With its unique styling and feature-rich content, the 2019 Hyundai Kona makes a compelling argument for small-SUV buyers. More powerful than most in this class and with an unbeatable warranty, the Kona easily challenges competitors like the Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR, Jeep Renegade, Chevy Trax and Subaru Crosstrek. California buyers can opt for the Kona EV with its 258-mile all-electric range.
You'll Like The 2019 Hyundai Kona If...
If you need the size and room of a small-crossover SUV, but want something as sporty and well-equipped as it is fun to drive, the 2019 Hyundai Kona covers all the bases. Its powerful yet fuel-sipping turbocharged engine is a bonus, ditto its standard driver assists and long warranty.
You May Not Like The 2019 Hyundai Kona If...
The Kona isn’t big on rear-seat legroom, nor is its ground clearance as high as a Subaru Crosstrek. The base engine isn’t very powerful, and there’s no manual-transmission option or adaptive cruise control.
Every 2019 Hyundai Kona comes standard with Hyundai SmartSense featuring Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, Lane Keep Assist and Driver Attention warning. Dual front USB outlets and a minor reshuffling of some standard and optional features round out the changes. The Kona EV, Hyundai’s first all-electric crossover SUV, debuts in California and boasts a best-in-class range of 258 miles.
While not as dramatically styled as the exterior, the 2019 Kona features an interior that's still cool and interesting. 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.
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.
Again, the Kona EV stands out in its own electrified ways, such as its lack of a radiator grille and its flush, aerodynamic wheel rims. Its charging port is located in front, near the left headlight.
The 2019 Hyundai Kona is a surprisingly comfortable cruiser given its size, delivering better-than-average performance when equipped with the turbocharged engine while still remaining a frugal fuel sipper. The turbo isn’t as quick as we’d hope, but it puts out more power than most SUVs in this class. We think the fly in the ointment is the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission that proved somewhat slow to shift and suffered an odd shudder at speeds below 5 mph. Our all-wheel-drive (AWD) Kona came with an independent rear suspension that added to the car’s ability to tackle tight turns and smooth out road imperfections. Regrettably, front-drive (FWD) versions make do with a torsion-beam rear axle that isn’t as diligent. The overall feel is one of confidence, but the driving characteristics fall short of the standard set by the Mazda CX-3 and Toyota C-HR.
The Kona electric SUV has a driving experience that is similar – primarily in nimbleness -- yet all its own due to its electrified powertrain. Like other electric vehicles (EVs), acceleration and power are as immediate as a light switch. Nail the accelerator, and you can chirp the front tires. As for stopping, the driver-adjustable regen-braking system can be set to different levels. At its max, it can nearly enable one-pedal driving. Compared to the standard model, the electric Kona can feel a bit choppier due to its large battery. On the flip side, it feels more planted and is near silent in operation.
Prices for the 2019 Hyundai Kona almost perfectly bracket the $20,000 range. The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the Kona SE starts at $20,970, including the $980 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 $29,880. For us, a nice compromise is right in the middle, with the Kona SEL with the Technology Package. For about $24,380 you get a nice-driving, nicely equipped small-crossover SUV that's easily competitive with the Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR, 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.
The Kona Electric’s price ranges from $36,450 for an SEL version to $44,650 for the Ultimate. Those prices are before rebates and incentives, such as the $7,500 federal tax credit. Unlike the Chevy Bolt, which starts slightly higher and is available nationwide, the Kona EV is only being offered in California for now. Whichever Kona you have in mind, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price before buying to see what others in your area are paying. Also note that because it's so new, it's hard to estimate what the future resale value of the Kona will be.
The base 2019 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, Hyundai SmartSense, Bluetooth and two USB 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.
The 2019 Kona and Kona EV have an impressive roster of standard safety features that include automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and a driver attention monitor. The Kona EV also comes standard with blind-spot monitoring, which is optional on the standard Kona.
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. The SEL Technology Package adds a power driver's seat, sunroof, fog lights and an Infinity 8-speaker audio system. Step up to the Limited and you get the turbo engine, leather seats, automatic climate control, and a power driver's seat. The Kona Ultimate includes pedestrian detection, a larger 8-inch touch-screen infotainment system with navigation, wireless charging, 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.
QI WIRELESS CHARGING
A feature not found on many cars, the Kona’s optional wireless-charging pad makes it so much easier to keep your smartphone charged. Besides eliminating dangling wires, the pad proves most useful when committing long hours to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Another feature rarely usually found in this price range, the Kona’s head-up display is perfectly placed, full of useful information and refreshingly bright, so much so that we could easily see it even when wearing polarized sunglasses.
Under the Hood
The 2019 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.
The more limited Kona Electric uses a 64-kWh lithium-ion battery and an electric motor that makes 201 horsepower and a stout 291 lb-ft of torque. The Kona EV is front-drive only. Its range is an impressive 258 miles, 20 more than a Chevrolet Bolt and 19 more than this Hyundai’s cousin, the Kia Niro EV. Recharge times is about 9.5 hours on a 240-volt Level II charger. On a Level III Quick Charge station, the Kona EV can reach 80 percent capacity in 54 minutes.
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)
Permanent-Magnet Synchronous Motor (Kona EV)
64-kWh lithium-ion battery pack
291 lb-ft of torque
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 132/108 MPGe
EPA-estimated range per full charge: 258 miles
Like just about everything Hyundai builds, the 2019 Hyundai Kona is a cut above the average subcompact-crossover SUV. The Kona exudes more personality and playfulness than a Honda HR-V, although it stops short of the wild ride that is the Toyota C-HR. Like the Chevy Trax, the Kona comes with an available turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, but unlike the Mazda CX-3, the Kona isn’t as skilled in the curves.
The Kona’s ace up its sleeve is its long list of upscale features, standard driver assists and one of the best standard warranties in the business. All-wheel drive is optional, and while useful in places where it snows, the Kona is not as off-road adventurous as the Subaru Crosstrek. California buyers can opt for the 2019 Kona EV, which has more range and a slightly lower price than the Chevrolet Bolt.