2018 Hyundai Kona: How Does This Small Crossover Handle the Big Island? [Review]

2018 Hyundai Kona
[Photo: Hyundai]


The 2018 Hyundai Kona joins the lineup as the company’s smallest crossover, below the larger Tucson and Santa Fe. Up front, the 2018 Hyundai Kona leads off with the familial cascading grille, flanked by pronounced “wing-like” fender flares. In profile, the Kona displays a long wheelbase. However, short body overhangs fore and aft ensure an athletic handling ability, while also delivering a confident stability at highway speeds.

A strong horizontal side character line and low roof line serve up a bold and athletic form, even if it looks a bit out of left field. Bringing up the rear, the slim rear brake lights appear as separate units from the turn signals and reverse lights. An integrated spoiler lip appears above the rear glass.

The Hyundai Kona is available in four levels of trim. Starting from the base SE model, there’s the SEL trim, then the more upscale Limited and Ultimate versions.

2018 Hyundai Kona
[Photo: Hyundai]


The 2018 Hyundai Kona’s cabin provides spacious, comfortable surroundings. Hyundai gave the dashboard a horizontal treatment, emphasizing width. The interior layout, contrary to what you may expect from the exterior, is pretty normal. The 7.0-inch infotainment display includes a plethora of apps and also supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability.

While the 2018 Hyundai Kona has the tech you might want, it was developed around enhanced driving dynamics and responsive performance. That way, drivers can deal with a wide variety of driving conditions. The Kona also offers selectable drive modes, allowing the driver to customize how the car responds. The modes change up steering feel, shift points in the transmission and overall responsiveness to the driver’s preference.

Hyundai fitted different rear suspension setups for front- and all-wheel drive models. Front-wheel drive models feature a rigid rear torsion beam design. On the other hand, all-wheel drive models get an independent, dual-arm multi-link design, optimizing ride comfort and stability. That setup also allows for greater articulation when going off the beaten track.


2018 Hyundai Kona
[Photo: Hyundai]


Limited and Ultimate trims draw their power from a 1.6-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, making 175 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. Peak torque delivery starts nice and low at 1,500 RPM and holds through 4,500. That gives the Kona more low-RPM responsiveness than the 147 horsepower, 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine in everyday driving conditions. The turbo engine mates to a seven-speed EcoShift dual clutch automatic transmission.

Acceleration from the turbocharged four-banger was completely adequate, but it won’t set your hair on fire. It’s also a little on the buzzy side when prodded in a more spirited manner. When I used the paddle shifters, engine braking power seemed to be lacking in the regular drive mode. Switching over to sport mode took care of the issue, where engine braking was much more effective.

Our test Kona was loaded with safety features, as you’d expect in a modern crossover. That includes blind-spot monitoring, Rear Cross-Path Detection, and Lane Change Assist, to name just a few. There’s also the Vehicle Stability Management system, which watches over the traction control, ABS and stability control.  Also included is Hyundai’s Smart Sense, featuring Forward Collision Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Keep Assist, Driver Attention Warning and High Beam Assist.


The 2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate has good looks, pleasant surroundings, admirable performance and an attractive price point. That last one is especially true when considering just how many features you get for the money. It competes in a fiercely contested segment, including the Mazda CX-3, Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V and Toyota C-HR. Watch for a fully electric, quick charging, long range Kona to join the lineup shortly.

[Photo: Arv Voss]
The base price for the 2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate I drove started at $28,700. However, that price rose to $29,775 after adding the carpeted floor mats and destination charges. Unlike most press events, the Kona event was an unforgettable experience as I went ziplining during the three days we were on the Big Island.

Check out the video below to watch Roman’s volcano review of the Hyundai Kona. Subscribe to The Fast Lane Car and TFLnow on YouTube for more videos featuring your favorite new models! If you enjoy our content, please consider donating to TFL on Patreon.

2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD

On Sale: Now
Base MSRP: $28,700
Price as Tested:
Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged I-4
Drivetrain (Layout): Transversely mounted front engine, all-wheel drive
Horsepower: 175 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 195 lb-ft @ 1,500-4,500 rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed EcoShift dual-clutch transmission with manual shift capability.
Suspension: Front: MacPherson strut with coil springs, gas-pressurized shock absorbers, advanced valving and stabilizer bar.

Rear: Multilink with gas-pressurized shock absorbers, advanced valving and stabilizer bar.

Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel discs (vented front) w/ 4-channel ABS
Tires: Goodyear Eagle Touring P235/45 R18 98V
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons
Fuel economy (EPA): 27 City / 29 Highway MPG


Wheelbase: 102.4 inches
Length: 164.0 inches
Width: 70.9 inches
Height: 61.0 inches
Turning Circle: 34.8 feet
Curb Weight: 3,344 pounds