Hyundai omits the paddle shift controls, though, and has dropped the drive-mode selector down to Normal or Sport. No more Eco, which it says confused customers and left them thinking their cars performed poorly. Tapping the Sport button moves shift points higher, and adds some steering weight.
Cruising around some light switchbacks, the Kona’s speed-sensitive power steering built up good cornering force with a hint of feedback, so long as speeds stayed in a moderate range. Down at parking lot speeds, copious boost left the Kona senseless. It’s worth noting U.S. cars will get a middling-firm setup in steering and suspension, somewhere between home-market and European cars, and our short drive didn’t represent final U.S. tune.
It’s the same for the suspension, which sports MacPherson struts in front on all versions and split at the rear. Front-drive cars get a rear torsion beam, while all-wheel-drive models have a multi-link rear. I drove the Kona over pavement that simulates crappy roads from around the world, and think it won’t have any problem absorbing the worst of them well, though the suspension clunked and left some wheel rebound undamped, typical for small cars.
As for the all-wheel-drive system, it’s an unusual part-time setup. The driver has to push a button to lock the rear wheels up to the fronts; otherwise, it operates in front-drive mode only, without any automatic traction intervention. It’s less costly this way, engineers explain, without much of a fuel-economy penalty.
Hyundai hasn’t published any tow ratings for the Kona; if they do, don’t expect them to be very high.
2018 Hyundai Kona
2018 Hyundai KonaEnlarge Photo
Top scores: size, safety, stuff
The brief drive gave us a better impression of interior space and quality. The driver sits high enough to see over compact cars, but the Kona’s no Land Cruiser. The driver seat has flat cushions but good adjustment, and the steering wheel has a long telescoping stroke.
Head room and leg room are strong, better than in the godawfully cramped Juke and the tight Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X. The Kona’s shy of the HR-V with its 164-inch overall length but its 102.4-inch wheelbase is down just 0.4 inches.
For a wayback perspective, the first 2001 Santa Fe SUV was 177 inches long; the first 2005 Tucson, 170.3 inches long.
Back-seat space rivals the HR-V and beats it, I think, in head room. Back-seat passengers up to 6 feet tall will slide into the back easily, and will find a few inches of head room. The seat cushions seem too flat for long-ride comfort, but they fold down to expand a sizable cargo hold with a two-level storage system.
For safety, the Kona skips adaptive cruise control. Some cars will come with forward-collision warnings and automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and blind-spot monitors. A head-up display with a pop-up display comes only on the most expensive model.
The Hyundai Kona SE, the base model, will have 16-inch wheels, cruise control, Bluetooth with audio streaming, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, HD and satellite radio, a 7.0-inch infotainment display, and power windows, locks, and mirrors. The Kona SEL adds a rearview camera, 17-inch wheels, roof rails, leather-trimmed steering wheel, and keyless ignition, with automatic emergency braking as an option.
The 2018 Hyundai Kona Limited adds leather, 18-inch wheels and Goodyear tires, a sunroof, LED headlights, and the 1.6-liter turbo-4. An Ultimate package tops that off with parking sensors, navigation, Infinity audio, wireless smartphone charging, and the head-up display.
All-wheel drive will be an option across the board.
Hyundai hasn’t priced the 2018 Kona, since it’s still nine months from showrooms. It goes on sale in March, and we expect a sub-$20,000 base price when it arrives. Stay tuned for a full first drive.