Car Reviews SUV of the Year

Hyundai Kona: 2019 Motor Trend SUV of the Year Finalist

A surprisingly good subcompact CUV

A surprisingly good subcompact CUV

WE LIKE Agile handling, great powertrains, great EV range

WE DON’T LIKE Tight back seat and modest cargo room

There’s no tougher ballgame in town than that of the subcompact crossover. Margins are thin, but you can’t make it feel cheap.

But with its all-new Kona, Hyundai’s first swing appears to be a hit. Available with either front- or all-wheel drive, two distinct gas engine choices, and even an all-electric option, there are variants aplenty.

Likes? “This is probably the most compelling vehicle in its class,” Christian Seabaugh said. About the 175-hp 1.6-liter mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch, he added, “Not only does it look cool, but it’s also relatively sporty and fun to drive. For once, we have a subcompact crossover with a proper powertrain.” But move down to the base 147-hp 2.0-liter model, and do you miss much for nearly 10 grand less? “It has just as much fun factor,” Mark Rechtin said. “The knobs and buttons are a bit cruder, but it rides and handles pretty much the same.”

Negatives? “It’s long on sport but might be short on utility,” Scott Evans said. “The rear seat is cramped, and the cargo space is fairly small, even for its class. Its lack of ground clearance makes it more of a foul-weather vehicle than an SUV.” Its loud interior—meaning noise levels, not its cool lime-colored accents—is class-typical, too.

Angus MacKenzie was attracted to its design: “The Kona’s chunky, tough, broad-shouldered design looks interesting without being overwrought.” And all of us were wowed by the 201-hp electric version’s eye-opening yet affordable 258 miles (415 km) of battery range and silky driving quality.

Across the model line, the Kona is nimble and affordable, and it takes a big swing as the best small crossover for a first-time buyer.

READ ABOUT 2019 SUV OF THE YEAR CONTENDERS:

READ ABOUT 2019 CAR OF THE YEAR CONTENDERS:

2018 Hyundai Kona (base) 1.6T AWD Electric
Base Price/As tested $20,480/$20,605 $26,980/$29,805 $38,000/$44,000 (est)
Power (SAE net) 147 hp @ 6,200 rpm 175 hp @ 5,500 rpm 201 hp @ 3,800 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 132 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm 195 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm 290 lb-ft @ 0 rpm
Accel, 0-60 mph 8.3 sec 7.5 sec 6.6 sec
Quarter-mile 16.3 sec @ 84.6 mph 15.9 sec @ 88.1 mph 15.1 sec @ 95.9 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 133 ft 132 ft 138 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.81 g (avg) 0.84 g (avg) 0.79 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 27.8 sec @ 0.60 g (avg) 27.3 sec @ 0.64 g (avg) 27.8 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy/Comb 27/33/30 mpg 26/29/27 mpg 132/108/120 mpg-e
Vehicle Layout Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine/Transmission 2.0L DOHC 16-valve I-4 /6-speed automatic 1.6L turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4 /7-speed twin-clutch auto Permanent-magnet AC synchronous/1-speed auto
Curb Weight (F/R Dist) 2,864 lb (62/38%) 3,266 lb (60/40%) 3,763 lb (54/46%)
Wheelbase 102.4 in 102.4 in 102.4 in
Length x Width x Height 164.0 x 70.9 x 61.0 in 164.0 x 70.9 x 61.0 in 164.0 x 70.9 x 61.2 in
Energy Cons, City/Hwy 125/102 kW-hrs/100 miles 130/116 kW-hrs/100 miles 26/31 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 Emissions, Comb 0.66 lb/mile 0.71 lb/mile 0.00 lb/mile (at vehicle)