Hyundai’s Kona is not too bold, not too bland

Texarkana Gazette - - AUTO SUNDAY - By Robert Duf­fer

At first sight the all-new Hyundai Kona in lime green made me look twice to see if what I was see­ing was re­ally real. This lime-green sub­com­pact cross­over had so much body cladding over the wheel arches and fend­ers that it evoked the big ugly known as the Pon­tiac Aztek.

But—you knew there was a but com­ing—dur­ing a longer look with­out con­trast­ing two-tone col­ors, it looked like a small cross­over con­ve­nient for ur­ban er­rands, sub­ur­ban slog­ging and week­end get­aways. Not too gar­ishly edgy, not too ar­ti­fi­cially off-road sug­ges­tive. The thun­der-gray body ap­peared more uni­fied in de­sign and less like a silly at­tempt to stand out in a class full of quirks such as the Kia Soul, Toy­ota C-HR, Ford EcoS­port and Nis­san Kicks.

By the end of our week to­gether, I re­ally liked this cute ute, which is odd due to the oth­er­wise ho­moge­nous na­ture of the small crossovers be­ing churned out by au­tomak­ers at a rate that would make bun­nies blush.

We logged more miles than usual in and out of the city. It hauled hockey gear and kids, gro­cery bags and hangry tweens, and was one of the few ve­hi­cles our mid­size puppy ea­gerly jumped into. And the lime-green in­te­rior trim cir­cling the vents and lin­ing the leather-trimmed seats was loved by the girl.

Kona drives like a hatch­back, with nim­ble han­dling and punchy bursts of power from the fa­mil­iar 175-horse­power tur­bocharged four-cylin­der, also used in the Tuc­son cross­over and Sonata sedan. The AWD Kona is a few hun­dred pounds lighter (3,276 pounds) than those ve­hi­cles, so even though there is turbo lag from a dead stop, once it’s up and mov­ing, Kona is pleas­antly re­spon­sive.

More im­pres­sive is how it tucks in and out of turns around town with­out feel­ing like it may roll into that land­scaped sub­ur­ban lawn. The vis­i­bil­ity and seat height is still high like a cross­over, and the pro­por­tions in­side don’t feel cramped, yet the Kona is nar­row enough to pass through al­ley­ways and dou­ble-parked de­liv­ery ve­hi­cles with­out hes­i­ta­tion. It’s good for city folk who need some­thing slightly larger, and sub­ur­ban folk ready to down­size.

Our 31 mpg av­er­age ex­ceeded EPA es­ti­mates, partly be­cause we were driv­ing in that sweet-sip­ping 55 mph range, and partly be­cause of the smooth-shift­ing seven-speed trans­mis­sion. In sport mode with the dual-clutch trans­mis­sion, the shifts are more no­tice­able and more fun.

The best part of the Kona in the top Ul­ti­mate trim is the in­te­rior. For un­der $30,000 fully loaded, it has the re­fine­ment of pre­mium makes from Acura to Buick, and easy-to-use tech­nol­ogy that is ac­tu­ally con­ve­nient, from the eight­inch touch screen to the com­pre­hen­sive ve­hi­cle info dis­play in the in­stru­ment clus­ter. Even though the re­cently an­nounced 2019 model comes stan­dard with ad­vanced driver as­sis­tance sys­tems such as lane keep, we wished the loaded 2018 also came with adap­tive

cruise con­trol.

The rear seats are tight, which is com­mon for this class, but we com­fort­ably fit two tweens and two adults. Two hockey bags fit in the hatch, but the goalie pads and the sticks had to ride shot­gun. A pass-through would have been nice for the sticks.

These are such mi­nor com­plaints in what is oth­er­wise one of the bet­ter over­all pack­ages in the sub­com­pact cross­over class. And there’s the choice of con­trast­ing twotone schemes, if that’s your thing.

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