Hyundai is taking its best-selling vehicle, the Kona, and making it bigger and more tech-savvy in hopes the first redesign since 2018 will push sales even higher.
The Kona plays in a popular and growing segment of subcompact SUVs with competitors such as the Kia Seltos, Honda HR-V and Toyota Corolla Cross, and outsells all of its rivals.
The subcompact SUV represented 22 per cent of all Hyundai sales in Canada in 2022. To date, more than 135,000 have been sold here since it first launched in 2018. Hyundai sold about 5,000 more Konas in 2022 than either its Elantra sedan or Tucson SUV.
“Kona is a very important product for us,” said Steve Flamand, Hyundai Auto Canada’s executive director of product, corporate, IT and digital strategy, during the Kona test drive event in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. He says Hyundai has distanced itself from the competition in terms of rear-seat and cargo space.
Compared to the 2023 model, the new Kona has grown in every dimension. It is 145 millimetres longer, 45 millimetres higher, and 25 millimetres wider with a wheelbase that’s stretched by 60 millimetres. As a result, it’s noticeably larger in the cabin. Rear-seat legroom has grown by 77 millimetres and cargo space has increased by 179 litres to 723 litres. Interior tweaks, such as moving the gear shifter to the steering wheel column from the centre, have created more space between front-seat passengers.
And then there’s the technology. The new Kona is filled with advanced safety and convenience features that aren’t found on many competitors. Some technology, such as the Remote Smart Parking Assist feature, which lets drivers move the vehicle forward or backward out of a parking spot remotely using the key fob while standing outside, are usually found on more expensive models like the Genesis GV70.
Besides over-the-air software updates, the Kona also gets a remote digital key for the first time. It enables drivers to unlock and start their vehicle using only their smartphone – no key fob is required. Two 12.3-inch display screens and a navigation system that’s easier, faster and more intuitive to use add a high-tech and youthful vibe to the cabin.
With these changes comes a price increase of more than $3,000 compared with the current Kona. The 2024 Kona starts at $25,999 (before freight and predelivery inspection) while the 2023 Kona starts at $22,649.
“It’s not all inflation. We’ve added a lot of technology, a lot of features to the vehicle, and we’ve added structure to make sure we keep its top safety rating,” Flamand said. “In terms of the competitive landscape, we’re still where we were before. We’re offering the most value for the dollar, but done in a way that puts us at the forefront in terms of technology, performance, and ride and handling.”
Like the current Kona, the 2024 Kona comes in both a gasoline and all-electric version, with the electric to be released early next year. The standard gas engine is a 147-horsepower, two-litre, four-cylinder found in the base Essential and Preferred trims, while the upgraded engine is a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder in the upper-level N Line and N Line Ultimate trims. The 1.6-litre turbo produces 190 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. While both engines are a carryover from 2023, the turbo gets a new eight-speed automatic and remains one of the most powerful in the segment. By comparison, a Honda HR-V has only one engine offering – a two-litre with 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque. The Chevrolet Trailblazer offers an upgraded 1.3-litre turbo with 155 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque.
We were only able to test the N Line trims with the more powerful turbo engines. Behind the wheel, both models were engaging and smooth. Along sweeping roads, the N Line was nimble and quick. Merging onto the highway or overtaking slower vehicles, it was composed. It never struggled or felt underpowered. And the eight-speed automatic worked well, shifting gears smoothly and seamlessly. It was a big improvement over the current generation’s seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic. The cabin was noticeably quieter, compared with the 2023 model. There was little road, engine or wind noise seeping inside.
The 2024 Hyundai Kona arrives in dealerships this month, starting with the N Line trims and followed by the Essential and Preferred trims in a few weeks.
2024 Hyundai Kona
- Base price: $25,999-$38,499 (plus $1,925 in destination and delivery fees)
- Engine: Two-litre, naturally aspirated four-cylinder with 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque (Essential and Preferred trims) or a 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder with 190 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque (N Line and N Line Ultimate trims)
- Transmission/drive: Intelligent Variable Transmission (standard); eight-speed automatic (turbo); front-wheel/all-wheel drive (Essential and Preferred); all-wheel drive (N Line and N Line Ultimate)
- Fuel consumption (litres per 100 kilometres, city and highway): Two-litre front-wheel drive, 8.1/6.8 (Essential trim), 8.4/6.7 (Preferred trim); two-litre all-wheel drive, 8.8/8.1 (Essential), 9.0/8.1 (Preferred); 1.6-litre turbo all-wheel drive, 9.7/8.4
- Alternatives: Honda HR-V, Kia Seltos, Toyota Corolla Cross, Volkswagen Taos, Nissan Kicks, Chevrolet Trailblazer
Completely redesigned, it’s bigger, bolder and boxier. Attractive touches include a new grille with a razor-thin horizontal LED light strip across the front and rear. Active front grille shutters are aesthetic and functional, designed to improve airflow. The N Line trims add nice touches, such as body-coloured cladding, black side mirrors, twin tip exhausts, 19-inch wheels and a massive rear spoiler.
A high-tech, modern and youthful cabin with two 12.3-inch displays that are intuitive and easy to use. Everything is well laid out with a traditional volume knob and climate control buttons. Compared with the current generation, there’s more space in all seating positions.
The 1.6-litre turbo engine is spirited and fun to drive – it’s one of the most powerful engines in the segment. It’s also quiet and smooth with pleasant road manners. The eight-speed automatic shifts smoothly, too.
The Kona is loaded with new safety and convenience features, including lane-follow assist, remote smart-park assist, parking-collision-avoidance assist and a digital key that can be shared with four drivers. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are wireless on all trims, except for the top N Line Ultimate trim, which is wired.
The spacious cargo area has 723 litres of room. It has grown by 33 per cent or 179 litres. A cargo shelf stores nicely against the rear seats when not in use, so there’s no need to remove it for bigger items.
The new Hyundai Kona is a spirited, stylish and functional subcompact SUV. Despite a small price increase, it’s still value-packed for the money.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.