2019 Hyundai Kona SEL AWD – It’s Not Electric and That’s OK

During the week I drove this car, I had a lot of questions about Konas. Not this Kona, the electric ones. “Hey, how far does that thing go on a charge?” “Hey, how long does it take to top up the batteries?” “HAY, WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE THE FUTURE AND SAVE THE PLANET?” I disappointed everyone, saying “I dunno it runs on dinosaur guts.” At which point they lost interest in the little Hyundai. But just because it’s a gas-burner does it deserve to be ignored?

EXTERIOR

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Of course not. The plucky little Kona may not be remarkably beautiful, fast or extraordinary in any way, but it is good and it is cheap.  From the outside, the Kona could be almost any other crossover. It doesn’t help that it’s coated in Forget-Me White paint. There’s a CUV shaped hole in the market and just about every manufacturer has a four-wheeled peg to fit. This is Hyundai’s peg, and it’s pretty darn good.

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It has slits for headlights that look like they’re borrowed from a Jeep Cherokee circa 2014. They’re reminicent of the look my older sister gave me when I decapitated her Barbies (sorry Chrystal). The taillights are equally grumpy. There’s black plastic body cladding over the wheel wells and along the rockers. Some may find this unsightly, but it’s dead practical. Shopping carts can bag into it at the store and it won’t chip like a painted fender.

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Hyundai designers fell prey to the current trend of floating rooflines, but it’s easily one of the more tasteful examples. 17inch alloy wheels offer a quality look to the Kona and are standard equipment. Overall, it looks frisky, like it’s ready to play. It’s not a serious off-roader and it’s not trying to look like one.

INTERIOR

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The Kona’s seats are wrapped in black cloth with houndstooth inserts. This is just like a 1969 Camaro. That’s fun. Hyundai could easily have done black and grey to remind us that life is just a bleak and bitter landscape of pain and regrets pocked with shattered dreams and that we all ultimately die. But no, they went with something fun and funky! It also probably hides the inevitable Taco Bell stains.

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This Kona was fitted with the Tech Package. That gives it eight-way power seats, a power sunroof, Infinity sound system, a shark fin antenna and Hyundai’s bluelink services. The touch screen interface is easy to navigate and easy to reach without leaning forward in your seat. The interior layout is somewhat spartan but it’s not uncomfortable. Forward collision avoidance and cross-traffic alert systems come standard. I like that there’s still a mechanical connection to the transmission and there’s an old fashion, yank-style, hand brake. The rear seats are roomy enough for adults and downright spacious for offspring.

THE DRIVE

Under the hood, beats a capable 2.0-liter four-banger. It uses the Atkinson cycle which is basically magic. Actually, it’s a modified Otto cycle that gives the pistons a bit of a running start on their way toward the cylinder head thus increasing fuel efficiency. That’s connected to a six-speed auto with drive mode selection. Nail it on an on-ramp and it complies and accelerates to highway speed without complaint. With a sub seven second 0-60 it’s not setting the world on fire, but it’s not a painfully slow drive either. Hyundai says we can expect 30mpg highway and 25 around town. These aren’t stunning numbers, but it’s still what I consider economical.

THE DIRT

This little Kona comes with a ton of amenities standard. But even when you doll it up with the extras that this one has, the tech package and shark fin antenna, it’s still under $26,000. In 1969 money that’s only $3,700, or roughly the price of a brand new ’69 Camaro, and Camaros never came in AWD with Bluetooth connectivity. So there you have it, if you want an icon from the heart of the muscle car era, buy a Hyundai Kona.

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