2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD: Lots of Funk

Hyundai bills the Kona as a “Smart Utility Vehicle”.  Clever name aside, we set out to find out if that is true or marketing BS.  Hyundai sent us a Kona Ultimate AWD for a week and we set about putting it through as series of rigorous tests.  OK, basically we drove it around the D.C. area and subjected it to potholes and terrible commuters.  Let’s find out how smart it is.

2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD

This isn’t our first go in a Kona, it turned out to be one of our favorite vehicles in the Trail Trek Tour.  Take a look at that video if you haven’t had a chance, and you’ll see a smurf blue Kona bouncing over some rocks.

The Kona is pretty new in the grand scheme of automobiles, hitting showrooms back in 2017.  Interestingly, in Portugal it is sold at the Hyundai Kuuai, which is a different place in Hawaii.   If you wanted to know why, and you should, the word Kona is too similar to cona, the Portuguese slang word for the female genitalia.  We think Kia Kona sounded better, but we weren’t consulted.  But please don’t say that RFD doesn’t bring you the best of the best when it comes to automotive news and information.  You’re welcome.

2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD

Exterior

The Kona’s party piece is its exterior design.  It’s certainly not subtle, and that’s because it was designed by a fellow named Luc Donckerwolke.  Luc was the head of design at Lamborghini from 1998 until the mid 2000s and is responsible for the 2001 Lamborghini Diablo VT 6.0, 2002 Lamborghini Murciélago and 2004 Lamborghini Gallardo.  That’s a pretty cool resume, and so it was clear that Luc didn’t want to churn out some bland crossover.  It’s certainly not boring to look at, the Kona’s squinty headlights and large fog lights give it a pretty unique look.

During our time on the Trail Trek Tour, we found ourselves rooting for the plucky little subcompact crossover (the only one among the larger midsize crowd) primarily because of it’s cool looks.  From the rear, it’s not quite as dramatic, but it’s cool how the rear fogs and turn signals mimic the front end.  LED headlights and taillights are standard on the Kona.  It’s a unique look in a sea of sameness.

2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD

Interior

Inside, things aren’t quite as dramatic, and that’s OK.  Those expecting to find a funky Mini-esque interior that mimics the exterior might be disappointing to find a pretty subdued, yet refined cabin.  The overall dash layout is consistent with other Hyundai models and seems reminiscent of some bits of Audi interiors.  The center stack is simple and well organized, with all controls falling easily to hand.  Overall the materials feel quality, something that isn’t always the case in a subcompact like the Kona.

Thankfully, for its $27,500 starting price, the Kona is pretty loaded.  Check out this sample of equipment that comes on a Kona Ultimate.

  • Leather seating surfaces
  • 8-way power driver seat
  • Power lumbar support
  • Heated front seats (3-steps)
  • 60/40 split fold-down and reclining rear seatback with adjustable head restraint
  • Dual level cargo floor
  • 8-inch color touchscreen with navigation
  • Infinity® premium audio with Clari-Fi™ Music Restoration Technology. External amp and 8 speakers (2 front-door-mounted speakers, 2 tweeters, 2 rear speakers, center front, subwoofer)
  • Android Auto™ & Apple CarPlay®
  • 1 amp USB data/charge jack; 1 USB charge jack; aux input jack
  • Two 2.1-amp USB charging accessory
  • HD Radio™/SiriusXM Satellite Radio
  • Rear View Monitor with parking guidance
  • Heads-up Display
  • Wireless device charging (for supported devices)
  • Blue Link® Connected Car System
  • Blue Link® Connected Care Package (3-year complimentary service)
  • Blue Link® Remote Package (3-year complimentary service)
  • Blue Link® Guidance Package (3-year complimentary service)
  • Automatic temperature control
  • External temperature display
  • Rear window defroster with timer
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink®
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
  • Tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel
  • Steering-wheel-mounted audio, Bluetooth® and cruise controls
  • 4.2-inch color Multi-Information Display (supervision)
  • Power windows with driver auto-down
  • Power door locks
  • Safety one-touch front auto-up/down power window
  • Remote keyless entry system with alarm and panic
  • Proximity Key entry with push button start

2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD

Driving

The Kona delivers a lot of car, or SUV, or whatever it is.  It’s loaded with safety features like, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Traction Control (TCS) and Brake Assist,Vehicle Stability Management, Blind-Spot Collision Warning, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Pedestrian Detection, Driver Attention Warning, Parking Distance Warning and tons of airbags.  That’s enough to keep up with rivals like Toyota who are providing similar tech as standard across a lot of their model range.

No on will accuse the Kona Ultimate of being fast, it’s 1.6L 4-cylinder is turbocharged but only puts out 175hp and 195 ft. lbs. of torque.  The AWD system keeps things pretty well in check, but it drives primarily like a FWD crossover.   The 7 speed dual clutch transmission was pretty impressive and we’re happy to see that perpetuating through more cars across the Hyundai lineup.

Summary

The Kona Ultimate is towards the top of the Kona line, which starts with the SE and SEL which are both around $20,000.  From there you jump up to the Limited (every automaker has to have a Limited) at $23,400 and then our Ultimate tester at $27,260 before options.  But the Ultimate is not the ultimate Kona, no that’s reserved for Tony Stark’s iteration – that’s right, the Iron Man.  Starting at $30,550 the Kona Iron Man comes with:

  • Iron Man matte gray body paint
  • Iron Man unique front bumper
  • Iron Man Red accents
  • Dark chrome front grille and bezel
  • Red side mirrors
  • Red two-tone roof and mask roof skin
  • V-shape hood bevel with Marvel logo
  • Iron Man-eye-inspired LED accent lighting
  • Iron Man mask emblem on fenders
  • Stark Industries decal on rear doors
  • Iron Man emblem on shift knob
  • Iron Man face embossing and black suede logo patch on seat back
  • Red piping and stitching on seats
  • Tony Stark ‘signature’ on instrument panel

So that’s a thing!  I couldn’t see ever driving that myself, but some MCU superfan will definitely pick one of these up for daily commuter duty!

The Kona has sold fairly well since it’s roll out, moving over 47,000 cars here in the states in 2018 and over 18,000 so far this year.  So people seem to like the concept of a fun looking crossover with a ton of features for a pretty reasonable price.  I guess that’s pretty smart.

Bonus Pics

2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD

2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD

2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD

 

2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD

2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD

2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD