2021 Hyundai Kona

2021 Hyundai Kona Review: Ticks All The Right Boxes

by Deiondre van der Merwe

The Hyundai Kona is like a talented kid who comes from a tough neighborhood and frightens the cookie-cutter children for being brilliant, but different. In this case, the cookie-cutter children are the Mazda CX-3 and the Honda HR-V. The squinty front end is not the only unique thing about the Kona; it's unmistakable from the outside, but the inside is what counts. The available 175-hp 1.6-liter turbo is a boon and makes running errands more bearable. It's a comfortable crossover that competes with the best of them and actually stands a chance of winning. We're talking about comfort and athleticism doled out in equal parts and an interior loaded with modern tech and creature comforts.

2021 New Hyundai Kona Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 Kona?

The 2021 Hyundai Kona rolls over mostly unchanged from the previous model year, aside from the addition of a new Night Edition trim that adds 18-inch wheels, gloss black interior and exterior accents, LED headlights and taillights as well as aluminum-alloy sport pedals. There were also a few interior and exterior colors dropped from last year's selection.

Pros and Cons

  • Unique exterior style
  • Multiple engine options
  • Frugal fuel economy
  • Well-stocked with standard features
  • Not as spacious as rivals
  • Steering is numb
  • Lazy standard engine

Best Deals on Kona

2021 Hyundai Kona Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
SE
2.0L Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$20,500
SEL
2.0L Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$22,300
SEL Plus
2.0L Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$24,150
NIGHT
1.6L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
7-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$26,200
Limited
1.6L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
7-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$26,300

Kona Exterior

Hyundai's slit-eyed crossover looks like it's descended down from Mars, and that'll be a good thing for some and a dealbreaker for others. We personally like the unique look. The front end is home to LED daytime running lights across all trims, but LED headlights are reserved for the top two models. The same trend follows the taillights, with the top three trims being the only variants to get LEDs. The Night Edition adds gloss black side mirror covers and gloss black lower door trims. The entry-level SE spec is the only trim that doesn't get roof rails. Wheel sizes range from 16 inches to 18 inches, while certain trims are equipped with a power tilt-and-slide sunroof.

2021 Hyundai Kona Front View Hyundai
2021 Hyundai Kona Rear View Hyundai
2021 Hyundai Kona Three-Quarter Front Left View Hyundai
See All 2021 Hyundai Kona Exterior Photos

Dimensions

In terms of dimensions, the Kona is a car that's slightly smaller than the Honda HR-V and the Mazda CX-3, especially when it comes to length. Its body stretches to 164 inches and conceals a 102.4-inch wheelbase. From side to side, it measures 70.9 inches without the mirrors, which is marginally wider than the HR-V. The height is 61 inches without the roof rack side rails and 61.6 inches if these are included. Curb weights depend on engine configuration and choice of drivetrain, but at its lightest, the Kona weighs in at 2,890 pounds. In its heaviest guise, the curb weight sits at 3,276 lbs.

  • Length 164.0 in
  • Wheelbase 102.4 in
  • Height 61.0 in
  • Max Width 70.9 in
  • Front Width 62.0 in
  • Rear Width 62.4 in

Exterior Colors

Hyundai makes a total of six exterior hues available for the Kona, with only the SEL differing by offering a range of two-tone shades. On all other trim levels, you'll have the choice between Ultra Black and Chalk White if you like sticking to basic colors. Sonic Silver and Thunder Gray will suit shoppers with a taste for elegance, but there are a few options for the adventurous. Pulse Red and Surf Blue cater to those who prefer bolder shades. The SEL trim is the only variant that gets access to two-tone versions of some of the shades. If you're opting for this model, you can choose a Sonic Silver and Black combination, a Pulse Red and Black combination, or Surf Blue with Gray.

  • Lunar White
  • Chalk White
  • Chalk White, Build Out: 10/13/2020
  • Sonic Silver w/Black Roof
  • Pulse Red w/Black Roof
  • Surf Blue w/Dark Gray Roof
  • Ultra Black
  • Sonic Silver, Build Out: 01/31/2021
  • Thunder Gray
  • Pulse Red
  • Galactic Gray
  • Surf Blue, Build Out: 09/30/2020
  • Lunar White, *PRICE TO FOLLOW*

Kona Performance

You don't shop in the affordable crossover segment with the idea that you'll be getting blistering performance. If you do, you're going to be slightly disappointed. But this doesn't imply downright lethargic performance, either. The Kona puts on an impressive performance with both of its engines, but the 1.6-liter turbo is obviously the winner in terms of overall power delivery, with its peak outputs of 175 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. AWD models with the less powerful naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter will manage a 9.2-second run from 0-60 mph, according to independent testing. This is slightly quicker than the AWD-equipped HR-V manages. The turbocharged 1.6-liter simply leaves all the competition straggling behind with a vastly improved 6.3-second run from zero to sixty. It's clear which spec would be the better option for those who appreciate some extra eagerness. The manufacturer publishes no towing capacity as they do not recommend hauling with the Kona.

2021 Hyundai Kona Three-Quarter Front Left View In Motion Hyundai
2021 Hyundai Kona Rear View In Motion Hyundai
2021 Hyundai Kona Engine Hyundai

Engine and Transmission

Hyundai offers two engines for the Kona lineup. The base engine on the first three trims is a naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter four-pot. The entry-level motor produces 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. These outputs are higher than the HR-V's 141 hp and 127 lb-ft. The four-pot falls slightly behind the Mazda CX-3's 2.0-liter that produces 148 hp and 146 lb-ft of torque. The Kona's base engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Being prone to high-strung sounds and not offering truly snappy changes means that it's not our favorite way of rowing the gears for the Kona. The Kona's true party trick in the segment is its peppy turbocharged 1.6-liter four-pot that comes standard on the three upper trims, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and producing a far better 175 horsepower and 195 lb-ft. The seven-speed 'box is certainly better than the six-speed, but it has the tendency to be clumsy at lower speeds.

  • Engines
    1.6L Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 2.0L Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmissions
    6-Speed Automatic, 7-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

The Kona is an expert at blending decent handling with superb ride quality. That's a great advantage because athleticism usually comes at the cost of comfort at this price point. The compact crossover is just as confident in the city as it is on the highway. Tight dimensions mean that it's great for zipping around the city and delivers handling characteristics similar to smaller hatches. The way the Kona behaves will likely inspire some confidence in even the most cautious of drivers, making it an excellent choice for those with newly printed licenses. One of its very few flaws is the steering that's devoid of any feeling, although the Kona will eagerly obey steering commands. It's actually quite an entertaining little machine to pilot. Is it super fast? Hardly. But its quirky attitude makes the number on the speedometer seem rather irrelevant. You also get the choice between front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive systems, the latter being the better choice for those who live in rainy areas. The best part is that you get all of this without sacrificing the characteristics that make up an excellent little SUV for the family.

2021 Kona Gas Mileage

One of the main things that an affordable crossover needs to offer is decent gas mileage. Luckily, the 2021 Hyundai Kona SUV has that covered. The FWD models return similar figures regardless of engine choice with the 2.0-liter engine returning EPA estimates of 27/33/30 mpg and the 1.6-liter turbo returning figures of 28/32/30 mpg. The same concept applies to AWD models that drop estimates significantly by comparison. The AWD-equipped 2.0-liter models have figures of 25/30/27 mpg, while the turbocharged mill returns estimates of 26/29/27 mpg. With the 13.2-gallon fuel tank at full capacity, FWD models will allow for around 396 miles before it needs filling, while AWD models drop the total range down to 356 miles. If you're after better fuel economy rates, you may want to consider the Kona Electric or a rival that comes in hybrid form.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    13.2 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 27/33 mpg
* 2021 Hyundai Kona SE Automatic FWD

Hyundai Kona Interior

Hyundai has successfully managed the task of putting together an appealing interior with relatively low-cost materials. The tech and comfort levels noticeably improve in the new Hyundai Kona's interior as you move up through the trim levels, but it's rather nice even in its most basic form. It's on par with the Mazda CX-3's interior but leaves the HR-V in the dust in terms of cabin quality and design. It offers enough space for a small family to manage day-to-day trips, but it's likely that you'll have to adjust if you're coming from a real SUV. Overall, the inside of the Kona is a great place to be and is available with features like an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, leather upholstery, and smart cruise control.

2021 Hyundai Kona Dashboard Hyundai
2021 Hyundai Kona Infotainment System Hyundai
2021 Hyundai Kona Driver Seat Hyundai
See All 2021 Hyundai Kona Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

The Kona has been built to seat five, though four adults would be far more comfortable. Still, if you're a twenty-something going on a road trip with your friends, it'll accommodate those five passengers with relative room and comfort. Front occupants are welcomed with 41.5 inches of legroom, while rear passengers are rationed down to 34.6 inches. Getting child seats in the back is as easy as you'd expect from a car that's built for that exact purpose. The effortless ingress and egress can be attributed to wide doors and a decent height.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 41.5 in
  • Front Head Room 39.6 in
  • Rear Leg Room 34.6 in
  • Rear Head Room 37.8 in

Interior Colors and Materials

There aren't too many upholstery and color options to choose from when you're configuring your Kona. The base model comes with black or gray cloth upholstery as standard, the latter being a combination with black. The all-new Night Edition features black cloth upholstery exclusively, as well as a black headliner. The two upper trims welcome leather seats that are available in the same shades as the entry-level models. The interior is made up of durable materials, though the hard plastics could have been used a little more sparingly. All trims, besides the entry-level SE, have a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

Hyundai Kona SUV Trunk and Cargo Space

The 2020 Kona is a vehicle that may lead the pack in other departments, but trunk space is not one of them. Sure, the 19.2 cubic feet of space behind the second row is manageable, but it's not as good as the competition. Of course, it's a slight improvement on the Mazda CX-3's 17.8 cubes. It's just that the Honda HR-V leaves it for dead in this competition. The Japanese crossover is immensely practical, offering a maximum of 24.3 cubic feet of trunk space in FWD guise. With the seats folded, the Kona opens up a total of 45.8 cubic feet. This also falls behind the HR-V's 58.8 cubes with the seats folded.

In-cabin storage is rather decent thanks to generous door pockets, a small glove compartment, and a few storage bins. Two cupholders are positioned to the right of the handbrake, within easy reach of the driver and front-seat passenger.

2021 Hyundai Kona Trunk Space with Seat Folded Hyundai
2021 Hyundai Kona Trunk Floor Storage Hyundai
2021 Hyundai Kona Floor Storage Opened Hyundai

Kona Infotainment and Features

Features

The Kona has been blessed with an abundance of features, though the degrees vary according to trim levels. At entry level, you'll get a six-way manually-adjustable driver's seat, manual air conditioning, a multifunction tilt and telescopic steering wheel, and power windows. The SEL adds proximity key entry, push-button start, heated front seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Added to the SEL Plus is an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat with power lumbar support and wireless device charging. Moving up to the Limited, you'll get automatic climate control and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Finally, the Ultimate gets smart cruise control and high-beam assistance.

In terms of standard safety features, the SE comes with lane-keep assist, forward-collision avoidance, and driver attention warning. SEL trims add blind-spot collision warning and rear cross-traffic warning. The Ultimate adds pedestrian monitoring and park distance control.

Infotainment

The technology that Hyundai has packed into the Kona is actually quite impressive. On entry-level models, a seven-inch touchscreen is standard along with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Two USB ports and an aux input are included as well, but HD Radio and SiriusXM are only equipped to the SEL and above. Top trims get an eight-inch touchscreen with a navigation system, while a head-up display is also added to the Ultimate model. An eight-speaker Infinity premium sound system is standard on all variants except for the SE and SEL and wireless charging is standard for the top three trims. The first two trims have a 3.5-inch multi-information display, which is upgraded on the top three models to a 4.2-inch color multi-function unit.

Kona Problems and Reliability

No Kona SUV models have been recalled for 2021, but 2020 models were recalled once for an incorrect GAWR on the certification label that could lead to overloading. If reliability is a concern, Hyundai offers a class-leading five-year or 60,000-mile basic warranty. The corrosion warranty is valid for seven years with unlimited mileage, while the drivetrain warranty is valid for ten years or 100,000 miles. You'll enjoy five years of roadside assistance as well.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    10 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    7 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Maintenance:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles

Kona Safety Review

The Hyundai Kona SUV hasn't been rated in terms of safety for the 2021 model year. The 2020 model was showered with accolades, however, receiving the Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS. The NHTSA also gave it an overall five-out-of-five star rating in their crash tests. The Kona's review, in this regard, should offer peace of mind to safety-conscious shoppers.

Key Safety Features

The Kona comes appropriately stocked with safety features, including the traditional kind, as well as modern driver assists. The former is comprised of a rearview camera, which is standard on all models, along with dual-front, front side-impact, and side-curtain airbags. Traction control and brake assist are included, along with electronic stability control and traction control. Lane-keep assist and forward-collision avoidance are also standard across the lineup, as is a driver attention warning system. The SEL adds blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, while pedestrian monitoring and park distance control are reserved for the Ultimate trim.

Verdict: 🏁Is the Hyundai Kona a car worth buying?

The Kona is an undeniably good crossover. It puts effort into everything it does, which makes owning it one of the easiest things you'll have to do for the next few years. It's excellent in most categories, only falling behind rivals when we consider trunk space. It's one of the few vehicles in the segment that offers a turbocharged engine option, so that's a definite win for shoppers who value some extra zest. Aside from offering some pretty decent power outputs from its top-tier engine, the Kona is comfortable and easy to drive. In the USA, the Hyundai Kona is one of the safest car options, too, with a Top Safety Pick accolade under its belt. The cabin is one of the more decent versions at this price point, though the evidence of discounted materials is quite obvious in certain places. The infotainment set-up is great regardless of trim, but there's a notable improvement in this regard for upper trim levels.

If you're looking for a uniquely styled crossover that offers a pleasant experience behind the wheel, the Kona is a great way to go. It's comfortable, modern, and affordable, which means that it simply ticks all the right boxes for a shopper in this segment.

🚘What's the Price of the Kona?

The Hyundai Kona's price sits slightly lower than mentioned rivals, but it's by less than $1,000. The cheapest way into the range is the FWD SE that has a starting MSRP of $20,400. Adding AWD to base FWD models will add $1,400 to the Kona's price overall. The SEL increases the MSRP to $22,200, and the SEL Plus will set you back by $24,050. For the new Night Edition, you can budget $25,600, while the Limited goes on sale for $26,200. The Ultimate trim asks for $28,050. The cost of the Hyundai Kona mentioned here is exclusive of the $1,175 destination and handling fee.

Hyundai Kona Models

The Hyundai Kona lineup is made up of six trim levels; the SE, SEL, SEL Plus, Night Edition, Limited and Ultimate models. There are two engines to choose from within the range, the base being a 2.0-liter four-pot and the 1.6-liter turbo that's reserved for the top three trims. FWD is standard, but AWD can be opted for where necessary.

The SE comes standard with remote keyless entry, manual air conditioning, and a six-way manually-adjustable driver's seat. Cloth upholstery is included, along with a multifunction steering wheel and power windows. The infotainment set-up includes a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as Bluetooth streaming. A 3.5-inch multi-information display rounds off the list. Safety features are inclusive of a rearview camera, lane keep assist, forward collision warning, and driver attention warning.

The SEL welcomes proximity key entry, push-button start, and heated seats as well as a leather-clad steering wheel. Added to these are blind-spot monitoring as well as rear-cross traffic alert.

Added to the SEL Plus is wireless charging, a 4.2-inch color multi-information display, and an eight-speaker Infinity premium sound system.

New for 2021 is the Night Edition trim, which comes with a 1.6-liter turbo mill, seven-speed DCT and various aesthetic distinctions, including 18-inch semi-gloss black alloy wheels, gloss black accents both inside and out, a black headliner and cloth seating, and sport pedals. LED headlights and taillights are also stock-fitted. From here, all models share this powertrain.

For the Limited, the upgrade to 18-inch wheels, all-LED lighting, and 1.6-liter motor is carried over from the Night trim, and a power tilt-and-slide sunroof is equipped. The blacked-out accents fall away, and leather seating is added, as is automatic climate control, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. .

The range-topping Ultimate gets an eight-inch touchscreen with navigation, pedestrian detection, park distance control, and a heads-up display.

See All 2021 Hyundai Kona Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

Hyundai doesn't make a whole lot of additional packages available. With so many trims available, it's going to be up to you to select the one with the right features for you. There's a configuration for everyone, so budget-conscious shoppers will stick to the base models, and those looking for some extra luxury will likely gravitate toward the top trims with greater features specs that also cost the most. There are a few standalone accessories, too, including an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink ($295) and roof rack cross rails ($250).

🚗What Hyundai Kona Model Should I Buy?

There are several trims to choose from, so the right model will depend on what you want out of the crossover. The lower models will suffice if you're okay with having less power. There's the option of adding AWD to the mix if you're prone to being caught in adverse weather conditions. If you're after the eager little turbocharged motor, you'll have to go for a higher trim. This means you'll also get more luxury on the inside by default. For us, the Limited trim is the best because it's not as expensive as the Ultimate, but boasts a lot of similar features, and gets features such as automatic climate control and an auto-dimming rearview mirror to give it an extra bit of appeal.

Check out other Hyundai Kona Styles

2021 Hyundai Kona Comparisons

Hyundai Tucson Hyundai
Subaru Crosstrek Subaru
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Hyundai Kona147 hp27/33 mpg$20,500
Hyundai Tucson 161 hp23/28 mpg$23,700
Subaru Crosstrek 152 hp22/29 mpg$22,145

2021 Hyundai Kona vs Hyundai Tucson

Coming from the same family, it's not surprising that the two crossovers share some DNA. They are so similar that it may be an arduous task to really define which of them is the better one for you. But, for starters, as a result of its size, the Tucson offers far more legroom for rear occupants, which may be a distinct advantage for families with teenagers. This is no surprise since the Tucson is over 12 inches lengthier. It also offers far more cargo space at 31 cubic feet in comparison to the Kona's 19.2 cubes. Both prioritize safety, but the Kona has a more modern appearance. Both rely on a 2.0-liter motor as standard with more powerful optional engines available, but the Tucson is more powerful in both cases. The better car will ultimately depend on your personal needs but if you need the extra space and prefer a more premium-feeling cabin, the Tucson takes the cake.

See Hyundai Tucson Review

2021 Hyundai Kona vs Subaru Crosstrek

The crossover segment is a warzone, but the Kona comes heavily armed. You'll notice immediately that the Crosstrek is significantly larger than the Kona. It's over ten inches longer and is slightly wider as well. As a result of this, the Subaru offers a notable amount of extra space by comparison. The Kona is the more attractive one of the two and offers excellent fuel economy. The Kona also offers a far better interior despite being smaller, and more power from its turbocharged engine. On dirt roads, the Crosstrek is the more capable vehicle, even if both are far from true off-roaders. Both received excellent safety ratings from the NHTSA and IIHS, so they're on par in that department. That being said, the Kona is a better car overall.

See Subaru Crosstrek Review

Hyundai Kona Popular Comparisons

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