Author: Brian Harper - www.driving.ca
All-wheel-drive, subcompact crossover
PROS Very well contented, fun to drive, fuel efficient
CONS Too much plastic in the cabin, growly engine under acceleration
VALUE FOR MONEY Good
WHAT TO CHANGE? Softer plastics for interior with colours other than black
HOW TO SPEC IT? Luxury AWD ($27,949)
Talk about a walk-off home run. In its first full year of sales, almost 26,000 compact-sized Kona crossovers were sold in 2019, making it Hyundai's second-best selling vehicle in Canada, just behind the larger Tucson. Clearly indicative of the continued strength of the entire SUV market generally and the compact segment specifically, it's equally indicative that Hyundai got it right with its sporty offering. Not that it's a marvel in any one particular area, but the Kona's strength lies in the sum of its parts.
Now, the caveat is that this is the topline version being tested, the $32,249 Ultimate AWD, complete with the stronger turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder as opposed to the base 2.0L four-cylinder that's standard in the lesser trims. In addition to an extra 28 horsepower (175 vs. 147) and, more importantly, 63 more pound-feet of torque (195 vs. 132), the Ultimate's turbo four is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, not the six-speed automatic that comes with the base Kona. So, with peak torque arriving at 1,500 rpm and hanging on until 4,500 rpm, the Ultimate's performance dynamics are decidedly upgraded.
Naturally, this is all relative. It's not going to shred tarmac with its blinding speed, but it gets the job done. The 1,500-kilogram crossover accelerates to 100 km/h in about seven seconds, zippy enough for the segment in which it competes — think of the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V, and Subaru Crosstrek as its primary rivals.
The turbo 1.6 is a busy little unit under load, though, with a determined growl when working hard, smoothing out nicely at a constant speed. Booting along the highway at a steady 120 km/h has the engine ticking over at about 2,500 rpm, making it fairly unstressed and pretty fuel efficient for long-distance travelling. I averaged 8.5 L/100 kilometres during the week, mostly highway and lightly travelled back roads. The bonus is that this turbo engine runs on regular, 87-octane gas.
Unlike many of its competition, which are fitted with continuously variable transmissions, the Kona's seven-speed DCT is a rarity. The EcoShift is a Hyundai-developed unit that seemed well suited to the engine, with efficient, relatively seamless shifting.
For what it's worth, there are three drive modes available to play with, Normal being the default, with Sport and Eco also available. Sport places a greater emphasis on acceleration with earlier downshifts on braking, while Normal mode slightly prioritizes fuel economy over performance with a more conservative, lower-rpm shift schedule. For what it's worth, I couldn't discern much advantage being in Sport, and didn't like the fact the transmission was slow to upshift to a higher gear once acceleration was finished.
Keep reading the review HERE!
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