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2021 Hyundai Kona Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.8

The 2021 Hyundai Kona comes with a capable four-cylinder engine, but it offers a punchier turbocharged four-cylinder that makes this small crossover feel much livelier. The Kona handles pretty well and provides a mostly composed ride, all while getting decent gas mileage.

  • "The Kona is a pleasure to drive, especially with the turbocharged engine." -- Autotrader
  • "Kona SE, SEL and SEL Plus models come with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine … [that is] a fine choice for those who keep their acceleration ambitions modest. Limited and Ultimate models come with a punchier 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder connected to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. We think it has surprisingly swift acceleration, and enhances the fun factor of the Kona." -- Kelley Blue Book (2020)
  • "Overall, the Kona is a sporty subcompact SUV with above-average acceleration and handling. However, the turbocharged engine's transmission exhibits some bad behavior at low speed, and braking performance is subpar." -- Edmunds (2019)

Engine Options, Horsepower, and Acceleration

  • Base engine: 147-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder
  • Available engine: 175-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder
  • Drivetrain: standard front-wheel drive; available all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: six-speed automatic with base engine; seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with turbocharged engine

The base engine is about what you expect in an entry-level crossover: it's capable in most driving situations but never feels overly powerful. The optional turbocharged engine feels more potent. It makes the Kona quicker off the line, and it delivers a more engaging driving experience. It also inspires more confidence during highway merging and passing maneuvers.

There's also a Hyundai Kona EV, which we cover in a separate review.

  • "Although the base engine has adequate muscle, the 1.6-liter turbo is engaging and energetic, with the 7-speed DCT acting as the perfect partner." -- Autotrader
  • "The standard 147-horsepower engine is adequate for most needs, but we admit an affinity for the 175-pony turbocharged engine in higher trims. It packs significantly more torque, too, giving it swift acceleration that enhances the Kona’s already nimble handling." -- Kelley Blue Book (2020)
  • "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 (2018)

MPG Estimates

The Kona's fuel economy ratings are pretty typical for a subcompact SUV, and the numbers are just about identical with either engine.

  • Four-cylinder, FWD: 27/33 mpg city/highway
  • Four-cylinder, AWD: 25/30 mpg
  • Turbo-four, FWD: 28/32 mpg
  • Turbo-four, AWD: 26/29 mpg

Handling and Braking

It's easy to maneuver the Kona in cramped parking garages because of its small size. This crossover also has decent handling that lets you feel confident on crowded streets and winding roads. The ride is generally smooth, and all but the largest bumps in the road get absorbed without much trouble. Front-wheel drive comes standard; all-wheel drive is available.

  • "The … Hyundai Kona is surprisingly comfortable and compliant given its size. Yes, it’s at its best in urban environments where it can slip through traffic and slide into small parking spots, but we have no qualms using it for briefer highway treks." -- Kelley Blue Book (2020)
  • "Smaller imperfections are ironed out, and the suspension takes the edge off just about any bump. But the ride quality can feel a bit too rigid and busy at times. Very bumpy roads can make the vehicle feel excessively unsettled." -- Edmunds (2019)
  • "The ride and handling compromise is reasonable, with a smooth but well-controlled ride." -- Autoblog (2018)
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2021 Hyundai Kona

MSRP: $20,400 - $29,450

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