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2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate FWD Review by David Colman - It's E15 Approved +VIDEO


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2019 Hyundai Kona

Fanatical attention to detail, trim quality, and intelligent design work

By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL


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2019 Hyundai Kona
In 2018, Hyundai introduced the Kona as their smallest SUV, first hitter in a stout lineup that includes the incrementally larger Tucson, and the still bigger Santa Fe and Santa Fe XL. The Kona is perfectly sized for daily urban work. It weighs just 3,145lbs. compared to the Tucson, which tips the scale at 3,475lbs. Yet the Kona, with a wheelbase of 102in., gives away just 2 inches of interior length to the heavier Tucson. In terms of performance, when the Kona is equipped with the optional 175hp turbocharged engine of our test vehicle, this combination posts a lively weight-to-power ratio of 17.9lbs/hp. The best the Tucson can do, even when equipped with the optional 181hp engine, is a comparatively lethargic ratio of 19.1lbs/hp. So it came as no surprise when we tromped the gas in the Kona that the front end lifted noticeably as the front wheels skittered for traction and left a couple of intermittent black stripes on the pavement. This Kona, with its 195lb.-ft of torque kick, is definitely a stoplight champion, powerful enough to produce torque steer at the drop of the throttle.

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2019 Hyundai Kona
Yet this engine's surprising ferocity is well modulated by an excellent 7-speed "EcoShift" dual clutch transmission which can be left in Drive, or manually manipulated by bumping the center console stick forward for upshifts and backwards for downshifts. Unfortunately, Hyundai provides no steering wheel paddles to perform the manual shift mode routine. Even in "Comfort" mode, the Kona offers a rather harsh ride, with minimal damping over rough pavement. Switch the mode selector on the console to "Sport" and you will instantly notice a couple of performance enhancements. The ride quality stiffens even more, the throttle pedal becomes more of a hair trigger proposition, and the steering feedback elevates in terms of precision and feedback. Hyundai equips the "Ultimate" version of the Kona with 18 inch alloy rims mounting 235/45R18 Goodyear Eagle Touring tires that are mud and snow rated, and carry a long life treadwear rating of TW 500. Despite the promised longevity, these Goodyears do an excellent job of grabbing the pavement and keeping the Kona stable through switchbacks that would have other small SUVs losing grip long before this Hyundai.

The performance strengths of the Kona come as an unexpected surprise in such a diminutive and inexpensive SUV. What does not surprise, however, is the seemingly limitless array of standard features Hyundai is well known for providing at no extra cost. For example, the Kona Ultimate lavishes its occupants with supportive, handsomely tailored, leather covered seats that include seat heating units for the front buckets. The driver's seat is 8-way power adjustable and fitted with power lumbar support as well. The rear bench seat is a rather simple affair, with a tilt-down armrest/cup holder. Although there is no provision for rear air conditioning or heat outlets, the fact that the back windows retract completely into the doors is a major ventilation plus. Foot space for rear passengers is acceptable while traveling, but exiting can be difficult due to the proximity of the B pillar to the rear foot box.

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2019 Hyundai Kona
The Kona is enticingly easy to operate, with excellent instrumentation, large tachometer and speedometer, and obvious HVAC controls located atop the center stack. Topping the dash is a sensibly organized 8 inch color touchscreen that beats just about anything else I've operated for display clarity and logic of operation. The Kona control layout is so user friendly that you will get the hang of it almost immediately. Hyundai is particularly adept at simplifying technology. To that end, the system accommodates both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, offers wireless device charging, and puts a 315 watt, 8 speaker AM/FM/MP3/HD radio at your fingertips. Hyundai offers a free 90 day subscription to SiriusXM to hook you on 200 extra channels of entertainment.

The Kona Ultimate is a very sweet ride for the money. With an overall fuel economy average of 30MPG, it won't suck its tank or your wallet dry. It's screwed together rather seamlessly in Ulsan, Korea, and shows a rather fanatical attention to detail, trim quality, and intelligent design work. In fact, it's hard to beat the Kona driving experience if you opt for the turbo motor and the twin clutch automatic gearbox.




2019 HYUNDAI KONA ULTIMATE FWD

    ENGINE: 1.6 liter inline 4, turbocharged, Gas Direct Injection
    HORSEPOWER: 175hp
    TORQUE: 195lb.-ft.
    FUEL CONSUMPTION: 28MPG City/32MPG Highway
    PRICE AS TESTED: $28,670

HYPES: Plenty Punchy Motor, Intelligent Dash Packaging

GRIPES: Slight Torque Steer, No Shift Paddles

STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10