This week I bring you the 2021 Hyundai Kona, an award-winning subcompact SUV that continues to do well for Hyundai. Case in point, sales were up 43% this November over last. It’s one of the top choices in the subcompact SUV segment, offering great fuel economy and optional all-wheel drive. The 2021 model is a carryover with just a few interior and exterior colors changes. This year’s lineup does add a new Night Edition bringing the number of trims to six. However, my test model is the turbocharged Limited, which slots just beneath the top of the line Ultimate.
It’s hard to believe the Kona is in its fourth model year already. So that explains my desire for a design update. (A facelift with a substantially different front end is reportedly coming in 2022.) My Thunder Gray model rides on 18-inch wheels. Its current large chrome-framed grille is flanked by thin LED headlights with Low Beam Assist, along with LED daytime running lights. Front fog lights add dimension to the front. Body-colored side mirrors are heated with turn signal indicators. In the back you find slim LED tail lights and a rear spoiler. The top sports a power sunroof, roof side rails and a shark fin antenna.
The Kona’s gas-engine lineup offers two powertrains. The Limited is equipped with the more powerful 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine mated to a smooth-shifting 7-speed automatic transmission. It’s 175-horsepower offers nice acceleration (and I prefer it over the 147-horsepower base engine which I reviewed last year.) The powertrain delivers 195 lb.-ft. of torque.
The Kona rides and drives great both in town and on the highway. It’s easy to maneuver thanks to its size and good for people who like a little ride height. This trim is equipped with the available all-wheel drive with independent rear suspension that delivers a comfortable ride that handles bumps easily. I wasn’t, however, thrilled with the level of road noise, though it’s something in par with the segment.
The Kona’s interior isn’t flashy but it’s user-friendly. Silver trim adds a dash of design to the otherwise black interior. While there are some soft touch surfaces in the top trims like this one, I’d still love to see a bit less plastic in a vehicle nearing the $30,000 mark.
The 8-way power and lumbar support heated front leather seats are on the firmer side and not terribly wide, not unexpected in a subcompact SUV. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is likewise on the firmer side without much cushioning. The center console houses a leather gear-shift knob, drive mode select for normal and sport modes, your heated seat buttons and a handheld parking brake.
Technology is a highlight in the Kona. The 4.2-inch digital driver display is bright and easy to see. A 7-inch multimedia touchscreen sitting atop the dash has great color and graphics. The system that supports both Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth is responsive and buttons on each side also operate some of the functions. It houses a rearview camera, but Navigation is only available on the top Ultimate trim. Voice recognition works well and the Limited features wireless charging. Two front USB ports are standard across the lineup.
Another interior highlight is the 8-speaker 315-watt Premium Infinity sound system which I think sounds great in a subcompact this size.
The Kona technically seats five, although the back seat leg room isn’t noteworthy. The rear seats drop down in a 60/40 split. Cargo space is what you’d expect for a subcompact SUV. A dual level cargo floor and hidden under-floor storage tray are nice features that provide extra space.
The Kona offers great driver assist features. This model is equipped with standard Blind Spot Collision Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Driver Attention Warning, Forward-Collision Warning Assist and cruise control.
Carpeted floor mats ($155) are this test model’s only option. If you want things like a heads-up display, high beam assist, reverse park assist warning, rain-sensing wipers and a larger 8-inch multimedia touchscreen with Navigation, you’ll need to step up to the top of the line Limited.
The Kona is a great option in the subcompact SUV delivering great design and quality, minus a bit too much plastic for my taste. If engine power is important to you, opt for a higher level trim with the turbo engine. Or wait for the facelifted 2022 Kona lineup which will reportedly include a more powerful Kona N-Line.
2021 Hyundai Kona Limited AWD
- What I liked most: The user-friendly multimedia system and Infinity sound system.
- What I would change: Add more soft touch surfaces in the interior at this price point.
- MSRP: $27,600; as equipped, $28,895.
- Official color: Thunder Gray.
- Fuel economy: 26 city/29 highway/27 combined.
- Odometer reading when tested: 1,255 miles (end odometer reading).
- Spare tire: Tire mobility kit (AWD models.)
- Weight: 3,256 – 3,276 pounds (AWD).
- Length-width-height: 164” long/ 70.9” wide/61.6” tall (w/roof rails.)
- Fuel-tank capacity: 13.2 gallons with filler on the driver’s side.
- Towing capacity: Not Recommended.
- 2021 Hyundai Kona Limited in a few words: One of the best subcompact SUVs in its class.
- Warranty: 5-year, 60,000-mile Warranty; 10-yr, 10,000-mile Powertrain warranty; 7-year/Unlimited-mile Anti-Perforation Warranty; 5-year, Unlimited Roadside Assistance.
- Final assembly location: Ulsan, Korea.
- Manufacturer’s website: Hyundai