2018 Hyundai Kona 1.6T Ultimate Review

The 2018 Hyundai Kona is a brand new subcompact crossover introduced to capture the market's new found love for small SUVs. It is set to compete with the likes of Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V, and Nissan Qashqai. Hyundai has never shied away from making a statement with their vehicles. And the 2018 Kona, being late to the party, takes it to another level.

Thanks to Hyundai Canada, I had the chance to test drive this bold looking car for a week, and here is my unbiased review.

No doubt the 2018 Hyundai Kona is a quirky looking car. Coupled with an unapologetically bright blue, it sure makes a bold statement. The front fascia is notably dominated by an array of lights: two LED daytime running lights at top, two LED headlights in the middle, and two fog lights at the bottom. There are also five grilles in the front, but only two of them are real. I find the look refreshing, with only the fog lights looking slightly out of place.

On its side, the prominent wheel arches are highlighted by thick black claddings. The front black claddings morphed into the headlight housings, and the rear claddings morphed into the backup light housings. A decorated silver trim adds a little bit of character to the side profile, and a black trim breaks up the C pillar to give the car a floating roof look.

The rear of the car is dominated by an array of lights. The segmented LED taillights are similar to what we see in other Hyundai vehicles, but the backup lights are surrounded by big signal lights and reflectors. There is a third break light incorporated into the sporty looking rear spoiler. Thick black claddings break up the bottom portion of the tail and makes the Kona looks lighter on its wheels.

I appreciate the daring styling of the Kona. Hyundai manages to product a character rich vehicle that looks youthful, and confident. It is one of those exteriors that you either love or hate.

While the exterior of the 2018 Hyundai Kona looks bold and quirky, the interior of the car looks  more restrained and refined. Hyundai purposely rounded all the corners to give the interior a consistent, youthful theme. The control layouts are simple and organized.

The front cabin of the Kona is roomy with good leg and head space. The front seats are comfortable with good bolster supports. Both the front seats and the steering wheel are heated. The position of the shifter is similar to that of a manual car, which is very comfortable to grip. I also enjoyed the soft-touch dash trim that looks both modern and premium.

The rear cabin of the car is not as spacious as some of its competitors. Taller passengers might feel both the leg room and the head room slightly restricted. The rear seats are comfortable, and there is a sturdy fold-down armrest in the center with integrated cup holders.

I like how Hyundai matches the youthfulness of the exterior to the interior. In addition, the interior design is much less polarizing and could be appreciated by a boarder audience.

The infotainment system has always been the highlight of any Hyundai vehicle I have test driven. The 8" display of our tester is bright, crisp, and responsive. I like how the control dials and buttons are right next to the screen for easy access. Android auto and Apple Carplay are standard. The software interface is quick, modern, and intuitive.

The instrument cluster has two analog dials and a digital display. The analog dials display crucial information like the engine RPM, vehicle speed, fuel level, and engine temperature. The digital display is customizable, and reflects real time vehicle information like the door status, light status and trip information. It can also be used to customize vehicle settings.

The digital display is interacted by the rocker switches and the buttons on the steering wheel. The control layout is simple and easy to operate. There is a wireless charging pad, a USB charger, an auxiliary audio input, and two power sockets in the lower center console. There is plenty of options to power any electronic gadgets you want in the car.

In Ultimate Trim, there is also a 8" head-up display that projects important information like speed, navigation commands, and safety warnings in your line of sight, so you can keep your eyes on the road at all times.

The optional 8-speaker Infinity audio system sounds rich and deep. However, the interior can be slightly noisy when pushing the 1.6L turbochanrged engine, or when it is on the highway.

Our top trim tester is equipped with a 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 175-hp of power and 195 lb-ft of torque. With a 7-speed dual clutch transmission, the 1.6T Kona can propel itself from 0-100km in 7.8 Seconds. That is faster than most of the cars in its segment. The turbocharger lags slightly at low speed, but if you are generous with the throttle, the engine comes alive and begs to be driven hard. I find the 2018 Kona has no problem climbing steep hills or merging onto highways.

The chassis is agile and well balanced. The AWD transmission of our tester is coupled with with multi-linked rear suspensions. The car handles corners confidently and absorbs road bumps admirably. It is a fun car to take on a twisty road. The steering is firm, but slightly muted. For such a fun, preppy car, I would prefer more feedback from the steering wheel.

Under most driving conditions, the AWD system powers the font wheels only, but under hard acceleration, the system automatically sends power to the rear wheels to prevent tire slips. There is also a button to activate the lock mode, forcing the system to split the power 50/50 until you reach 40km/hr speed. This would come in handy when driving in sand, gravel, or snow.

Overall, the Kona is a fun, zippy car to drive. It can benefit from a little bit of engine tuning and more steering feedback. However, the fuel economy is surprisingly good at 8.4L/100km in mixed city/highway driving conditions.

Safety and Driver Assistance
The 2018 Hyundai Kona offers the following features for all trim levels:

  • Rearview camera
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
  • Traction Control System (TCS)

2.0L Preferred and above gets:

  • Blind-Spot Detection
  • Lane Change Assist
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Parking Distance Warning

2.0L Luxury and 1.6T Ultimate also gets:

  • Autonomous Emergency Braking
  • Lane-Keep Assist System
  • Driver Attention Assist

The Hyundai Kona has yet to be rated from NHTSA and IIHS at the time of this writing.

Cargo Space & Storage
The Kona offers similar cargo space compare to its competitors. It narrowly beats the Mazda CX-3 in this department. With the rear seats up, there is 544L of cargo space, and it increases to 1296L with the 40/60 rear seats folded down. There is a dual level cargo floor that provides additional storage options for smaller items.

The small item storage space inside the cabin is good for its size. The door side pockets have integrated bottle holders, and there are additional storage space in the center console, and in the glove compartment.

The 2018 Hyundai Kona may not be for everybody. You either love or hate its exterior styling. Nonetheless, it is a small but practical car that has good interior, and is fun to drive. Its infotainment system is class leading, and Hyundai offers some of the lengthiest warranties in market. I always appreciate a car manufacturer that is willing to try a different approach, and the Kona is certainly a refreshing addition to the subcompact SUV segment.

Test Vehicle
2018 Hyundai Kona 1.6T Ultimate
33,729 (with delivery and destination fees)
Blue Lagoon


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