The Hyundai Kona had a whirlwind launch in Canada when it first hit the road a few short years ago. Shoppers seemed to love what Hyundai was cooking with its latest crossover, and the automaker even had to ramp up production to meet surprisingly strong demand.
The Kona is a subcompact crossover that’s designed to perform, drive, and consume fuel like a small car, while offering shoppers an elevated driving position, extra ground clearance, more flexible cargo space, and available all-wheel drive (AWD). Right-sized for the masses, the Kona’s distinctive styling and generous feature content for the dollar added further appeal. An available turbocharged engine was popular with enthusiastic drivers, and reviews commonly note a refined and sporty drive, solid road manners, and excellent confidence in winter driving conditions with proper tires mounted.
Feature content included a sunroof, premium stereo system, locking AWD system, automatic climate control, full smartphone connectivity, advanced safety systems including rear cross-traffic alert, and wireless charging.
The Hyundai Kona comes in either front- or all-wheel drive configurations, and is available with a standard 2.0L four-cylinder engine with 147 hp or a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder that generates 175 hp. Transmissions include six- and a seven-speed automatics, depending upon engine choice.
What Owners Like
Owners tend to report being impressed by the Kona’s unique looks, sporty and refined drive, strong wintertime performance, maneuverability, and overall bang for the buck. Enthusiast drivers should find the available turbo engine and paddle-shift transmission to be smooth and thrifty when driven gently, and entertaining and eager when driven spiritedly.
What Owners Dislike
Some owners wish for a smoother ride on rough roads, especially with sportier models with bigger wheels and shorter tire sidewalls. Others wish for more upscale interior materials for a richer feel to parts of the cabin.
The Best Kona for You
Since the Kona has only been on sale a few years, finding a second-hand unit with plenty of remaining warranty will be relatively easy. Note that standard Kona models with the 2.0L engine will tend to be cheaper to insure and fuel, while the more powerful turbocharged engine may be worth the added running costs for the right driver. Test drive units with both engines to compare the differences for yourself.
Remember that the reliable and dependable used Kona models will tend to be the ones that have been religiously maintained in a dealer setting, and that come with service records to prove it.
Some owners of Kona models with the turbo engine and its dual-clutch transmission have reported trouble or failure, often addressed under warranty. Most have not.
Though transmission trouble is relatively unlikely, shoppers set on a model with the turbocharged engine are advised to carefully assess the operation of the transmission in all driving conditions, including gentle and hard acceleration, manual-mode shifting, and all drive modes.
Be on the lookout for warning lights, hard shifting, limited power output, or a failure of the transmission to engage the gear you’ve selected. If you notice any of the symptoms above, further investigation by a professional is advised.
The seven-speed transmission used in this vehicle may feel different from the conventional automatic you’re used to in some situations, and this is normal. Still, anything other than smooth, responsive, and refined performance should be scrutinized. Confirming that all related servicing, inspections, maintenance, and software updates are current can help add confidence, too. Here’s some more reading.
Perform this quick steering test to coax possible issues out of the steering system of the used Kona you’re considering. While in an open space and parked with the engine running, turn the wheel fully from one side to the other, several times and at several different speeds. Repeat the test while driving at a very low speed — perhaps five km/h.
If you detect a whining, clicking, or buzzing sound, or sensation that seems to come from the centre of the steering wheel, the model you’re considering may need some attention to its steering column, or power steering motor, which is mounted inside of the steering wheel.
Other unwanted sounds or sensations from the steering system during this test can indicate problems with other components too, including engine mounts, axles, and strut mounts.
You’re unlikely to detect any trouble with these tests, but if you do it could save you money and headaches. Here’s some more reading.
Some Hyundai Kona owners have modified their vehicles with non-factory parts or electronics designed to enhance the looks, sound, and performance of their vehicle. Most have not.
The average shopper is best to avoid a used Kona that’s modified from stock, or ever has been. Low-quality modifications can adversely affect the lifespan of certain vehicle components, and may void remaining warranty coverage.
Stick to stock for best results, and avoid buying a used turbocharged model that’s been chipped or tuned to generate more power from the engine. Upgrades like these can be a lot of fun, but they can also turn your engine (and its warranty) into shrapnel.
Some Hyundai Kona owners have reported various frustrations relating to the vehicle’s Bluetooth connectivity system. On your test drive, confirm that you’re able to link the handset of your choosing with the system, and then use it to place a phone call and stream some audio, confirming satisfactory performance and audio quality.
If you notice any issues, try power-cycling your handset and the Kona’s head unit, re-pair the devices, and update all software. If the problem persists, further investigation is required.
Remember that use of low-quality USB cables can cause headaches, too. Further, remember to unplug USB-connected devices when the vehicle is parked, as they can drain the battery in some circumstances.
So far, the Hyundai Kona looks like a much-loved small crossover that appeals strongly to value-minded shoppers in this segment. Shopping for a used Kona while bearing the preceding information in mind can help ensure you wind up with a first-class copy of a second-hand Kona.
IIHS: Top Safety Pick (2020)
NHTSA: 5/5 stars (2020)
A single safety recall.