2024 Hyundai Kona Review

2024 Hyundai Kona - Kona debuts second-generation


It’s a second-generation welcome for the popular, diminutive Hyundai Kona crossover. Kona represents one of a half dozen or so five-door opportunities dotting Hyundai lots.  This eye-appealing second-generation raises the bar higher in an uber popular segment here in the States.

This five-door adds comfort in the form of larger dimensions as length grows by 5.7 inches, width stretches by an inch while 2.6 inches gets added to the height.  Rear seat riders enjoy three additional inches of leg room while headroom remains airy throughout. Ground clearance is higher in 2024 assisting egress and ingress.  However, it’s the cargo region that boasts bigger and better bounties.  Behind the rear seat, 6.9 cubic feet of additional room is added.  Fold down the 60/40 second row seatbacks and that number increases substantially to 63.7 cubic feet, 17.9 cubic feet better than 2023.
Wheelbase, the distance between front and rear axles, grows by 2.3 inches benefiting better balance and cornering.

Consider Kona a ‘tweener,’ finding itself between categories within Hyundai’s impressive lineup of conventional crossovers.  It’s larger than the subcompact Venue, but smaller than the compact Tuscan.  Think of Kona as a large subcompact or miniature compact.  Other five-door offering from South Korea’s largest automaker include the mid-size Santa Fe (the brand’s most popular two-row choice) and the three-row Palisade. Hyundai’s five-door, all-electric Ioniq 5 may also qualify as a crossover in some minds, although its low aerodynamic height creates a wagon-like experience.

It’s a surprisingly quiet-riding crossover despite the conventional, internal combustion engine under hood, not always associated with diminutive Hyundai products.  Once during our week-long testing, this driver stepped out of the Kona not realizing the Internal Combustion Engine  (ICE) continued to idle.  While a common miscue with pure Electric Vehicles sans an ICE engine, can’t remember the last time this occurred with a conventional engine.  Kona noticeably reduced both its muffler and powertrain noises from 2023. Good job Hyundai.
Kona, as with most Hyundai offerings enjoys an industry leading 10-year/100/000-mile powertrain warranty, delivering more miles and smiles wrapped within peace of mind protection regarding  engine components. Hyundai began this effective marketing push way back in the mid-1990s. It’s an easy-to-remember mantra paying big dividends for South Korea’s largest automaker as its fortunes have risen mightily ever since this warranty’s introduction.
Four conventional Kona trim levels return for 2024: SE, SEL, N Line and Limited with front-wheel drive standard and HTRAC-branded on demand all-wheel drive a $1,500 option in all trims.  Those in the Chicagoland area and upper Midwest should highly consider this road-gripping opportunity, as pricing for this snow-friendly option is almost half of its asking price two decades ago.  Kona represents Hyundai’s lowest priced crossover available with all-wheel drive. Two available four-cylinder engines are offered and Kona also markets an all-electric counterpart with its own set of trims.
The first-generation Kona kicked off in the 2018 model year. While many manufacturers utilize similar platforms for both ICE and EV versions of a designated make, Hyundai prioritized EV considerations first, essentially creating workable space for battery packs and electric/traction motors.  The ICE components are retrofitted to the existing  EV specs. That’s a complete 180-degree shift from the past decade and a half where EV workings puzzled their way into existing ICE platforms.

Looking closely at front and rear end design and lighting choices, our ICE Kona tester could visually pass as an electric vehicle at a quick, cursory glance. That’s not a knock since Kona’s distinctive styling choices work to enhance the overall effect.  In front, jewel-like LED lighting sits low and to the edges with three amber-colored turn signal bars below while a thin light bar stretches from side to side just below the hood’s lip.  The functional,  lower air dams size increases from Gen One while traditional grille components disappear completely.  In back, a thin red light bar stretches from end to end.

Distinctive wheel well arches adorn with a square, edginess and in front merges with LED projector headlight housing.  In upper-level Limited trims, these wells incorporate a black composit material also running along the lower side doors and front/back bumpers.

Kona’s two available powertrains largely carry over from Gen One although a transmission has updated. Kona SE and SEL trims include a naturally-aspirated, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine delivering 147  horsepower and connected up with a continuously variable type  transmission (CVT)  Stepping up to the N Line or Limited brings a step up in horsepower (190) thanks to a 1.6-liter turbocharged four cylinder now teaming up with a conventional 8-speed automatic transmission. First-generation turbo Kona’s employed a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
These functional engines get folks from point A to Point B in comfortable fashion.  The Turbo’s upgraded  eight-speed automatic provides a predictable experience compared to the outgoing dual-clutch design, which, at times, hesitated at lower speeds. Fuel economy remains competent and similar to last year with the base engine coupled with front drive delivering 29/34 mpg city/highway and the turbo all-wheel drive settling for 24/29. Both engines team with regular, 87-octane fuel when feeding the 13.2-gallon tank.

For all intense and purposes, each trim level adds available factory content from the choice below.  Few factory stand-alone or option packages are offered helping speed along the purchasing process.  The one lone option package is available in the SEL trim in the form of a $2,200 convenience package (wireless device charging, heated front seats, LED interior lighting), goodies standard in N Line and Limited. Mud guards and cargo trays stand ready as dealer-available extras.

The lowest-priced Kona, a front-drive SE starts at a respectable $24,250 while a Limited including all the trimmings tops out at about $35,000, a big ask within a price-sensitive segment. The handsome, redesigned interior upgrades from the previous generation which included a more plastic-like look and feel.
Kona specifically and Hyundai in general provide workable interiors with logical placements with a number of tactile dials, push pads and knobs rather than just the central giant screen acting as the sole brain. Two small chrome twist dials monitor volume/on off for the sound system and station selection with 10 short-cut push buttons in between working in tandem with the screen above. The electronic push start/stop circle resides just left. Push tabs work with the HVAC center below to increase/slow fan speed, direction and dual temperature settings upfront.

in addition, a pair of 2 x 2 four-button quads offer quick short cuts including front/rear defrosters, A/C, and air flow choices.  A pair of narrow manually adjustable horizontal air vents situate below the screen while two similar-sized vents locate on the dash corners.  

Kona does employ a long, thin, panoramic rectangular screen connecting both the 12.3-inch digital instrument panel and 12.3-inch multi-function screen.  Base SE trims offer a smaller screen design. Graphics remain bright with recognizable icons but confusion was encountered when attempting to disengage a previously programed driving route. I was looking for the words ‘cancel driving route’ while Hyundai’s map and driving directions employed a grayed out circular X to end the verbal babble.

The digital instrument panel includes two circular information orbs.  Our Limited trim tester is the only ICE Kona promoting a very welcome and useful blind spot monitor delivering a live-action feed. Flick up the manual steering column’s left side turn signal stalk and a real time color video of the driver’s side blind spot region into the instrument panel.  An identical driver’s side camera captures similar hard-to-see corners when merging right.  It’s easy-to-understand technology with minimal learning curve.  

Kona comes equipped with numerous safety technologies, including one not always standard across the board. All Kona trims include rear cross traffic avoidance alerts.  When pulling out from a crowded parking spot, this system beeps if a vehicle is about to cross perpendicular to your path, minimizing potential fender benders.
Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity return as standard equipment. New for 2024, over-the-air software updating capabilities assist both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and in-dash navigation stay relevant at a quicker pace.

Ubiquitous dual inline cup holders undergo a metamorphosis of sorts between Kona’s front bucket seats in N Line and Limited trims. A nifty spring-loaded design helps expand the area for better storage duties after beverages get digested, and cans/cups remain out of sight.  A press of a far right-side button unlocks half of the tall semi-circular beverage cylinder/frame which then manually swivels behind the facing half of the frame to open up a larger floor plan.  Press the same button and the vertical cylinder retracts back into place ready to hold court.

Directly in front of the dual beverage holders one finds a dial set at 45 degrees for selecting one of three available drive modes (Normal, Sport and Snow). The dial gets flanked by a series of buttons summoning features including heated steering wheel/seats and ventilated seats. Behind this grouping is the region for powering portable devices, including a flat wireless charging bed (not available in SE, optional in SEL) and USB-C plug ports. A pair of USB-C ports are also accessibly when in row two. Additional storage is found along a long thin rim atop the glove box.
In N Line and Limited trims sporting the turbo engine, the electronic gear shift resides on the steering column’s right side with a thin, rectangular stalk-like scheme below the slightly shorter windshield wiper appendage.  It’s a design also found in various Genesis luxury line vehicles where choosing D-N-R requires a twist of the stalk’s end forward to enact drive, and a twist in the other direction for reverse.  Park engages when pushing in the stalk’s retracting end point.
Thanks to larger Gen Two dimensions greatly benefiting the back row, three adults can roll together for short duration, although for maximum comfort, two adults is optimal; three pre-teens travel with nary a comfort issue.

Hyundai sales continue on a torrid pace. Kona sales in 2023 rose a substantial 24 percent when compared to 2022, reaching 79,116 units here in the U.S.  For the entire year, Hyundai sold 801,195 units, an all-time record and up 11 percent from 2022. The Hyundai Motor Group; consisting of Hyundai, Kia and Genesis brands, catapulted into fourth place for the first time.  It overtook Stellantis to finish behind General Motors, Toyota and Ford.  The previous year, Hyundai jumped passed Honda as the fifth best-selling brand.  

Price as tested: $34,695
Horsepower: 190
Engine:  1.6-liter turbocharged four
Wheelbase: 104.7 inches
Total Length:  171.3 inches
Total Height: 69.9 inches
Total Width:  79.1 inches
Fuel Economy:  24 mpg city/29 mpg highway
Powertrain Warranty: 10-year/100,000 miles
Assembly: Ulsan, South Korea

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.