By on March 21, 2018

2018 Hyundai Kona

Earlier this year, Hyundai mixed up the nomenclature of its largest crossover. The three-row Santa Fe XL takes the place of the old three-row Santa Fe, with that name migrating to the smaller machine (which is only available as a two-row unit unless you opt for the diesel, in which case it’s a three-row, but not an XL). Understand?

No, me either. What I do know is the littlest crossover in Hyundai dealerships is no longer the Tucson. Enter the Kona, a pint-sized ute ready to take on competitors like the CX-3 and HR-V. The Korean automaker usually runs long on features and short on price, so let’s find out what its newest nameplate offers in the sub-$20,000 range.

Of course, it’s not really sub-$20,000 by the time you add $950 worth of freight. The MSRP is an agreeable $19,500 packing family-friendly features like a 7-inch touchscreen display with CarPlay, hands-free Bluetooth, and a rear-view monitor. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes while a rear window wiper keeps a clear view astern. Air conditioning is standard, of course.

The styling apparently portends a new direction for Hyundai’s crossover units, seemingly a future in which all of them look like – thanks to a pair of high and narrow headlights – they’re about to sneeze. It is not at all offensive or downmarket, even in this base form, absent of el-cheapo black door handles or side mirrors. Sixteen-inch alloys bear 205/60 tires.

Dark lower cladding and fender flares try to make the Kona look butch but simply succeed in making the trucklet look as if a toddler was left unsupervised with a fresh package of Sharpie markers. At least snazzy LED daytime running lights line the Kona’s nose, but the red, puffy jowls in its rear bumper are slightly alarming.

2018 Hyundai Kona

Under the hood is Hyundai’s corporate 2.0-liter inline-four, making 147 horsepower and  hooked to a six-speed automatic transmission. Those are fewer cogs than may be expected by many shoppers in 2018 but hey, at least it’s not a CVT. At this price, the Kona is a front-drive affair. All-wheel drive will bruise your bank account to the tune of $1,300.

Expected power accessories appear on this base Kona, along with keyless entry and folding armrest for the rear seat minions. Don’t laugh – this feature is critical for separating sibling rivals and is often a feature skimped upon by many OEMs in their most affordable wheels. As is Hyundai’s wont, there are no optional features. Those who want more need to climb the ladder to the next trim level.

2018 Hyundai Kona

All six colors on the Kona’s palette are offered at $0, ranging from the Surf Blue shown here to an exciting Pulse Red and stoic Thunder Gray. One should not discount the strength and appeal of Hyundai’s new car warranty, an attractive ten-year bonus to folks unlike you and I who aren’t enamored with broken down Alfas and temperamental old 4x4s.

I look forward to driving a Kona myself before declaring it an Ace of Base winner. Until then, I sate my appetite with the build-n-price tool and our Managing Ed’s upcoming review.

[Images: Hyundai]

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments and feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown with American options and priced in American Dollars. Your dealer may sell for less.

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23 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2018 Hyundai Kona...”

  • avatar

    That looks suspiciously like my CX-3…

  • avatar

    Why is this an Ace of Base? Just looks like a uselessly sized and overpriced neither-here-nor-there crossover thing. If I was looking for a compact crossover with AWD on the cheap I’d get a Outlander Sport or Impreza hatchback, if I just needed hatch/wagon utility I’d get a base Golf Sportwagen, or something like a Fit if my driving was non-highway. This segment on TTAC is a snoozer.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Unfortunately it is a segment that currently has a ready market.

      My daughter lives in the ‘downtown core’ in a ‘heritage section’. Finds a Rogue/CRV ‘too large’ to drive/park comfortably there.

      However prefers some ride height for visibility. And when she takes her grandmother for drives, prefers a higher entry/exit point as sedans/coupes have rooflines that are too low and require her to bend too much.

      And drives ‘north’ one day every weekend in the winter to a ski hill. So as well as ride height, she wants higher road clearance.

      Also makes regular trips to IKEA, so prefers a hatch or wagon back to a trunk.

      And being a female millenial, she is not particularly interested in vehicles and does not see them as ‘status symbols’ or representative of who/what she is, they are just an appliance, like her air conditioner. Thankfully she can drive a ‘stick’ but prefers not to in the City core.

      Currently her favourite vehicle is a Kia Soul. Followed by a Scion Xb. Strangely she greatly dislikes the Prius, finding it ‘too noisy and rattly’.

      • 0 avatar

        Well I get the Soul and (now defunct) xB a lot more than most of the other entrants in the segment, both of those have every good interior space for either people or cargo, and are priced very well to boot. The likes of this Hyundai or the CX3 have the scrunched back ends that really limit cargo hauling, yet charge a premium for that “privilege.”

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Yes, what is it with the downward sloping roofline and slanted hatch on so many models? Is it for aerodynamics or just a styling cue.

          Regardless it limits cargo space by an unfortunate amount.

          Unlike traditional stationwagons or mini-vans with their traditional ‘flat’ roof and strictly horizontal backend.

    • 0 avatar
      CKNSLS Sierra SLT


      The Buick Envision is probably smaller than the Kona and is Buicks biggest seller. So-some think they are the right size for them.

  • avatar

    Interesting entry into the world of subcompact CUVs. A CX3 would be be my first choice but the warranty will attract a fair number of buyers who want this type of vehicle. Ace of Base features are among my favorite reads on TTAC—keep up the good work.

    • 0 avatar

      The CX-3 looks great and probably drives well, but the inside is so small. I don’t understand how it can be so poorly packaged when others in this class aren’t. I sat in one at the auto show, and you turn around, and the rear bench is practically hitting you in the face.

      • 0 avatar

        Yep, the packaging on a lot of Mazdas is downright bad. My ’15 Mazda6 is every bit as big as an Accord yet feels more cramped than a Civic inside. Cargo capacity in the CX-3 and CX-9 are easily the worst in their segments. I was willing to trade comfort for sportiness but after nearly four years with my 6, I’m not sure it was worth it.

  • avatar

    You might do better shopping around for an Outlander Sport AWC. The Mitsu may have better equipment at a similar price and it’s got a 10/100,000 warranty. Of course the Mitsu’s been around, probably designed by ancient aliens.

    • 0 avatar

      The Mitsu would be my choice as well. Their AWC all wheel drive system is above average as I understand it, giving the driver a bit more control than most others. I also happen to think it has some of the best crispest styling in the segment.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Since TTAC is a Canadian owned site and does have a fairly large Canadian readership, why not include both the American and the Canadian warranties?

      There generally is quite a difference, with Canadian warranties being considerably shorter.

      Someone once told me that this is because Canadian warranties apply to the car and thus are automatically transferred to each subsequent owner, while American warranties apply to the owner and require a payment/registration to transfer to subsequent owners. Is this true?

  • avatar

    This wouldn’t be bad little car, and power is competitive (even better with the upgraded engine). But WHY all the cladding? I don’t even hate small crossovers the way most people here do, I think they have legitimate appeal for certain people, but this would look a million times better without all that plastic.

    • 0 avatar

      Because without that cladding, the illusion of “I’m not just a tall hatchback with available AWD” is lost, and then us Americans are left just driving a *whisper* hatchback.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    If car seats fit; a new car for the baby momma demographic!

  • avatar

    “enamored with broken down Alfas”

    Ouch. I resemble that remark.

  • avatar

    In the Canadian market… this car is not quite available but up on the Canadian site for Pre-Order. Sadly, it looks like Hyundai is moving the way of Honda and NOT offering Canadians a full colour palette on base models. For each trim model you go up more colour options become available. I hate when manufacturers do this….

  • avatar

    This makes the Buick Encore look downright attractive.

    It’s like someone went for a drive in a Citroen Cactus, but unfortunately while waiting at a stop sign it was smashed between the cars ahead of and behind it, with obvious bends to frame and body panels… also causing the Airbumps to fall off the sides…and all four tires to catch fire and leave awful black marks around the wheel wells.

    Thankfully, with bigger wheels and everything painted body-color, it looks less objectionable. Which is good, because the electric version of this car, should it ever actually materialize, is supposed to be Hyundai’s answer to the Chevy Bolt.

  • avatar

    The South African band, Mafikizolo, has a song called, “Khona” that came out about 5 years ago. It’s a pretty catchy tune:

    I think Hyundai is missing a great opportunity to use this song in an ad campaign.

  • avatar

    Despite being a latecomer to the market, the Kona has been outselling the CH-R in Australia, but behind the CX-3 and HR-V.

    The biggest issue for the Kona in this market may be that it is a bit tighter inside than many of its competitors.

    Btw, the EV version sans that awful cladding looks better.

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