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Three Features We Love About The 2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD- And Two Things That Are Missing

We continue to fall in love with the Hyundai Kona. Here are three things we think makes it a standout in the compact crossover class, and two things we miss.


The 2019 Hyundai Kona subcompact crossover is continuing to sell very well for Hyundai. With sales approaching 7,000 units per month, the Kona is now outselling the Mazda CX-3 by about six to one and closing in on segment leaders the Subaru Crosstrek and Honda HR-V. Among the field, the Kona in its top trims is our favorite on-road crossover in this segment by a country mile. Here are the top three things we think the Kona does best, and two things we see as missing in this versatile vehicle.

kona engine2019 Hyundai Kona – Best In Class Drivertrain
The Kona has four trim levels. The top two, Limited and Ultimate, come with a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and 7-speed DCT automatic transmission. Simply put, nothing in the segment can compare to the pull and power of this combination. With 195 ft-lbs of torque at a crazy-low 1,500 RPM, the Kona can pull like a diesel, yet still has power in the top-end of the rev band. The DCT transmission snaps off quick shifts and always seems to be in the right gear. Particularly in Sport Mode, which is smooth enough that it can be used in normal daily driving.

The engine and transmission in the Hyundai Kona Ultimate and Limited make driving the Kona a fun experience. Most of the competitors in this class forgo the turbo and they don’t have the same verve. The Kona Ultimate we tested had the optional AWD system and it puts all of the power to the ground in all conditions. This drivetrain alone is reason to opt for the Kona among its peers in the industry.

kona infotainment2019 Hyundai Kona – Best In Class Infotainment
The folks at Hyundai also know how to make a great infotainment system. With Android Auto & Apple CarPlay standard on every Kona and a great touchscreen interface, we loved the Kona’s simplicity and connectivity. We rocked Google Maps and Pandora with Android Auto and found the system’s menus very intuitive. Subaru’s Crosstrek has an equally good infotainment system, but most of the others in this class don’t measure up.

kona cargo2019 Hyundai Kona – Best In Class Packaging
The 2019 Kona is a subcompact crossover that never makes the driver feel confined. The Kona has ample leg, shoulder and headroom, and our right knew was comfortable in the vehicle. This kind of spacious feeling is rare in the segment. The rear seats are limited in space, of course, because the Kona is in a small vehicle class. However, with a minor adjustment to the front passenger seat, fitting a child in back is not a problem and a pair of couples could easily head out for an evening together in the Kona.

We love the roomy cargo area and the fold-down rear seatbacks. We folded the Kona in a split second and put in a full-size men’s bike with no trouble at all. You won’t find any sedan at this price point that has this kind of flexibility and comfort.

2019 Hyundai Kona AWD– So What’s Missing?
The Kona Ultimate and Limited trims in AWD seem to have it all. Heated power-adjustable seats. A head-up display (Ultimate). Leather seating and steering wheel. Great infotainment. So what did we miss in the $30,070 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD? Just two things. A heated steering wheel and a spare tire. We could not find the heated steering wheel on any trim. The Kona has a spare tire included in its front wheel drive trims, but the Ultimate and Limited AWD trims have no spare and no run flats. Given that one of the Kona’s roles is as a family car, and since AWD crossovers are intended to be used for limited off-road adventures, this puzzles us. Here in New England, a tire repair kit is of no use in winter or if a sidewall is damaged, and in the Western United States there are many areas that are hours from the nearest help.

2019 Hyundai Kona AWD – Conclusion
Hyundai’s Kona brings a smile to our face every time we get behind the wheel. The packaging, drivetrain and infotainment system are ideal for this size and price point vehicle. However, there are two features you cannot get in a Kona Ultimate AWD that others offer in this segment that we feel are important.


Duke Woolworth (not verified)    April 29, 2019 - 5:07PM

Rear legroom smaller than any competitor. Short wheelbase means choppier ride than others. What did Hyundai pay you to write this story?

John Goreham    April 29, 2019 - 10:13PM

In reply to by Duke Woolworth (not verified)

The Kona's wheelbase is 102.4 inches. The Mazda CX-3's is 101.2 inches and the Honda HR-V's is 102.8 inches. The Kona is certainly not out of the mainstream in this regard. Its ride isn't choppy based on our testing. We get paid by the pageview, so thank you for reading, Duke!

Ed B (not verified)    May 3, 2019 - 10:06AM

In reply to by BS detector (not verified)

Seems nitpicky but the writer is correct - In this segment, heated steering wheel and spare tire is the norm. Folks may venture off road at times and with AWD you're probably in the northeast where a heating steering wheel just goes with the territory. We live in PA and we never get a vehicle without AWD or heated steering wheel.

Miles (not verified)    November 17, 2019 - 12:38PM

I'll go with your assessment of the Kona ultimate. Being in the Southeast, Florida to be exact, travel North to the UP and Ohio, the heated steering wheel isn't something I noticed. The spare tire, I'm with you all the way.

I compared this vehicle to the Subaru Crosstrek and found, for the money and factory warranty you come out the winner with the Hyundai.

You have to take into account a couple of more things. One, ground clearance. Crosstrek has the Hyundai beat. Two, it's a Hyundai. Hyundai has come a long way baby and they have a long way to go in the interior design. They use a lot of plastic and it shows. Don't get me wrong, the Kona Ultimate has a nice, comfortable interior, and it's a Hyundai. Finally, your not going to keep drive this vehicle two to four years and bring the same trade or resale money as some of Hyundai's Competition. It's a Hyundai and I told you that. That said, Subaru just recalled the Crosstrek on the engine.

So, if you're a person who looks to stretch there vehicle buying dollar to the max, is going to keep a vehicle at least 5 to 7 years or more. Looking for a manufacturer that will go 200,000 miles + and you want a options loaded vehicle that you can do town, highway, limited off-road, wet and snow, I'd buy the Kona Ultimate. Oh, I did. I shopped hard and found mine used with 2800 miles on it for $24,000. I love this compact SUV for the money I spent, I would have loved it at 30 with the factory incentives.

Peter LaFlamme (not verified)    November 29, 2020 - 12:21PM

I note the Kona AWD does not have a spare tire. I see that Hyundai has spare tire kit for the Kona. Will the kit fit in the Kona wheel well?

Dane Eggleston (not verified)    November 30, 2020 - 1:04PM

In reply to by Peter LaFlamme (not verified)

My Kona AWD Ultimate came with a spare tire, right from the factory, jack and everything. I imagine the spare tire kit would work. I live in Northern Canada and this little car is amazing. The AWD is awesome and the AWD lock can be a life saver. I feel this review was biased. It's a great car.