Hyundai’s Kona subcompact crossover wagon starts in Canada at $24,055 and while that particular Kona is a gasoline-driven, front-drive, city runabout with heated front seats, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and an undersized eight-inch touchscreen display, that’s not the Kona most will buy – and certainly not the one Hyundai want to sell you.
Some will jump up to the $26,055 Preferred trim level (all-wheel drive, proximity keyless entry, more safety features and a heated steering wheel), but Hyundai would like to steer you all the way to the lively and quite responsive N Line version ($30,155).
The N has an excellent four-cylinder turbo (195 horsepower/195 lb-ft torque, versus the 147 hp 2.0-litre non-turbo in baser models) mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gear box that puts to shame the rubber-bandy continuously variable transmission (CVT) in, yes, the cheaper Kona models.
In a nutshell, the N Kona is by no means a sports car, but you will find the steering quick and accurate, the turning circle small, the brakes easy to modulate and the engine responses surprisingly good. And it uses regular gas, so it is nicely fuel efficient in this age of $2.00/litre petrol.
Get used to those pump prices, BTW. Or at least plan for them, because if nothing else, Russia’s war on Ukraine has underscored the folly of a world that is absurdly dependent on carbon products from the likes of Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela – places run by murderous, despotic leaders and small cabals who use oil and natural gas to perpetuate corruption, oppression and cruelty. Add in climate change, and it’s clear that the sooner we kick our carbon addiction, the better.
I am touching on war and politics because if you’re shopping for an all-around family car, and you don’t need too, too much size, the Kona should certainly be at the top of your shopping list – because it uses half the fuel of a full-size pickup or SUV and does so as a refined, handsome, comfortable wagon. Yes, $30,000-plus seems rich for what is basically an Elantra station wagon, but that’s the world we live in.
Nonetheless, the cabin is quite roomy, spacious enough for large adults, with headroom for very tall folks. The materials throughout look and feel quite good and the design inside and out is attractive. I particularly like the digital instrument cluster; it’s very modern.
The 18-inch touchscreen has a clear display and the software running the infotainment interface is absolutely first-rate. All the car’s functions and features are easily accessed and managed here. In this age of complexity, we can all applaud the simplicity of a well-engineered tool that is in reality the key to taking advantage of all this car’s abilities.
I was also surprised, pleasantly, by the comfort and support of the front buckets. These are better seats than you’ll find in comparably priced rivals, such as the Honda HR-V and Toyota CH-R. The latter two, in fact, feel tinny and even a bit cheap overall compared to the Kona. And their outlandish, overwrought designs are somewhat off-putting. Oddly enough, among these three only the CH-R is a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
On another nuts-and-bolts issue, the Kona comes from an automaker now boasting excellent reliability and durability across its lineup – on par with Toyota and Honda. Expect the Kona to last 12-15 years, by which time will have almost certainly decided to shift an electric vehicle.
The Kona, then, is a sensible and useful car that is pleasant, functional, well-made and fairly easy on fuel. And in this class, it would rank as one of my top picks.