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2021 Hyundai Kona Limited AWD Review

Terry Box | February 24, 2021
2021 Hyundai Kona Limited AWD Review

Small, all-wheel-drive crossovers leave really big tire- prints when they crunch through mile after mile of ice slicker than the paint on a $500,000 Rolls-Royce.

Thank you, Hyundai Kona, because we all know how Texans drive on a dusting of sleet, much less ice and snow and single-digit temperatures that should really be kept in Pittsburgh and Boston and Chicago.

Believe me: I’ll take five 100-degree days in exchange for not having to shiver and shake through one subfreezing day.

Keep the snow for Christmas cards, I say.

The 2021 Kona I was fortunate enough to have last week, though, rolled through the Arctic muck and mess with little more than a thick coat of road grime.

It never once left me stranded – which is more than I can say for some of the women I’ve dated.

As some of you probably know – and I had to Google it – Kona is a southwesterly winter wind in Hawaii that is often strong and brings rain. Sounds about right.

The Kona subcompact crossover, however, will also make you smile on a 72-degree day.

The dark-gray Limited model I had came equipped with an impressive turbocharged 1.6-liter four, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and all-wheel drive.

Though lacking a bit in cargo space – like most small crossovers – the Kona exuded utility, particularly as the ice piled up.

Granted, the front-end is slightly strange, peering at the world with squinty, slender headlamps that flank a familiar hexagon-shaped Hyundai grille.

Beneath those lights, tucked into a cubby of sorts, was a second light that kind of gave the Kona a vaguely prehistoric-fish look.

Fortunately, the crisp sides flashed a lot of style with short, athletic overhangs front and rear, flared fenders and taut sculpting.

Adding to its flash were nice-looking multi-spoked 18-inch wheels wrapped with 235/45 tires.

Typically, I don’t think “sporty” when I see a subcompact or compact crossover, which are generally based on small-car platforms and look like something that belongs on a college campus.

My Kona, though, packed the optional 175-horsepower turbo-four similar to the engine in Hyundai’s Veloster compact car, performing even better than the quirky Veloster, I thought.

Credit: Hyundai.

Smooth and torquey, the Kona felt more lively and spirited than I had expected, able to sprint to 60 mph in an impressive 6 seconds, according to Car and Driver.

It also can ring up overall fuel economy of 27 miles per gallon.

Unlike some dual-clutch transmissions, the Kona’s seven-speed was generally smooth and quick to keep up with the engine.

Even more surprising was the 3,000-pound Kona’s handling. I mean, small vehicles ought to get good fuel economy. But handle pretty nicely as well?

The little crossover turned into corners a lot more eagerly than I had anticipated, attacking them pretty flatly with fine grip and balance.

(Incidentally, I did the antisocial stuff before the awful front from Canada insisted on paying us a visit.)

While the Kona was sure-footed and sporty, its ride was a tad firm. However, the little vehicle had pretty good compliance in its dampers, so bounce was minimal.

My only complaint about the Hyundai’s driving dynamics was its numb steering – an irritant I’ve dealt with in multiple late-model vehicles.

The plastic-heavy black interior in my Kona could have added a few more clouds to my day. But thanks to some flair by Hyundai designers, it looked better than you might expect in a $29,000 vehicle.

A sculpted upper dashboard, for example, rolled down to a mid-dash covered in a textured black plastic that offered a subtle contrast to the upper dash.

Meanwhile, a seven-inch touchscreen rose from the mid-dash, smartly providing knobs for tuning the stereo.

Somewhere in all that stuff behind the dash were safety features such as collision-avoidance, lane-keeping assist and blind-spot warning.

The system also included Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Though the interior suffered some from all its plastic, it looked and felt like pretty good plastic.

The door-tops, for instance, were stitched in the same textured material as the mid-dash, while the vehicle’s firm bucket seats sported smooth bolsters and perforated centers.

As you might expect in a compact or subcompact crossover – and I have found the Kona listed as both on the Inner Tube, er, Internet – cargo space was a smallish 19 cubic feet.

In addition, the head- and leg-room in back were limited, but still mostly adult friendly.

Come to think of it, I might say the same thing about the over-achieving Kona.

2021 Hyundai Kona Limited AWD Review

  • What I liked most: The Kona’s slightly strange but entirely fresh styling and its eager turbo-four engine.
  • What I would change: Not much.
  • MSRP: Base price, $27.600; as equipped, $28,895.
  • Official color: Thunder Gray.
  • Fuel economy: 26 miles per gallon in town, 29 on the highway and 27 combined with fuel filler on the left.
  • Odometer reading when tested: 4,286 miles.
  • Spare tire: None – air pump.
  • Weight: 3,072 pounds.
  • Length-width-height: 164 inches long/70.9 inches wide/61 inches tall.
  • Fuel-tank capacity: 13.2 gallons.
  • Towing capacity: Not applicable.
  • 2021 Hyundai Kona in a few words: A compact crossover that even full-sized adults can like and appreciate.
  • Warranty: Five-year, 60,000-mile overall warranty and 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain protection.
  • Final assembly location: Ulsan, Korea.
  • Manufacturer’s website: www.hyundaiusa.com
  • E-mail me at terry@carprousa.com
  • Up next: 2021 Genesis G80 3.5 Turbo
Tags: 2021 Hyundai Kona Limited AWD, Hyundai Limited, New vehicle reviews, suvs, crossovers, 2021, automotive
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