive models and 27 mpg for the AWD versions. Incidentally, those EPA Combined ratings are the same for Konas with or without the turbo engine.
While that may be a little befuddling, this much is clear: The Hyundai Kona is an impressive new vehicle, and it has earned the title of KBB’s Subcompact SUV Best Buy of 2019.
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