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2024 Hyundai Kona Review: Bigger, Bolder, Better

hyundai kona 2024 01 exterior front angle scaled jpg 2024 Hyundai Kona | Cars.com photo by Jonathan Earley
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Senior Research Editor Damon Bell has more than 25 years of experience in the automotive industry, beginning as an Engineering Graphics researcher/proofreader at model-car manufacturer Revell-Monogram. From there, he moved on to various roles at Collectible Automobile magazine and Consumer Guide Automotive before joining Cars.com in August 2022. He served as president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association in 2019 and 2020. Email Damon Bell

The verdict: The redesigned 2024 Hyundai Kona gains striking new styling, lots of new features and upsized dimensions that provide better backseat space and cargo room than the previous-generation model.

Versus the competition: The Kona’s upsized dimensions mean its backseat space and cargo volume are now on par with larger subcompact SUVs like the Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V and Kia Seltos. The Kona also boasts a number of upscale available features that aren’t offered on class rivals.

When it debuted for the 2018 model year, the Hyundai Kona was the smallest model in Hyundai’s SUV lineup, but it’s been moving up in the world ever since. An all-electric Kona Electric variant joined the line for 2019, and with the launch of the pint-sized, penny-pinching Venue for 2020, the Kona no longer occupied the bottom rung of Hyundai’s SUV ladder (though it can be argued the Venue isn’t a “true” SUV since it doesn’t offer all-wheel drive). A substantial refresh for 2022 brought the Kona racier styling, upgraded tech features and a high-performance Kona N variant.

For 2024, the Kona is really growing up. It’s been fully redesigned on a new platform that’s around 2 inches longer in wheelbase and almost 6 inches longer overall than the previous-generation model, which benefits both backseat space and cargo volume. It also gets new striking, futuristic styling and several newly available features, including an integrated 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, a 360-degree camera system, ventilated front seats and a hands-free power liftgate.

Related: Hyundai Pay In-Vehicle Payment Service Debuts in 2024 Kona

I drove AWD examples of the top-line Limited and sport-themed N Line trim levels at the 2024 Kona’s press preview event in Baltimore, where I sampled many of these enhancements. (Per our ethics policy, Cars.com pays for its own airfare and lodging when attending such manufacturer-sponsored events.) The first-generation Kona was already one of our favorite small SUVs, and the new model ups the ante with noteworthy improvements on almost every front.

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Bold, Design-Forward Styling

The new Kona carries over the bobtailed proportions and general styling motif of the previous-generation model, but it gets a futuristic new look via slim LED light bars front and rear and sharp bodyside sculpting. The full-width light-bar treatment gives the Kona’s front-end styling a sleek, mildly sinister attitude that reminds me of a Cylon from the original “Battlestar Galactica” (in a good way).

SE, SEL, N Line and Limited trims continue, each offering the choice of front-wheel drive or AWD. The all-electric, front-drive-only Kona Electric variant is slated to launch later in the model year, but the racetrack-ready Kona N has been shelved (at least for the near future). All gas-engine Konas get active grille shutters that automatically open for powertrain cooling and close for optimized aerodynamic performance.

The N Line wears body-color wheel-arch cladding and rocker-panel trim instead of the more SUV-like dark-satin-finish embellishments of the other gas-engine Konas, along with exclusive sporty touches like an aggressively styled front end with mesh grille inserts, a diffuser-style rear bumper with polished dual-exhaust tips, uniquely styled 19-inch alloy wheels and a prominent liftgate spoiler.

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The Same, But Smoother

The previous Kona’s power plants carry over with minor updates. The base engine (which we didn’t have the opportunity to test at the preview event) is a 147-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission. Both the N Line and Limited get the Kona’s step-up engine: a 190-hp, turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that’s now mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission instead of the previous seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

The new gearbox is a welcome change. Like many dual-clutch transmissions, the previous Kona’s seven-speed unit sometimes delivered the engine’s power in an abrupt, nonlinear fashion. The new eight-speed has a smoother, more conventional feel; its upshifts and downshifts are timely and relatively seamless. It’s worth noting that the Kona’s corporate cousin, the Kia Seltos, offers its own version of this turbo four-cylinder and eight-speed automatic pairing for 2024.

Behind the Wheel

With the turbo 1.6-liter engine, the Kona is one of the peppier contenders in the subcompact SUV class; only the 2.5 Turbo versions of the Mazda CX-30 and the significantly more expensive Mini Countryman John Cooper Works are notably more powerful. The Kona’s acceleration is satisfyingly brisk in around-town driving and on the highway, though part of me wishes Hyundai would have seen fit to give the N Line variant a spicier power plant to fulfill the promise of its sporty styling add-ons.

Likewise, the N Line also makes do with the Kona’s standard suspension — no sport tuning here — so it rides and handles the same as the Limited, which also has 19-inch alloy wheels. Both of these Konas strike a decent balance between cornering capability and ride quality, though we didn’t encounter any truly rough roads on our drive routes. The nicely weighted steering and tidy exterior dimensions make for easy maneuvering, and the handling is crisp and competent, if not overtly sporty. Hyundai has taken a few additional noise-abatement measures with the new Kona, so it’s respectably quiet for a subcompact SUV — engine, road and wind noise are all decently muted.

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Upsized Interior

The Kona’s backseat space and cargo area used to be on the smaller side of the subcompact SUV class, but not anymore: According to Hyundai’s measurements, rear legroom grows by 3 inches and cargo volume by 6.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 17.9 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded. The Kona’s occupant and cargo capacity are now fully competitive with larger subcompact SUVs like the Seltos, Honda HR-V, Subaru Crosstrek and Toyota Corolla Cross. What’s especially impressive is that Hyundai has managed to incorporate this expanded capacity while maintaining comparatively tidy exterior dimensions; the Kona is still significantly shorter in overall length than the HR-V, Crosstrek and Corolla Cross.

There’s enough fore-aft travel in the power-adjustable driver’s seat to suit an NBA player; I’m 6 feet, 6 inches tall, and I had to adjust the seat forward an inch or so from the fully aft position to comfortably reach the steering wheel. With the front seats adjusted for a 6-foot-tall occupant, I could squeeze into the backseat and be comfortable enough for a crosstown jaunt, but I wouldn’t want to be back there for an extended road trip. Four average-size adults should fit in the Kona with no worries, however. The rear seating position is slightly knees-up, but the outside edges of the front seatbacks are padded, so they’re a tad more comfortable if your legs rub against them.

The expanded cargo area has a slightly lower load height and a wider opening than before, and it’s inherited one of my favorite features from the Venue: The hard cargo-area cover/shelf can be removed from its normal position and snapped into place behind the rear seatbacks, so you don’t need to remove the cargo cover entirely if you need to haul something tall or bulky.

Small items storage is also improved. The SE and SEL trims get a traditional gearshift lever, but higher trim levels get an unconventional gear-selector stalk on the right side on the steering column with a twist knob at its end (twist forward for Drive, back for Reverse) capped off by a button to engage Park. This shifter is a little awkward to use at first, but it frees up space in the center console. Hyundai has made good use of that extra room by adapting a clever feature from the Kia Niro hatchback: The console’s cupholders can be retracted to create an undivided bin. This storage area can be further expanded by removing the divider panel that separates the open bin under the center armrest from the rest of the console. There’s also a handy storage shelf (complete with ambient lighting in multiple user-selectable colors on the Limited) above the glove box.

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New Features Aplenty

The dashboard gets a clean, futuristic look that’s highlighted by dual 12.3-inch screens (one for the digital gauge display, one for the infotainment touchscreen) fused into a slim, seamless panel. SE and SEL trims get the 12.3-inch touchscreen but make do with a gauge cluster that isn’t fully digital. Thankfully, the audio and climate controls below the touchscreen are all physical buttons, knobs and switches, which we find much easier to use than touch-sensitive buttons. Below those controls are a wireless charging pad on SEL Convenience, N Line and Limited trims and dual USB-C ports — one is charging-only, and the other can be switched from a data and charging connection to just a charging connection at the touch of a button. Two USB-C ports for backseat passengers are located at the rear of the center console.

In addition to the Kona’s comprehensive roster of standard safety features, SEL Convenience trims and above get a forward collision mitigation system with a junction assist feature that detects oncoming traffic when turning. The Limited trim adds parking sensors, reverse automatic collision avoidance braking for pedestrians and objects in addition to crossing vehicles, blind spot monitors (which displays a left- or right-side camera view in the gauge cluster when the corresponding turn signal is activated) and a 360-degree camera system.

The Limited also gets a number of upscale comfort and convenience features, including a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats (in addition to heated), a hands-free power liftgate and Remote Smart Parking Assist. Most of these aren’t available on the Kona’s mainstream-brand rivals.

The Limited wears nice-looking H-Tex simulated leather upholstery in a choice of gray or black (the gray color provides some needed contrast and gives the cabin a lighter, airier feel), along with a couple of additional soft-touch interior surfaces that give its cabin a classier ambiance. The N Line boasts a number of unique touches that give its mostly black cabin a livelier, appropriately sporty vibe, such as Alcantara simulated-suede seat inserts, satin-finish sport pedals, red contrast stitching, and neat red accent stripes on the seatbacks and dashboard.

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The 2024 Kona also features Hyundai Pay, a new in-vehicle payment service that stores encrypted tokenized credit card info in the vehicle’s infotainment system. Through a partnership with parking service company Parkopedia, Kona users can find available parking spots and their prices, navigate to the spot and pay for it — all through the vehicle’s touchscreen or the Bluelink connected services app. Moving forward, Hyundai Pay will expand to the rest of Hyundai’s lineup via model-year updates and, where possible, over-the-air software updates.

Speaking of over-the-air updates, the Kona’s new-generation infotainment system is capable of receiving them. One of the first OTA updates Hyundai is planning to roll out this model year will add wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity to the Kona’s uplevel infotainment system. This will almost certainly expand to other Hyundai and Kia vehicles in the near future, thus fixing a long-standing competitive deficit. SEL Convenience variants and above get a Wi-Fi hot spot, and basic Bluelink connected services are standard on all 2024 Hyundais at no additional charge for the life of the vehicle.

Pricing

Depending on the trim level, the 2024 Kona’s base prices rise by around $1,500 to $2,800 over 2023. Including the $1,335 destination fee, the Kona starts at $25,435 for the entry-level SE and stretches to $32,985 for the Limited. Selecting AWD adds another $1,500 regardless of trim level.

So, Hyundai has also upped the ante with the Kona’s pricing. Even so, this well-rounded runabout is still a decent deal that’s extremely competitive with similarly priced alternatives. The 2024 Kona is hitting Hyundai dealerships now.

Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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