I was still rubbing sleep from my eyes when I checked my phone upon waking. I was scheduled to drive the Hyundai Santa Cruz, and here was a notification of an email saying something about driving the Hyundai Kona N instead. Was Hyundai short a truck or something?
Nope, they just had two Kona Ns around for media to drive at the lunch stop, and those Ns had to get there somehow. Would I like to drive one?
Another day, another Zoom presentation to learn about some new hotness.
As we noted, the Kona now gets an N Line trim so that the brand can argue that its subcompact crossover can be considered truly “sporty” (we’ll be the judge of the merits of said argument once we drive it), and there are new duds.
Hyundai Motor Co. plans to issue a voluntary recall on Korean-market Kona Electrics as it addresses potential manufacturing defects it’s worried might result in short-circuiting battery cells. Roughly a dozen incidents of fire have been linked to the model, including isolated events in Australia and Canada, and the automaker is particularly keen to address them. Asia has come down hard on battery fires, following a string of high profile examples where battery electric vehicles burnt themselves to the ground.
South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has already issued a release confirming Hyundai’s plan to recall 25,564 Kona EVs manufactured between September 2017 and March 2020. Those units will be inspected for defects before being issued obligatory software updates and a battery replacement, according to the government agency.
The subcompact Hyundai Kona earned itself no shortage of attention on these digital pages after it landed in dealers in February of 2018. Some of that press was, ahem, not favorable to the little Hyundai, which impressed neither in interior volume or in off-roadability.
It’s a subcompact crossover, of course. Its utility will be limited. Still, the Kona proved a success for Hyundai, boosting sales volume for the suddenly-struggling brand and helping get it to where it is today. Despite the pandemic, July saw the model’s fourth-best monthly showing since its debut.
Committed to fielding the freshest lineup around, Hyundai already has changes in store for the Kona. If power was once a concern, a new variant should put that issue to rest.
Bad product decisions cost auto manufacturers money, yet history provides us with many such examples. In today’s QOTD, we’re going to consider the best of the worst in poor automotive decision making. Present or past, anything goes in today’s inquiry. What vehicle makes you really wonder “what were they thinking?”
Earlier this week, Mazda hauled the covers off its MX-30, an EV with more than a hint of RX-8 and MX-5. The company’s decision to imbue the trucklet with clamshell doors and a jacked-up posture cements two things in your author’s foggy mind: first, EVs are here for good; second, most of them will be shaped like pseudo-offroaders.
Which got me thinking about the Hyundai Kona. Available in many trims (including a base model we’ve profiled here before), it is also offered in EV form, bearing less grille than the original Infiniti Q. With three trim levels in the order books for this Korean electron eater, is the cheapest one a customer’s best bet?
Allow me to take you on a trip in the Wayback Machine for a moment. The year was 2001, and a 23-year-old Bark (that’s me) had just gotten a job as a Kiosk Sales Representative for Verizon Wireless. My first month, my sales quota was 55 new phone activations — I ended up selling over 120. If you doubled your quota, you qualified for a 300 percent payout. The regular commission was $27 an activation, which meant that I earned $81 per activation on 120 or so sales. I literally didn’t know what to do with all of the money — my dad was still paying my rent, and I didn’t have a dime of debt. A lot of it ended up going to a lovely young professional dancer named “Skyy,” if I remember correctly.
The rest of it, I took to Hatfield Hyundai for a down payment on a 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe GLX. Hyundai Finance was kind to young buyers back then, and they allowed me to pay something like 5 percent APR over 60 months for the new-for-2001 SUV. My black and gray version had every box checked — leather, V6, and all-wheel-drive. My Santa Fe was the only one I had ever seen with chrome door handles, and I door-handle checked every other model I saw on the road just to confirm. I think the princely sum I paid was somewhere around $23k.
Yes, it’s true that Hyundai overstated the horsepower numbers, and the car had some minor issues along the way, but when I traded it in on my RX-8 in 2005, I had gotten about 100,000 worry free miles from Hyundai’s first SUV effort. Overall, I was incredibly pleased with the ownership experience — bland, perhaps, but reliable and competent.
Well, fast forward about eighteen years or so, and Hyundai has another small SUV on the market, and it’s roughly the same price that my Santa Fe was in 2001 (yes, I’m aware of inflation). But unlike that Santa Fe, this one is awful. It’s called the Kona, and what I’m about to tell you about it flies directly in the face of every other review you’ve read. Why? Read on.
One of my personal auto reviewer “rules” is that I try to test any vehicle I drove on a press junket later, at home, even if it’s months later (and even if it’s many months before I get around to writing about it). I do this because the potholed roads and unpredictable weather of the city I call home stand in stark contrast to the pleasant places where automakers hold their splashy first drive events.
I also do this because driving a car in normal grocery-getting duty is different than driving it hard on a twisty road, because I don’t always get to drive on the freeway on a junket, and because a car reveals things about itself over the course of several days or a week that it wouldn’t in just a few hours.
Enter the 2018 Hyundai Kona. Several months after driving it on the Big Island of Hawaii (not long before that volcano erupted — the same one I toured while there. Did I piss off the volcano gods somehow?), I took possession of one here in Chicago. Would I think differently about the Kona, in one way or another, after a week behind the wheel? Or would I just end up confirming my first-drive review?
Spoiler: It’s more the latter than the former.
Depending on your place of residence, you may have begun seeing a small, quiet Hyundai crossover with a face like Jason Voorhees tooling around the neighborhood. That’s the Hyundai Kona Electric, a vehicle with 258 miles of range and a starting price matching the Chevrolet Bolt’s $37,495 MSRP.
At least, its price did mirror the 238-mile Bolt, until Hyundai beancounters decided it was time for some new math.
On Thursday, Hyundai unveiled a special edition of its Kona crossover on the opening day of the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con. Revealed at the Marvel booth, the Kona “Iron Man Edition” features a bevy of design elements that either resemble or tip their hat to the famous comic book icon. All told, it’s probably one of the most comprehensive example of cross promotion in recent history.
How desirable it is will be highly dependent on the person you’re asking, however.
I’m going to acknowledge my prejudice against these types of vehicles upfront. While I’m all for wild paint jobs and tasteless accessories, there’s something about this kind of cross-branding that chaps my posterior. It isn’t just that automobiles are supposed to be purchased by adults (we already know that they’re ravenous consumers of things they recognize from their childhood). It’s the half-hearted effort that’s typically placed behind them.
March 2018 U.S. Auto Sales: Ford EcoSport Still Climbing, but so Are Other Mainstream Subcompact Crossovers
The Ford EcoSport, a new (to North America) subcompact crossover hastily inserted at the bottom of the Blue Oval’s lineup, went on sale in January of this year. No TTACer who sat in the vehicle at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit walked away impressed, and it was odd to see a new model introduction go without the obligatory first drive event.
Still, the vehicle, which starts at a hair under 20 grand and carries a 1.0-liter three-cylinder as a base powerplant, isn’t being ignored by the buying public. March EcoSport sales in the U.S. topped that of the well-regarded — but not especially capacious — Mazda CX-3. Still, as all things truck continue to garner ever greater market share in the U.S., the little Ford faces a difficult upward climb.
Last month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said we’ll learn more about the company’s future Model Y electric crossover — its production date and build location — probably in another six months. Money might start flowing to that project late this year.
Well, by the fourth quarter of this year, electric Hyundai Kona crossovers will actually be arriving in California driveways, followed soon after by Northeastern states and other U.S. locales with zero emission vehicle mandates. This vehicle exists, in the flesh, right now. As the first mainstream crossover EV to land on our shores, the gas-free Kona’s estimated range tops that of the Chevrolet Bolt and (still unproduced) base model Tesla Model 3.
If you can see beyond the Jason Voorhees face, a bland yet revolutionary vehicle awaits.
It’s probably a little too on the nose for any automaker to launch a car in the city, state, or region it’s named after, but that didn’t stop Hyundai from bringing media to Hawaii to drive the newest entry into the subcompact crossover class.
Hyundai did so not just because of the “synergy” (ugh) between place and name, but because the company wanted to show us scribes how sporty and fun and well-suited to outdoorsy folk the Kona is. Never mind that most compact SUV buyers aren’t hauling long boards – they’re hauling little humans.
Every automaker does this — projecting their crossovers as the key to adventure. And I have no doubt that equipped with the correct accessories, the Kona can haul your bikes to the trailhead just fine. But most of these are going to be found in traffic on city streets, just like most of the crossovers buyers will cross-shop against the Kona.
The bigger question, then, is where does the Kona fit in a segment Hyundai calls the “Wild West?”
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- Kat Laneaux @VoGhost - Not getting into politics. Let me say this though. I wouldn't trust Trump as far as I can throw him. His history precedes his actions and I am so not ok with it. The devil is the master of lies, unfortunately Trump is not far behind him. The guy is so desperate to stay in office, he might as well be Mussolini, or Putin. He just wants power and to be idolized. It's not about working for the people, he doesn't care about us. Put a camera on him and he wants the glory. As I said, his actions speak louder than words.
- ToolGuy "Mr. President, no government agency, no think tank, and no polling firm knows more about the automobile customer than us. We talk to customers every day. As retail automotive dealerships, we are agnostic as to what we sell. Our business is to provide customers with vehicles that meet the needs of their budgets and lifestyles.”• How many lies can you fit into one paragraph?
- Spamvw Three on the tree, even Generation X would have a hard time stealing one of those.
- ToolGuy This trend of cyan wheels needs to end NOW.
- Kwik_Shift Interesting nugget(s) of EV follies. https://x.com/WallStreetApes/status/1729212326237327708?s=20