2018 Hyundai Kona SEL – Bottom Line Review

(Contributing Editor: George Straton)

The Big Island of Hawaii slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa, with rich volcanic soil, are exposed to sunny days, rainy night and the gentlest of Pacific breezes. It is where a special 18th century imported arabica plant, first flowers and then ripens into a cherry-like red berry containing one more beans. This is the origin of the flavorfully coveted Kona coffee bean.

Just as urban java junkies covet their refined joe, urban road warriors have come to appreciate their tasty personal crossover SUVs.

Korean automaker Hyundai now toasts those urban connoisseurs with their new aromatic Cute Ute brew, the 2018 Kona subcompact crossover.

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WHAT: All-new 2018 Hyundai Kona 2.0L SEL sub-compact sports activity vehicle, hot-stamped on the GB platform shared with the overseas market Kia Stonic and Kia Rio city subcompact.

Standard Power: 1999 cc, dual VVT-i DOHC 16V I-4 cylinder gasoline engine = 147 hp/ 132 lb-ft + 6-speed planetary automatic transaxle;

Optional Power: 1591 cc, turbocharged, direct injected, 2 x VVT-i DOHC 16V I-4 gas engine = 175 hp/ 195 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm + 7-speed automated dual clutch helical transaxle;

Optional Drivetrain: PTU to viscous multi-clutch differential all-wheel drive.

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: Luc Donckerwolke, who shaped Lamborghini Diablos, Muricielagos & Gallardos, adapted a dimensionally deeper Tiger Nose to Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture language.

2018 Hyundai Kona SEL: Arrived at culinary destination

Note to Lexus: Kona’s tall & wide corporate hexagonal grille is subtly curved at the lower risers and successfully moderated by a lateral upper vent and lower contrast clad valance.

Other penmanship notes:  Wafer thin upper wrap-around LED DRLs, followed by lower head + fog lamp housings ape Jeep Cherokee Fenders rising from belt-line = muscular;  Low cowl + 4-channel creased hood = elegance;  Looker optional gloss black roof;  Rising crease runs below rising belt-line;  Dark diffused contrast panel joined C-pillar = floating roof; Lower body cladding which splits fore aft of the wheel arches to form corner light housings.

WHY: A more mellow aroma of personal crossover ute

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since March 2018

WHERE: Hyundai new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: Ulsan, Korea

WHERE TO:   Downhill brake control;  Meanders down the paved ribbon; Aptly negotiates tight urban quarters; Endowed with 0.5″ -1.0″ > ground clearance than rest of the segment, Kona can successfully climb a tall a curb.


Base 2.0L I-4 lacks deep reserves, but it pulls 200 lbs. less than most competition; Smooth 6-speed torque converter slushbox manumatically hold gears to 5500 useful rpm; Fast throttle tip in aids starting shove. Thereafter, Kona = apt ambler rather than a sprightly sprinter; Multi-point rather than direct fuel injection makes more refined sounds, too.

Extra suspension travel + surface reactive shock absorbers = compliant ushering minus buffering hard impacts; Responsive steering + rather true tracking = predictable abrupt lateral movement; Limits of grip offset onset roll & dive. Hyundai has improved brake modulation and it shows on Kona with it’s upsized discs.

HOW FAR: 33 combined miles per gallon significantly exceeds EPA estimates; 520 miles highway range,

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: One of the usefully larger personal SUVs out there:

2018 Hyundai Kona SEL: Seating fits most body types; ample 2nd Row legroom approaches larger X-overs

√ Kona wheelbase = 1.2″ > Mazda CX-3, 0.4″ < Honda HR-V, 1.5″ < Toyota C-HR

+1: 34.6″-inches Row 2 legroom = 2.9″< C-HR, 0.4″ < CX-3; +1: 235 lbs. < C-HR

HOW USEFUL: Low load floor + 60/40% split 2nd Row seatbacks; Removable hard parcel shelf; +1 Front seat cushion & bolstering; +1 Outward visibility from high cowl, narrow side pillars, tall tailgate window; 1 Limited front & rear door pocket storage; 1 No cockpit liftgate release switch; Tow Rating: Not Rated.

+1 Cargo space (max.) = 26% > Toyota C-HR, 8% > Mazda CX-3; 18% < Honda HR-V

2018 Hyundai Kona SEL: Useful sub-load floor cargo management

HOW SAFE IIHS Top Safety Pick +; 6 airbags; Rear camera; Blind Spot Warning;  Lane Change collision avoidance;  Rear Cross Traffic Alert;  Automatic high beam headlamps;

2018 Hyundai Kona SEL: Rear cross traffic warning “sees” and “warns” of a car entering the back-up path

 HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Heated cloth front bucket seats; 4 power windows = front full express; Height adjustable front pax seat; Tilt & telescoping, cross-stitched leather wrapped steering wheel; Large dial climate control; +1 Palpable integrated steering wheel spoke controls; +1 Easily accessible left lower dashboard dimmer & driver assist switches; +1 Wind & road noise isolation; -1 Dis-used front passenger safety belt buckle B-pillar rattle;

Cool Gizmo(s): Sub-cargo floor management;

Details Done Right: Middle dashboard leather-like pebble graining; Metallic vent bezels;  Cool blue night switch illumination; Sunwash resistant deep gauge binnacle & canopy;

Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Monolithic smooth hard dark plastic door panels; -1 Neither latching cord nor locking latch for cargo floor cover;

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: Semi- dash-top 7.0″-inch capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen; +1 Large icons; Voice learning hands-free communications; 6-speaker, 240 W w/ streaming audio & HD radio; Mobile powered Android Auto/ Apple Car Play application & navigation overlays;

2018 Hyundai Kona SEL: Making a Hot Dog run, using Android Auto voice commanded Google Maps navigation

Subscription based: Sirius XM (90 day free trial);

USB x 1, 12V x 2; +1 Deep lower center stack mobile device pocket;

HOW MUCH: $24,405 = 2018 Hyundai Kona 2.0L SEL Front Drive Contrast Roof;

WHAT’S MISSING: Extra USB port; 2nd Row power supply

ANY COMPETITION: FIAT 500X: +1 9-speed automatic; Ford Ecosport: +1 Swing-gate; Sync3 infotainment; Honda HR-V: +1 Rear seat & cargo space; Jeep Renegade: +1 Offroad creds, versatile cabrio roof; Mazda CX-3: +1 Cabin finish; handling; Toyota C-HR: +1 Funky looks

BOTTOM LINE: Cute Ute Chill Enough to Be Taken Seriously

In 1989, Susan Frissell first published “Women With Wheels,” a 12-page pioneering newsletter geared towards women. In 2001 the newsletter morphed into WomenWithWheels.com website. Susan has also contributed to many news sources, penned two syndicated columns and co-published the book “Girls Go Racing: Driving to Esteems.” Susan is a member and former first female officer of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. In her non- spare time she is a practicing psychologist. Susan’s rides: a 2022 Lexus IS 300 and a 2000's Ford T-Bird convertible.


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