Driving Impressions: 2018 Kona Ultimate AWDBy: Mark Moskowitz MD
If you are searching for a mini SUV or a subcompact SUV or a subcompact crossover, Hyundai's new Kona Ultimate deserves a look or better stated demands it......... The stylists were very busy. In the front, there's a proportionately massive black front honeycomb grille. It's flanked by similarly clad pass through vents, solid honeycombed plastic and three separate sets of lights. Above it is a faux intake vent. Below a real one. On the Kona's sides, up to 6-inch wide black plastic trim surrounds the wheel wells and connects with black plastic rocker panels with a faux aluminum Accent. More black on the back and around the six side windows
Color it Lime Twist or Pulse Red and it screams at you. I prefer Thunder Grey, Sonic Silver, or Ultra Black. The latter shades seem to blend and emphasize Kona's sculptured sides and pleasant silhouette. Hyundai pulls off tall significantly better than some class predecessors like the Juke.
The black interior is attractive though not opulent; it is enhanced by colored (limon in the test car) stitching and solid accents on the dashboard, seats and console.
Steering wheel, pedals, knobs and touchscreen are within easy reach and the infotainment system's eight-inch display is well positioned on the top of the dash where it is easily seen. It's an inch smaller on the less expensive Kona models though all have rapid, extensive and easy to program function and are equipped with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The Ultimate's wireless charging system conveniently fits the larger smartphones.
Achieving my most optimal seating position with the seat bottom flat rather than tilted upward toward the front left me sitting higher than I would have expected. There was still plenty of headroom for this 5'10'driver but I was somewhat surprised that seat elevation left me with an incomplete (cut-off) projection on the heads up display. The multi-perforated seats front and rear were supportive and cool despite no active ventilation system. And foot wells at both locations were more than adequate. I would suspect 6 footers would be comfortable during an evening out on the town.
Rear storage is easily accessed by a lift up gate and is an adequate 19.2 cubic feet. It's supplemented by a sub-floor storage tray and fold down rear seats, which increase that space to a generous 45.8 cubic feet.
Konas come in four trim levels: SE, SEL, Limited and Ultimate with prices for front wheel drive models ranging from $19000 and increasing to 26,400. A tech package is offered for the SEL, but its highly desirable and important features of sunroof, 8-way power seats, Forward Collision Avoidance and Lane Keep Assist come standard in the Ultimate. I was surprised not to find adaptive cruise control. The base powerplant is a 147 hp naturally aspirated inline 4. The Limited and Ultimate come equipped with a 175 hp turbocharged four with 195 pounds of torque over a wide range. I found the Ultimate extremely quick and responsive over a wide range of conditions. It's no surprise that Car and Driver
was able to record a 0-60 time of 6.6 seconds from their turbo Kona.
Part time all-wheel drive adds $1300 to the list price of all editions. Four-wheel drive can be locked with a console button but the feature releases at 20 mph. Strictly front wheel drive Konas achieve 30 mpg on the highway; this drops to 27 mpg for the all-wheel drive cars. Only the AWDs have a multilink suspension which may account for the test model's excellent road manners.
Driving the Kona was a joy. Its small size and quick steering sped you through parking lots and city streets. As speeds increased steering effort increased, a bit too much, whether in Normal or Sport Mode. And that increased effort might be my only complaint. The Kona rarely disturbed its occupants absorbing road imperfections at all speeds. On the interstates, its Lane Keep Assist was one of the most accurate I have experienced. The Ultimate was predictable in the turns and tested its limits with composure. Its handling seemed to approach the sophistication of a small sports sedan.
The Kona's 100,000 mile warranty, multiplicity of features, spirited driving experience and an interior that seems bigger than its exterior would allow are a commendable combination. It's highly recommended in its class.