The 2024 Hyundai Kona offers quiet and precise innovation
- Hyundai has shifted to a crossover/SUV mix of about 75%, and its 2024 lineup is shaping up to highlight its innovative manufacturing prowess.
- Refurbished for 2024, the Hyundai Kona rides on a modular EV-first platform with two ICE powertrains also available.
- New interior technology, improved noise cancellation, and competitive pricing make the Hyundai Kona a stable, quiet, compact crossover choice.
Without getting too philosophical, there is a certain comfort in the mundane tasks our cars transport us to and from. For some of us, the time we spend behind the wheel before logging in or on the way to routine daily errands are the only moments of solitude we’re allowed.
That’s not to say it’s peachy either, but the heated seats and midrange speakers blaring music of your choice provide a small respite in a busy world of traffic, parking and poor driving. If you’re really spending most of your day coping with these stressors, it’s worth investing in what makes you comfortable, regardless of the car.
Hyundai wants this investment to be affordable for everyone, driven by the release of the 2024 Hyundai Kona lineup. Launched in 2017, the Kona is Hyundai’s compact crossover, competing with the likes of the Subaru Crosstrek and Chevrolet Trax. In other words, the Kona was fighting for buyers in one of the most crowded segments yet.
She has been struggling to resist lately. A respectable 90,000 Konas were sold in 2021, and sales fell dramatically to 63,000 units in 2022. In comparison, Subaru sold more than 155,000 Crosstreks while Honda sold more than 115,000 HR-Vs last year. All signs point to a refresh, especially considering the original body shape was five years old.
But Hyundai didn’t want to simply add some new bumpers, take away some of the positive proportions, and call it a day. In fact, Hyundai went the extra mile with the 2024 Kona, developing it as an electric vehicle first, then adapting it to accommodate the internal combustion engine.
This makes sense, especially given Hyundai’s deep investments in electric vehicle manufacturing in the United States and abroad. This year alone, 19% of Hyundai models sold in the U.S. are either battery-electric, hybrid-electric, or simply hybrid-electric. But the 2024 Kona Electric wasn’t quite ready when I had the 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. Driving around the small coastal town, parking in suburban malls, and ascending some nerve-wracking bridges may not sound like the Alpine tales you’re used to hearing, but this is where Kona excels.
Despite being about 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 dwarfed exterior.
Even with six extra cubic feet of trunk space and a larger body, it’s easy to mistake the Kona for an orange hatchback, if only because it’s several inches shorter than its competitors.
This small size carries over to maneuvering techniques. Navigating through the poorly laid out concrete minefield that is a suburban parking lot was easy, with light steering feedback and a slightly above-par radius. Better yet, a panoramic backup camera provides ample context for what’s behind you, even if you’re flanked by a couple of small cars.
However, their smaller size doesn’t mean you’re expected to dig them up. With a total of 126.7 cubic feet of interior volume, Hyundai was able to add 3.3 inches of headroom up front and three inches of legroom in the back, making it more closely matched to the Honda HR-V and Subaru Crosstrek.
In practical terms, the Kona offers luxurious legroom up front and regular legroom in the back, at least for my 5-foot-8 frame.
This appears to be by design, with the Kona previously offering substandard rear legroom. In contrast to its visual impact, it feels as if you’re in a powerful SUV behind the wheel, influenced in part by the amount of free space you find around you.
Likewise, Hyundai has opened up the center console by lowering it, a feature of placing the drive-by-wire shifter on the steering column. The center console, a configurable haven of plastic, features fold-out cupholders and a removable center divider. The open space allotted to this design could be better used for holding the passenger’s hand, although Hyundai says you can store a tripod there.
You sit far away from your fellow front-seat passengers, but they feel much closer to you thanks to the open-plan interior – which is good news for you and your partner. And you’ll be able to chat easily too, as Hyundai has added an enhanced wind blocker and acoustic pad under the floor, going so far as to fit Kumho acoustically cushioned tires as well as various underlays.
The result is a really quiet ride, which can trick you into thinking you’re moving slower than you actually are. The lack of road noise is one of the Kona’s best features, especially compared to its competitors in its class. I’m looking at you, Subaru.
The addition of a 12.3-inch touchscreen that’s physically connected but separate from functionality 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’s a joy to use and sounds good, too. Plus, wireless AppleCarPlay is on the way.
I could go on and on with the list of picky ergonomic complaints that the 2024 Hyundai Kona actually resolves, meaning it might be worth it for the interior alone, depending on the buyer. But since the ergonomics and technological user experience are so good, the driving characteristics compared to its class only feel normal.
This unenthusiastic character is due primarily to the ICE engine we tested, a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-pot GDI Smartstream. The engine produced 190 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, and pushed me onto the road with a sort of sigh, requiring some convincing to go further.
Put your foot in it and the Turbo-4 surges forward at a slightly accelerated rate, though it feels retarded by the slow-shifting eight-speed automatic. But it’s worth praising the package’s refinement under normal operations, considering it didn’t produce any real noise or obnoxious vibrations.
Selecting Sport mode on either model – even the sporty N-Line model – made the steering feel heavier and engine rpm increased, although the real performance impact was minimal. Observed fuel economy was on par with its competitors and supported Hyundai’s claims: 32 mpg over a 157-mile range for the 1.6-liter engine.
The Kona Limited and N-Line weighed roughly 3,500 pounds, and shared the same braking setup, which was responsive to touch but generally worked with little hardware. Deceleration required firm pressure on the pedal, although pedal modulation was precise and linear thanks to reduced brake booster intervention.
With a MacPherson-type suspension up front and a CTBA (FWD) or multi-link (AWD) suspension at the rear, the Kona rode smoothly and turned happily, though don’t confuse it with a sports car either. . Combined with Hyundai’s HTrac AWD system, the power delivery and wheel-to-wheel distribution made the Kona feel particularly stable.
Due to my lack of mud and gravel, I wasn’t able to really test said all-wheel drive system, although the torque splits are noteworthy. Between the five drive modes (Normal, Eco, Sport, Snow, and 4WD Lock), almost every torque split you can think of is possible, from 100% forward to a perfect 50:50 split. Hopefully we’ll get some proper snow testing soon.
With prices ranging from $25,435 to $32,985, the Kona comes right in for 2024, settling into a battle of features and personal preference over price. As any car 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.
He is not one bent on adventure, nor one who nervously picks his way through the day. You might be able to convince some teenagers in Midwestern malls that the Kona N-Line is cool, but Kona buyers don’t really want to be flashy, either. Rather, this customer is looking for stability, and sitting behind the wheel of the Kona makes him feel safe.
Instead of using your compact crossover to traverse the previously unknown (Subaru Crosstrek) or cramming as many people inside as possible (VW Taos), the 2024 Hyundai Kona is more about enjoying alone time on the road. They’re manufactured in Ulsan, South Korea, and all of them are available now except the Kona Electric, which is good news for end-of-year shoppers.
If you’re shopping for a family car, what metric is most important to you? Is it legroom, cargo volume, or mpg? another thing? Please share your thoughts below.
Emmett White, a New Yorker hailing from the Pacific Northwest, has a passion for everything: cars, bikes, airplanes, and motorcycles. After learning to ride at 17, Emmett worked in the motorcycle industry before joining Autoweek in 2022. Alternate side parking issues kept his fleet idle, with a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI and a 2003 Honda Nighthawk 750 parked on his community street South Brooklyn. .