The 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder found on models – like the Limited tester we were able to drive for a couple of hours – features quick off-the-line performance, with maximum torque available at a low and useful 1,500 rpm. Most of our time, however, was spent in an all-wheel-drive SEL equipped with Hyundai's naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine. It managed to do an adequate, though far from thrilling, job of moving the Kona's 3,250 pounds.
Although hardly a back roads corner-carver, the Kona's suspension – calibrated for ride quality over handling – does a nice job of absorbing both major and minor road imperfections, while cornering induces body lean that's typical for a vehicle of this height and class. The steering is nicely weighted, the brakes are easy to modulate, and there's a nice initial bite to the brake pads.
Fuel economy is also decent for both engines, with an EPA-estimated 27 miles per gallon city, 33 mpg highway, and 30 combined for the 2.0-liter engine with front-wheel drive, and 25/30/27 mpg (city/highway/combined) for all-wheel-drive models. We observed a vehicle-measured 28.8 miles per gallon in our SEL tester in a mix of city and highway driving. The 1.6-liter turbo scores an EPA-estimated 28/32/30 mpg with FWD and 26/29/27 mpg with AWD.
At the same time, like most small crossovers, a paltry 6.7 inches of ground clearance won't inspire off-roaders – not that the AWD system is up to the task. The gas mileage in the more fuel efficient turbo also isn't markedly better than the base engine. In addition, peak torque in the normally-aspirated 2.0-liter engine isn't realized until 4,500 rpm, which can make it feel sluggish off the line and passing at freeway speeds, while road noise – a hallmark of many vehicles in this class – is readily apparent, especially over rough and uneven road surfaces. Finally, the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission gets a bit wonky when shifting at low speeds and during acceleration, spoiling what should otherwise be the engine of choice.