By on November 13, 2019

Image: Ford Expedition Funkmaster Flex EditionBad 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?”

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By on October 24, 2019

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?

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By on June 14, 2019

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.

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By on April 11, 2019

2018 Hyundai Kona

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.

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By on April 10, 2019

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. (Read More…)

By on July 19, 2018

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.  (Read More…)

By on April 4, 2018

2018 Ford EcoSport

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. (Read More…)

By on March 28, 2018

Image: Hyundai

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. (Read More…)

By on March 26, 2018

2018 Hyundai Kona

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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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.

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By on February 28, 2018

Hyundai Kona EV

Range anxiety remains the primary reason why most people don’t want to purchase an electric car. However, the overall recipe for today’s battery electric vehicles feels counter to what consumers are demanding. In the United States, all the top-selling electrics are whatever sedan or hatchback has a superior range. But, excluding the pricy Model X, there isn’t a single SUV or crossover among them (the Soul EV doesn’t count). Odd, considering that’s the body style most people are clamoring for right now.

That’s what makes Hyundai’s decision not to send the all-electric Kona immediately to North America a bit perplexing. We understand the brand probably feels some trepidation over sending another green car to the U.S. After all, the Ioniq could have performed better in its rookie year — despite being a totally serviceable alternative to Toyota’s Prius (as a hybrid) or Nissan’s Leaf (as a battery electric).

But the Kona EV has the potential to take the niche EV market by storm. Not only would it be the only electrified crossover that doesn’t require a lofty financial investment, it would also have an enviable range. More than enough to best the Chevrolet Bolt on a lengthy road trip, in fact. (Read More…)

By on February 23, 2018

2018 Hyundai Kona - Image: Hyundai

Mere hours after we published a story on the attractively priced but awful-to-lease Hyundai Kona yesterday, it seems Hyundai had a change of heart.

The initial advertised lease for the volume SEL trim lasted less than a week, after the automaker apparently decided it wasn’t a good thing to make the brand’s smallest crossover more expensive to lease than the larger Tucson and Santa Fe Sport. (Read More…)

By on February 21, 2018

2018 Hyundai Kona - Image: Hyundai

As we told you earlier this month, Hyundai’s newest offering, the B-segment Kona crossover, arrived with a base price below that of its subcompact competition. At $20,450 after delivery for a base, front-drive SE, the Kona slots below the entry MSRPs of the Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR, Chevrolet Trax, and Mazda CX-3.

Value, the Kona trumpets, has arrived.

Well, not if you’re leasing the Kona’s volume trim: the SEL model. (Read More…)

By on January 18, 2018

2018 Hyundai Kona - Image: Hyundai

Hyundai’s smallest utility vehicle arrives as the automaker tries to put a troubling year behind it. Sales fell significantly in both the U.S. and Canada in 2017, the first annual drop since the recession. The blame for the 13.4 percent U.S. drop and 6.1 percent Canadian decline lies in our growing aversion to small, fuel-efficient cars, of which Hyundai has many, and our insatiable lust for large utility vehicles, of which Hyundai does not have enough.

There’s nothing large about the Hyundai Kona, but it’s still an important player in the raft of new or revamped crossovers bound for Hyundai’s stable. And, just like in the small car segment it’s slowly replacing, economy matters in the small crossover segment. So, now that the Environmental Protection Agency has seen fit to test the Kona, how does its thirst stack up against its rivals? (Read More…)

By on November 28, 2017

2018 Hyundai Kona front - Image: Hyundai

Hyundai Motor Company has, once again, found itself at the mercy of an unhappy workforce. No stranger to labor disputes, the company hinted that it might scale back its at-home labor in South Korea — presumably aware that the possible response would be negative, which it was. But the timing couldn’t be worse.

The Kona crossover is believed to be the model that will turn things around for Hyundai in the United States, but a new labor strike has put the export vehicle’s production on hold only a week after it started. (Read More…)

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