2018 Hyundai Kona

Performance


$19,500 MSRP
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2018 Hyundai Kona Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 8.2

The new-for-2018 Hyundai Kona features an adequate base engine, but it offers a lively optional turbocharged engine that makes for a more engaging driving experience. Both engines get good mpg ratings. The Kona generally rides smoothly, and it handles better than many class rivals.

  • "The 2018 Hyundai Kona is comfortable, reasonably quiet on the road, quick-ish with the turbocharged engine, and all-around, nicely executed." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "As we mentioned earlier, driving dynamics fall below price and style for most small crossover buyers. Still, the Hyundai Kona is a pretty nice vehicle to drive enthusiastically." -- Autoblog
  • "Small road imperfections don't upset the Kona's suspension too much—although its ride is definitely on the firm side, it takes a sizable bump or pothole to unsettle the car and bounce you around." -- Motor Trend

Acceleration and Power

The Kona features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 147 horsepower. It's paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. This engine provides ample power for driving around town, and it should do fine for many buyers, but it feels a little weak at times – particularly when climbing hills.

Higher trims feature a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 175 horsepower. This engine is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Though this turbo-four doesn’t turn the Kona into a speed demon, it makes this Hyundai feel more energetic and capable than many class rivals. Opinions are split over the dual-clutch transmission, with some critics arguing that it holds the engine back and shifts slowly, while others say it's responsive.

With both engines, the Kona gets good fuel economy ratings for the class. According to EPA estimates, the Kona gets 27 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway with the base engine. The more powerful engine earns nearly identical numbers – 28 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

These are your only powertrain options for now, but Hyundai will offer an all-electric Kona starting with the 2019 model year.

  • "There's no doubt the 1.6T engine delivers a more robust kick and would be my choice, but the average small utility buyer isn't going to miss it if they opt for the cheaper SE or SEL -- the non-turbo mill just needs more revs to deliver its torque." -- Autoweek
  • "Most shoppers won't spring for a fully loaded Kona, but our experience with the turbo 1.6-liter engine shows it's worth opting for the Limited. This drivetrain is a standout among those of its rivals, which feel weak by comparison. Speed builds steadily when you hit the gas, and merging onto highways doesn't require pinning the pedal to the floor." -- Edmunds
  • "This [base engine] 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." -- Kelley Blue Book

Handling and Braking

Front-wheel drive comes standard on the Kona, but you can get all-wheel drive. This Hyundai may give the Mazda CX-3 a run for its money when it comes to engaging handling, and it's more fun to drive than almost every other subcompact SUV. The Kona is agile and feels controlled around turns. The ride is on the firm side, but it ably absorbs most road imperfections.

The Kona even performs reasonably well in off-road situations thanks to features like a lockable differential and hill descent control. But keep in mind that the Kona has a low ground clearance, and just because muddy terrain poses few problems, don't think it can keep up with a Jeep Renegade Trailhawk.

  • "The ride and handling compromise is reasonable, with a smooth but well-controlled ride." -- Autoblog
  • "Taut and stiff over small, sharp bumps in the road, the Kona's ride can get busy depending on the road surface. Otherwise, I have no complaints. Handling genuinely impresses, and Hyundai includes torque vectoring at every wheel when the Kona is equipped with AWD, making another case for this optional upgrade." -- New York Daily News
  • "The Kona is surprisingly agile on mountain roads. Steering is precise and body roll is well-managed through turns. We wouldn't call it sporty, but it is similarly enjoyable to drive as the Mazda CX-3, which is the class leader in handling. This athleticism translates into a confidence-inspiring and comfortable ride even over rough roads. The taller ride height is subject to some jostling, but imperfections in the road are pleasantly abated." -- Edmunds
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