Hyundai has shifted to a nearly 75% crossover/SUV mix, and its 2024 lineup is shaping up to showcase its innovative manufacturing prowess.
Revamped for 2024, the Hyundai Kona has been refreshed on a modular, EV-first platform with two ICE powerplants also available.
New interior technology, improved noise canceling, and competitive pricing make the Hyundai Kona a stable, quiet compact crossover option.
Without getting too philosophical, there's a certain comfort in the mundane tasks our cars shuttle us to and from. For some of us, time spent behind the wheel before clocking in or en route to cyclical daily errands are the only fleeting moments of solitude we're allowed.
That doesn't mean it is peachy, either, but heated seats and medium-grade speakers blasting music of your choosing offer a small respite in an otherwise traffic-snarled, parking-challenged, bad-driving world. If you truly spend much of your day navigating these stressors, it's worth investing in what makes you comfortable, no matter the vehicle.
Hyundai wants that investment to be accessible to everyone, spurred on by the release of the 2024 Hyundai Kona lineup. Launched in 2017, the Kona is Hyundai's compact crossover offering, competing with the likes of Subaru's Crosstrek and the Chevrolet Trax. In other words, the Kona has been fighting for buyers in one of the most crowded segments to date.
And it has been struggling to fight back lately. Selling a respectable 90,000 Konas in 2021, sales dramatically dropped to 63,000 units in 2022. By comparison, Subaru sold over 155,000 Crosstreks while Honda sold over 115,000 HR-Vs last year. All signs pointed toward a refresh, especially considering the original body style was five years old.
But Hyundai didn't want to simply tack some new bumpers on, throw out some positive percentages, and call it a day. In fact, Hyundai went the extra mile with the 2024 Kona, developing it EV-first, then adapting it to accommodate an internal-combustion engine.
This only makes sense, particularly considering Hyundai's deep investments into EV manufacturing, stateside and beyond. Just this year, 19% of Hyundai models sold in the US are either battery-electric, plug-in hybrid-electric or simply hybrid-electric. But the 2024 Kona Electric wasn't quite ready when I got a chance to drive the all-new crossover.
Instead, I spent a day driving the 2024 Hyundai Kona Limited and Kona N-Line in Charleston, South Carolina. Puttering around the small port city, parking in suburban strip malls, and ascending a few nerve-wracking bridges may not sound like the Alps shredding tales you're used to hearing, but it's where the Kona excels.
Despite being nearly six inches longer, an inch wider, and featuring a 2.4-inch longer wheelbase, the Kona retains two of its best features: a 17.4-foot turning radius and a dwarfing exterior.
Even with six extra cubic feet of trunk space and a bigger body, it's easy to mistake the Kona for a buff hatchback, and that's because it is several inches shorter than its competitors.
This petite sizing carries over into its maneuvering manners. Navigating through the poorly planned, concrete curb minefield that is a suburban parking lot was a breeze, with light steering feedback and a slightly above-par radius. Better yet, the panoramic backup camera provides ample context of what's behind you, even walled in by two minivans.
Its smaller size doesn't mean you're expected to scrunch up, however. With a total of 126.7 cubic feet of interior volume, Hyundai has managed to add 3.3 inches of headroom up front and three inches of legroom in the rear, making it most closely matched to the Honda HR-V and Subaru Crosstrek.
In practice, the Kona provides luxurious legroom up front and a normal amount in the rear, at least for my 5-foot-8 frame.
That's by design it seems, as the Kona previously offered subpar rear legroom. In contrast to its visual effect, it looks like you're in a burly SUV behind the wheel, partially influenced by the amount of free space you find around yourself.
Similarly, Hyundai has opened up the center console by lowering it, a benefit of placing shift-by-wire on the steering column. A configurable plastic haven, the center console features flip-away cupholders and a removable center divider. The open space allotted by this design could be best used for holding hands with your passenger, though Hyundai says you could store a tripod there.
You sit far away from your fellow front-seat passengers, but they feel much closer thanks to this open floor-plan interior—good news for you and your partner. And you'll be able to chat easily, too, as Hyundai added reinforced wind sealing and a soundproof pad under the floor, and went as far as fitting acoustically padded Kumho tires plus different bushings.
The result is a genuinely quiet ride, one that can trick you into thinking you're rolling slower than you actually are. The lack of road noise is one of the best features of the Kona, particularly in comparison to its segment competitors. I'm looking at you, Subaru.
The addition of a physically connected but function-separated dual 12.3-inch touchscreen is another easy consumer win for Hyundai. Being the first model to feature Hyundai's next-generation audio system, the Kona benefits from a faster, more capable infotainment system that is a joy to use and sounds good, too. Plus, wireless AppleCarPlay is on the way.
I could continue down the list of nit-picky ergonomic complaints that the 2024 Hyundai Kona actually solves, which is to say it could be worth it on the interior alone, depending on the buyer. But because its ergonomics and technological user experience are so good, its segment-comparative driving characteristics seem only normal.
This unenthused character is owed primarily to the ICE powerplant we tested, a 1.6-liter turbocharged GDI Smartstream inline-four. Producing 190 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, the engine propelled me down the road with a sort of sigh, requiring some convincing to go the extra mile.
Stick your foot in it and the turbo-4 will grunt forward at a slightly accelerated rate, though it feels held back by a clunky, slow-to-shift 8-speed torque-converter automatic. But it's worth complimenting the refinement of the package under normal operations, considering it made no real noise or unsavory vibrations.
Selecting Sport Mode on either model—even the sportier N-Line—made the steering heavier and cranked up the rpm, though the real performance effect was negligible. Observed fuel economy was on par with its competitors and supported Hyundai's claims: 32 mpg over 157 miles for the 1.6-liter engine.
Weighing close to 3500 pounds, the Kona Limited and N-Line share the same braking setup, which felt responsive to the touch but operated with small hardware overall. Slowing required a firm pedal push, though the pedal modulation was accurate and linear thanks to reduced brake booster intrusion.
Sitting on a MacPherson strut-type suspension up front and either CTBA-type (FWD) or multi-link (AWD) in the rear, the Kona rode smoothly and turned happily, though it wouldn't be mistaken for a sporty vehicle, either. Paired with Hyundai's HTrac AWD system, the power delivery and wheel-to-wheel distribution made the Kona feel particularly stable.
Lacking in mud and gravel, I didn't really get to test said AWD system, though the torque splits are worth noting. Between the five drive modes (Normal, Eco, Sport, Snow, and 4WD Lock), almost every torque split you can think of is possible, from 100% to the front to a perfect 50:50 split. Hopefully, we'll get some proper testing snow soon.
With prices ranging from $25,435 to $32,985, the Kona comes correct for 2024, settling in for a fight on merits and personal preferences over price. As any auto journalist will tell you, most car-buying advice comes down to personal preference above all else, and I think the Kona has a specific audience.
It's not someone hell-bent on adventuring, nor the person who neurotically hypermiles their way through the day. You might be able to convince some Midwest mall teens that the Kona N-Line is cool, but the Kona buyer doesn't really want to be flashy, either. Rather, this customer is looking for stability, and getting behind the wheel of the Kona feels safe.
Instead of using your compact crossover to traverse the previously unknown (Subaru Crosstrek) or stuffing as many people as possible inside (VW Taos), the 2024 Hyundai Kona is all about enjoying time alone on the road. Manufactured in Ulsan, South Korea, all but the Kona Electric are available now, and that's good news for end-of-the-year shoppers.
If you're shopping for a family car, what metric matters most to you? Is it legroom, cargo volume, or MPG? Something else? Please share your thoughts below.