2020 Hyundai Kona

By April 3, 2020

The 2020 Hyundai Kona is a small crossover with distinctive hatchback-like styling, excellent safety and solid value. The interior is more restrained than the busy exterior, but it still features neat color accents like green and orange on some trims. Changes for 2020 are minimal, just some tweaks to the available features and packages.

The 2.0-liter inline-4 engine in the SE and SEL models is adequate, and is complemented by a smooth 6-speed automatic transmission and available all-wheel drive. The 1.6-liter turbo-4 raises the horsepower from 147 to 175, but its 7-speed dual-clutch automatic is often confused at city speeds.

There’s also an all-electric Kona, which we review separately. Spoiler alert: it’s great. It delivers a 258-mile range with Tesla-like stats for a fraction of the price.

The Kona’s short wheelbase and tight dimensions make it fairly fun to drive on twisty roads and easy to maneuver in the city.

The Kona fits five adults (barely), though its ride height and decent rear head room are better for four. With nearly 20 cubic feet of cargo room behind the fold-down rear seats, there’s plenty of space for luggage too.

Konas with the 2.0-liter inline-4 manage 27 mpg city, 33 highway, 30 combined with front-wheel drive, and 26/30/28 mpg with all-wheel drive. Turbocharged models with front-wheel drive get 28/32/30 mpg, and with all-wheel drive get 26/29/27 mpg. Both turbo and non-turbo run on regular fuel.

The 2020 Kona hasn’t been crash-tested yet, but the 2019 earned five stars overall from the NHTSA, with 5 stars in every category except rollover. The IIHS gave the upper models with LED headlights a Top Safety Pick+ award, getting “Good” scores in every area. However the lower models were dinged for sub-par halogen headlights. With standard automatic emergency braking as well as optional active safety features, the Kona is one of the safest small crossovers on the market.

Model Lineup

The 2020 Kona comes in SE, SEL, Limited, and Ultimate trims which range from just over $20,000 to nearly $30,000 fully loaded. Front-wheel drive is standard, while all-wheel drive is optional for an affordable $1,400.

At just over $20,000, the Kona SE gets cloth upholstery, power features, Bluetooth, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 16-inch alloy wheels, twin USB ports up front, and forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking. An excellent 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty is also included and improves to 10 years/100,000 miles for the powertrain.

For another $1,800 the SEL adds 17-inch wheels, blind-spot monitors, a sunroof, heated front seats, and keyless ignition, and satellite radio. A sunroof is optional, as is improved Infinity audio.

Limited models come with the turbocharged engine, and include 18-inch wheels, leather upholstery, a power driver’s seat, and LED taillights.

At nearly $30,000, Ultimate models include an improved 8.0-inch touchscreen, wireless smartphone charging, and satellite navigation. New for 2020, the Ultimate gets adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and a head-up display.

Exterior

With two-tiered headlights, more fake vents than any car needs, and a heavy dose of plastic body cladding, the busy styling appears to be screaming for adventure. The longer you look at the Kona, the more details you see. A complicated array of lines and surfaces decorates the exterior of the tall hatchback. It might be distinctive, but it’s sure not cohesive.

Interior

The interior tells a different story, with a logical layout and just a few heavy touches like the lime green or orange trim, to liven up the gray or black. A centered infotainment and control cluster places everything within reach and leaves it clearly marked, and the conventional round air vent is downright conservative. The interior has better fit and finish than many competitors, and with available wireless charging, multiple USB ports, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, it’s a modern driver’s tech cocoon.

The front bucket seats have good adjustment and supportive cushions, and their high mounting makes exit and entry easier. The standard fabric upholstery is just fine, although leather comes on higher-price Konas.

Rear seat space is limited and best suited for shorter trips, though head room is better than average thanks to a bubble roof design.

With foldable rear seats, the Kona manages up to 45.8 cubic feet of cargo room, and 19.2 cubic feet behind the rear seats. That’s about average for a compact hatchback, but a low load floor and wide rear opening make for a convenient cargo experience.

Driving Impressions

The base 2.0-liter inline-4 makes 147 horsepower and is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. It’s somewhat sluggish.
The 1.6-liter turbo-4 comes on the Limited and Ultimate, while the acceleration is more like it, with 175 hp, the turbo’s 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is hesitant at city speeds, as if it can’t decide what gear to be in. The 6-speed automatic in the base engine is vastly better.

The handling is deft. With its independent rear suspension (it’s a torsion-beam on front-drive models), the all-wheel-drive Kona is relatively comfortable for a car with a short wheelbase, however the 18-inch wheels on the top trims make the ride firmer. The ground clearance is only 6.7 inches, so the Kona can’t take on many trails, but the all-wheel-drive models handle snow and rain just fine.

Final Word

The 2020 Hyundai Kona tries hard to look cool. It succeeds better at offering drivers an economical and sporty ride for not much money. With either of its gas powertrains, it’s moderately quick and efficient, and handles well. Given the choice we’d opt for the Electric model, but it’s not widely available.

 

—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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