Ace of Base: 2018 Hyundai Kona

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

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.

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.

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.

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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2 of 23 comments
  • Quasimondo Quasimondo on Mar 22, 2018

    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.

  • Bd2 Bd2 on Mar 23, 2018

    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.

  • VoGhost Key phrase: "The EV market has grown." Yup, EV sales are up yet again, contrary to what nearly every article on the topic has been claiming. It's almost as if the press gets 30% of ad revenues from oil companies and legacy ICE OEMs.
  • Leonard Ostrander Daniel J, you are making the assertion. It's up to you to produce the evidence.
  • VoGhost I remember all those years when the brilliant TTAC commenters told me over and over how easy it was for legacy automakers to switch to making EVs, and that Tesla was due to be crushed by them in just a few months.
  • D "smaller vehicles" - sorry, that's way too much common sense! Americans won't go along because clever marketing convinced us our egos need big@ss trucks, which give auto manufacturers the profit margin they want, and everybody feels vulnerable now unless they too have a huge vehicle. Lower speed limits could help, but no politician wants to push that losing policy. We'll just go on building more lanes and driving faster and faster behind our vehicle's tinted privacy glass. Visions of Slim Pickens riding a big black jacked up truck out of a B-52.
  • NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys dudes off the rails on drugs and full of hate and retribution. so is musky.