New 2018 Hyundai Kona SUV New 2018
Hyundai Kona SUV

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KBB Editor's Overview

By KBB.com Editorial Staff

The 2018 Hyundai Kona is the Korean manufacturer's entry into the newest and most competitive part of the crossover-SUV market: small crossovers. Going head-to-head against the Honda HR-V, Toyota CH-R, Mazda CX-3, Chevrolet Trax and many others, the Hyundai Kona offers up a compelling formula. There's high-tech safety equipment like automatic emergency braking and a driver-alert system. There's a full-color head-up display available as well. Turbocharged and naturally aspirated engines are both available, and both can be had with all-wheel drive. While smaller than many of its rivals, Hyundai has managed surprisingly good interior packaging, so except for rear-seat legroom, there's more space than you might expect. Wrapped in standout styling, the new Hyundai Kona makes a compelling case against ever-tougher competition.

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You'll Like This SUV If...

If you're looking for a uniquely styled, space-efficient, fuel-efficient and high-tech small-crossover SUV, the Kona has you covered. It even offers a turbocharged engine, helping it avoid the pokey-acceleration critique leveled at so many of its competitors.

You May Not Like This SUV If...

With the well-established relationship between beauty and the beholder's eye, it's safe to say the Kona won't be everyone's styling forte. If you frequently use the rear seat, the Kona's tight rear quarters earn it a pass as well.

What's New for 2018

The 2018 Hyundai Kona is all-new this year, on a new chassis developed specifically for the small-crossover-SUV market.

Driving It

Driving Impressions

The 2018 Hyundai Kona is comfortable, reasonably quiet on the road, quick-ish with the turbocharged engine, and all-around, nicely executed. The independent rear suspension in all-wheel-drive models like the one we drove does a respectable job of smoothing out bumps; we'd expect the torsion-beam axle in front-wheel-drive models to be more jittery on broken pavement. Around corners the Kona feels planted but not sporty, despite the best efforts of the Sport driving mode and torque-vectoring system. This is a small-crossover SUV after all, not a sports car, and within that definition it's entertaining enough. The Sport mode quickens throttle response and transmission shifts, but it also firms up the steering to an unreasonable degree, making it feel syrupy without adding any meaningful feedback. As for the turbocharged engine, it keeps the Kona from being slow, but it's not what we'd call fast, either. The transmission takes part of the blame here: The 7-speed dual-clutch is surprisingly slow to shift on its own, and suffers from an odd shudder from 0-5 mph that's not a deal-killer, but is noticeable.

Favorite Features

ALL-WHEEL DRIVE
That the 2018 Kona features all-wheel drive (AWD) in addition to front-wheel drive (FWD) may seem obvious, but it's not. Many of its competitors, such as the Toyota CH-R, Nissan Kicks and Kia Soul, don't offer it. The Kona even features a center differential lock, in case you decide to tackle a slightly tougher trail.

HEAD-UP DISPLAY
We like the head-up display in the new Hyundai Kona for two reasons. First, it's a rarity in the class and nice to have. But beyond that, it's exceptionally bright, to the point that it's even bright enough to overcome polarized sunglasses.

Vehicle Details

Interior

While not as dramatically styled as the exterior, the 2018 Kona features an interior that's still cool and interesting. We like the big round vents on the sides, the dash-mounted infotainment screen that manages to avoid looking tacked on, and the clever pocket above the available Qi wireless charging pad that's perfectly sized for a smartphone. The driver's seat is perfectly comfortable, as is the front passenger's, and there's even good cargo space behind the rear seats. That includes an adjustable floor and hidden storage. The rear seats are not quite as roomy, though. There's not a lot of legroom, headroom is only adequate, and adults can forget about the center position. If you opt for the Lime Twist green paint, you get body-colored accents inside. It adds a much-needed splash of color to the charcoal decor, and we wish Hyundai would do it with its red and blue exterior colors.

Exterior

There's a lot going on with the Kona's styling, but despite the multiple textures, lines and surfaces, it all works surprisingly well. We like the narrow LED running lights mounted atop the fenders, and the taper at the bottom of Hyundai's grille refreshes the look without redefining it. There's gray plastic around the fenders, but rather than reduce it to a thin stripe Hyundai owns it with the Kona, wrapping it thickly around the wheelwells and into the front bumper. In back things aren't quite as tidy, but it still hangs together, and out on the road the new Kona looks surprisingly fetching. We liked it in red, but if you want to tone it down, you can get silver, gray or black. If you like red or blue, you can also get a black contrast roof.

Notable Standard Equipment

The base 2018 Hyundai Kona SE comes with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder powering the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission. Standard equipment includes a 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, and USB and AUX inputs. Cruise control is standard as well, as is a tire-pressure-monitoring system that monitors each tire individually. The manually adjusted seats are covered in cloth, and there are automatic headlights and keyless entry. There's a rearview camera, standard with dynamic guidelines that curve as you turn the steering wheel.

Notable Optional Equipment

Beyond the turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive, there are multiple models, each adding its own unique blend of features. The Kona SEL gets larger 17-inch alloy wheels, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert, a proximity key with push-button start, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and a hidden cargo compartment. You can also get the Technology Package, which adds a power driver's seat, sunroof, fog lights, and a suite of safety systems that includes forward-collision warning and prevention, lane-keeping assist, and driver-attention warning. Step up to the Limited and you get the turbo engine, leather seats, automatic climate control, and a power driver's seat. The top-line Kona Ultimate includes all that, plus the safety technology, a larger 8-inch touch-screen infotainment system with navigation, a head-up display, automatic high beams, parking sensors, and a color multi-information display between the main gauges. Interestingly, active cruise control is not available.

Under the Hood

The 2018 Kona SE and SEL both come with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, routed through a 6-speed automatic transmission. This is about what many of its competitors offer, and it's sure to be a good choice for those who keep their acceleration ambitions modest. Limited and Ultimate models come with a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder connected to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. While notably quicker than many other vehicles in its class, the turbocharged engine doesn't exactly make the Kona fast, and the transmission's slow shifts and unrefined character leave a lot to be desired. It offers up plenty of torque though, and at very low engine speeds. All-wheel drive is available with both engines, inflicting a fuel-economy hit in favor of better traction. Note that with all-wheel drive, you also get an independent rear suspension.

2.0-liter inline-4
147 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
132 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/33 mpg (FWD), 25/30 mpg (AWD)

1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4
175 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
195 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 28/32 mpg (FWD), 26/29 mpg (AWD)

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Pricing Notes

Prices for the 2018 Hyundai Kona almost perfectly bracket the $20,000 range. The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the Kona SE starts at $20,450, including the $950 destination charge; all-wheel drive adds $1,300 to the price of any Kona model. On the other end, the AWD Kona Ultimate will run you $29,650. For us, a nice compromise is right in the middle, with the Kona SEL with the Technology Package. For about $23,600 ($24,900 with AWD) you get a nice-driving, nicely equipped small-crossover SUV that's easily competitive with the Honda HR-V, Toyota CH-R, Subaru Crosstrek, and many others. While the Ultimate's near-$30,000 price tag may sound like a lot, it's right between the price for a loaded Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring, and a Subaru Crosstrek Limited. To see what others in your area are paying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price. Also note that because it's so new, it's hard to estimate what the future resale value of the Kona will be.

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