The recipe for a commuter car is simple. Take one part efficiency, mix in one part practicality, add two parts affordability, and garnish with a bit of style. Since its inception, the Hyundai Kona has stuck to that basic formula, even going so far as to inject some driving verve with the hopped-up N variant.
For 2024, Hyundai redesigned the little runabout, adding about six inches to the body and nearly $2000 to the starting price. But at $25,435, the Kona is still one of the most approachable cars on the market, and it hasn't lost the sense of what made it great in the first place, even if its new dimensions eat into acceleration and fuel economy.
A Fresh New Look
Up front, the 2024 Kona maintains the same basic shape but adopts a simplified and more modern look. A razor-thin running light spans the width of the car. The old grille is gone, and its replacement features active shutters to help with airflow. Changes to the back mirror those at the front, with a sleek red running light stretching from corner to corner. If those touches aren't enough, the N Line model ramps it up with body-colored cladding and an eye-catching rear spoiler, as well as N Line–specific bumpers and wheels.
Hyundai pulled out all the stops to make the cabin a nicer place to spend weekday mornings and evenings. Customers who experience actual weather will appreciate the optional heated and ventilated seats and the available heated steering wheel. The old model's gauge-cluster and infotainment screens are out, replaced with Hyundai's more modern pair of 12.3-inch displays combined inside a single-piece bezel. There are a handful of useful USB-C connections for front and rear passengers for easy charging.
The shifter has migrated from the center console to the column, opening storage space between the front seats. The result is an unconventional yet practical center console, great for handbags or other large items. Strangely, the new stowage doesn't actually close, so hiding items in a parked car is harder. Blissfully, physical climate controls made it through the redesign.
In most trims, the Kona has grown by 5.7 inches from nose to tail, improving rear legroom while adding six cubic feet of cargo capacity. To maximize the amount of usable cabin space, Hyundai reduced the thickness of the front seats by 30 percent, further improving rear legroom. Most adults will find the back seat to be reasonably accommodating for a short commute (far better than before), though the rear seats lean awkwardly far back.
Still Sufficiently Sprightly
Both previous-generation engines make their way back into the new Kona. The SE and the SEL rock a somewhat anemic 147-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder connected to a continuously variable automatic transmission, while stepping up to the N Line and Limited trims brings the peppier 190-hp turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder. The turbo four thankfully loses the last generation's seven-speed dual-clutch transmission in favor of a much smoother eight-speed torque-converter automatic. The last turbocharged Kona we tested bustled to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds, but considering the addition of a slightly heavier transmission and the overall growth of the car, we expect the new model to add a tenth or two.
While the redesigned Kona hasn't exactly turned into a canyon carver, it's more than capable of generating some fun. In the event that you're running late for work, the Kona responds well to urging. The chassis behaves nicely, and the suspension does well to absorb the brunt of any road imperfections. The N Line and Limited test vehicles we drove were equipped with standard 19-inch wheels, and the lesser trims' 17- and 18-inch rollers should be more competent at eating up bumps. Turning the rotary drive-mode dial into Sport pumps some extra weight through the steering wheel but doesn't do much in the way of actual feel.
The Kona comes standard with front-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive is optional across the board for just $1500. The last-generation Kona offered good fuel economy, although it was average among class rivals. Given its new dimensions, we expect our fuel-economy test results to slip for the new generation. Official estimates also hint at this possibility: In its front-wheel-drive guise, the new Kona has an EPA rating of 31 mpg combined with the 2.0-liter engine and 28 mpg combined with the turbo 1.6-liter. That represents a modest 1-mpg dip from last year's base engine but a 4-mpg hit for the turbo.
The 2024 Hyundai Kona is a slam-dunk for most commuters. The longer wheelbase adds to the practicality without dramatically altering the driving fun we fell in love with when this small SUV debuted. The addition of new convenience tech, including blind-spot and surround-view cameras, furthers the argument for the Kona. Despite its growth spurt and commensurate price bump, as well as small hits to acceleration and fuel economy, the Kona continues to bring an enjoyable and youthful attitude to the doldrums of city driving.
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