Road Test: 2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate

The Kona entered the crossover craze with strong specs. won North American Utility Vehicle of the Year this year and it’s easy to see why.

It’s the right size, with the right capability, at the perfect price. It offers a variety of powertrains depending on what kind of environment you live in, and it’s attainable by most. We spent a week with the gas-engine version, in top trim, appropriately called Ultimate.


Under the hood, Kona comes with a Gamma 1.6-liter 4-cylinder direct-injected, turbocharged engine generating 175 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. Peak torque delivery starts early at 1,500 rpm and holds through 4,500 rpm, which we definitely felt form the driver’s seat.

The turbocharger features low-inertia turbo-spooling response characteristics and an electronic wastegate control for more precise control of manifold pressure.

The turbo engine is mated to a seven-speed EcoShift dual-clutch transmission. The Hyundai-developed transmission offers very good efficiency with quick, seamless shifting and brisk acceleration. We never felt there was a need for more power.

Handling is superb, and dare we say sporty. Kona feels more go-kart than crossover, something which we can’t say about other crossovers in this class.

Drive Mode Select, which allows the driver to customize dynamic responses, such as steering feel, transmission and overall powertrain responsiveness is fantastic! Normal and Sport modes make Kona feel like an entirely different vehicle, especially when it comes to acceleration and steering.

Safety, Tech, Interior

Hyundai SmartSense safety technologies are standard and a huge help to avoiding an accident. Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, and Driver Attention Warning make driving the Kona safer. High beam assist is also included and really makes the headlights more useful.

We’ve really come to like Hyundai’s Blind-Spot Collision Warning (BCW) and Rear Cross-Traffic Collison Warning (RCCW) which use visual as well as audible alerts to warn us.

Unfortunately Smart Cruise Control (radar cruise) wasn’t available for 2019 but is now coming to the 2020 model.

On the infotainment front, Kona offers a full suite of sophisticated technologies. Android Auto and Apple Carplay are standard and used through the HD 8-inch touchscreen with navigation and Hyundai’s Blue Link Connected Car System.

Tunes and podcasts are pumped through the premium Infinity system with eight speakers, a subwoofer and Clari-Fi music-restoration technology.

Features like a 4-inch color LCD electroluminescent gauge cluster, power driver’s seat, leather heated seats are all standard and appreciated. Speaking of seats, they’re mighty comfortable up front and in the rear, with plenty of room all around.

Back in the driver’s seat, a folding Heads-Up Display system provides excellent day- and night-time visibility of speed, navigation instructions, Lane Keeping Assist, blind spot monitoring, and audio system information.

Our Kona also came with a Qi wireless phone charger that fits large phones. The system is brilliant in how it alerts the driver to remove their phone when the ignition is turned off.

Kona also comes with Blue Link, including complimentary three-year Blue Link services, with enhanced safety, diagnostic, remote and guidance services. Blue Link brings connectivity directly into the car with technologies like Google Home, Remote Start with Climate Control, Destination Search powered by Google, Remote Door Lock/Unlock, Car Finder, Enhanced Roadside Assistance, and Stolen Vehicle Recovery.

Blue Link features are accessed via buttons on the rearview mirror, the web portal, the Blue Link smartphone app, Amazon Alexa Blue Link skill, and using the Blue Link Google Assistant app. Some features can also be controlled via Android Wear and Apple Watch smartwatch apps too.

And of course, there’s Hyundai’s remarkable warranty which remains 5 years or 60k miles for the entire vehicle, and 10 years, 100k miles for the powertrain.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling8
Powertrain and Fuel Economy8
Interior Fit and Finish9
Gauges and Controls10
Total Score89

Make: Hyundai
Model: Kona
Trim Level: Ultimate AWD
Engine: 1.6L Turbo 4-Cylinder
Transmission: 7-Speed
Options: Carpet floor mats

Base Price: $28,900
As-Tested Price: $30,005

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