Kona and Crosstrek compete for crossover customers
Comparison: Hyundai Kona vs Subaru Crosstrek
When it comes to the Hyundai Kona and Subaru Crosstrek, the question is simple: Fun or utility?
Welcome to Dude Said, Punk Said — a special series devoted to skewering the automotive ramblings of young punk Nick Tragianis with the infinite wisdom of old dude Brian Harper. This week, the duo evaluate two strong contenders in the subcompact crossover segment — the Hyundai Kona and Subaru Crosstrek — and determine which sport ute is the better pick.
It’s not like it’s one of the “senior citizens” of the compact crossover segment; that would be the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester. It’s quite amazing how many new models have been added to the roster in North America in just the past five years or so, about when Subaru decided to jack up its Impreza hatchback and call it the Crosstrek. Just a sampling: Nissan’s Qashqai and Kicks, the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Toyota C-HR, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross and the other subject of our comparison test, Hyundai’s Kona.
It’s also interesting that the segment seems to be diverging between mainstream family-type models (Crosstrek, CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape, etc.) and more highly stylized, youth-oriented versions (the aforementioned Kona, Kicks and C-HR, etc.)
My question to you, kid: While the redesigned for 2018 Crosstrek and the brand-new Kona are both compacts and approximately the same price, they seem to be serving different buyers. What’s our priority, then: Fun or utility?
Well, what do you care about the most — style and features, or utility and practicality? It’s hard to believe both the Crosstrek and Kona are in the same class, because they interpret the bite-sized crossover formula very differently. The Crosstrek is rather roomy and plenty capable, packing Subaru’s revered allwheel-drive system and 22 cm of ground clearance. Unlike the previous Crosstrek, the new one also rides incredibly well. It soaks up bumps, potholes and expansion joints like nobody’s business, and does a formidable job in filtering out wind and road noise on the highway. Seriously, the 2019 Crosstrek’s ride quality belies its slightly-more-than-$30,000 price tag.
All that comes at the expense of speed, though. You’d think Subaru would’ve learned a thing or two from the old Crosstrek, but power still comes from a 2.0-litre, normally aspirated boxer four-cylinder engine, with 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. Paired to Subaru’s (admittedly smooth) CVT — a six-speed manual is offered — the Crosstrek won’t set anyone’s pants on fire. It’s more than enough for daily driving, but in this department, the Kona has it beat.
BH: Too many automakers believe that “adequate” power is good enough when it comes to crossovers. Fortunately, Hyundai is a bit more enlightened. While the base engine is a lowly 147-hp, 2.0-L Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine, Hyundai ups the Kona’s game with a 175-hp, 1.6-L turbofour and mates it with a sevenspeed dual-clutch automatic transmission. No, that combo isn’t going to scorch the earth with warp speed-like acceleration either, but it does give the Kona far more snap when it comes to dealing with city traffic and highway on-ramps. Plus, it suits the Kona’s perky personality. Not that the Crosstrek is a bowwow, but there’s no sexy here. The Kona’s sharp styling might not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s fresh and I can see it attracting the attention of you millennials. Actually, despite my seemingly advanced years, I wouldn’t be ashamed to have it parked in my driveway — in a slightly more subtle shade, though.
The same applies with the cabin. Yet, despite a brave attempt to disguise the hard plastic, and despite some noticeable features absent from the Crosstrek — heated steering wheel, head-up display, variable drive modes — I’m not quite as sold. You?
NT: Yeah, for its as-tested price of slightly less than $32,000, the Kona’s fit-and-finish is a tad disappointing; there’s a lot of hard plastic surfaces in there. It does deserve brownie points for making the all-black cabin a bit more cheerful with lime-green accents. The infotainment, as you’d expect from Hyundai, is extremely simple to use, and you get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s spacious up front, too, but the back seat gets a little tight with an individual of your, um, stature behind the wheel.
That’s not the case with the Crosstrek. Although it technically competes in the subcompact crossover segment, it straddles the line between compact and subcompact. This, obviously, leads to a vastly larger and more comfortable interior — materials aren’t perfect, but it’s better than the Kona and the infotainment is just as intuitive as Hyundai’s. The Crosstrek also offers a roomier back seat and cargo hold. Of course, because it’s a Subaru, visibility all around is pretty great, too. The Crosstrek’s just a lot easier to live with.
BH: The Crosstrek is much more a family vehicle than the sportier Kona, and, as you pointed out, it’s longer, with a roomier cabin and more cargo capacity. It also has a better all-wheel drivetrain, it’s more fuel efficient and it’s tow rated at 680 kilograms, which the Kona is not. Middling power is the Crosstrek’s only serious deficiency. In fact, I was surprised at how much more sophisticated and substantial the new second-generation model felt. It’s smoother and tighter, most of which can be attributed to its new platform, which has resulted in a structural rigidity improvement of some 70 per cent more than last year’s model.
I like the Kona; it will prove to be another winner for Hyundai. That said, I have to cast my vote with the Subaru. You?
NT: You and I are on the same page, old dude. Hyundai will certainly sell a lot of Konas, but the Crosstrek is the winner here. Despite its low-ish horsepower figure, it’s a lot less polarizing on the outside, it’s roomier and more flexible inside than the Kona, and it rides incredibly well. Subaru’s offering some of the best all-wheeldrive systems in the business is the icing on the cake.
2019 Subaru Crosstrek (left) vs. 2019 Hyundai Kona (right).