Trim-dependent value. Available in five trim levels, the 2020 Hyundai Kona comes well equipped from the jump. The base SE model gets 16-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, solar glass all around and keyless entry.
Inside, occupants are treated to a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio, Bluetooth, and cruise controls, a 7-inch touchscreen, a cargo area cover, a 12-volt power outlet, dual USB ports, and an auxiliary input jack up front.
Our choice would be either the SEL or the SEL Plus. Both add larger 17-inch alloy wheels, turn signals in the outside mirrors, rear privacy glass, push-button start, heated front seats, satellite and HD radio, and a leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel.
The SEL Plus adds fog lights, a sunroof, an eight-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar, a 315-watt Infinity audio system, a 4.2 color display in the instrument cluster, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Topping things off on all models is a five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty that extends out to 10 years/100,000 miles for powertrain components.
At the same time, a sunroof isn’t offered on the $27,000 Limited model, while, despite a list of features that includes navigation, smartphone charging, a head-up display, and larger 8-inch touchscreen, larger crossovers represent a much better deal than the $29,000 Ultimate trim.
Advanced safety. Kudos to Hyundai for including standard advanced safety features on the SE that include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, and driver attention warning.
In addition, SEL and above trims receive blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and rear cross-traffic alert, while the Ultimate adds adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, and automatic high beams.
As a result, Hyundai’s subcompact crossover achieves a five-star overall safety rating with the NHTSA, and a Top Safety Pick Plus award with the IIHS.
On the flip side, unlike Toyota, which offers the same advanced safety items on all C-HR models, the affordable SE is only offered with select safety features, while buyers have to choose the Ultimate trim to receive the full list.
In addition, only the Kona Limited and Ultimate models with their LED headlights qualify for the IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating, while SE, SEL, and SEL Plus trims were given a Top Safety Pick rating due to a "Poor" score for their halogen projector low- and high-beam units.
Not to mention, all Konas received a "Marginal" score for child seat anchors due to the difficulty maneuvering around lower anchors that are set too deeply in the seats.
Decent power and fuel economy. The Kona is offered with a pair of gas engines. SE, SEL, and SEL Plus models are fitted with a 147-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder matched with a conventional six-speed automatic transmission. The Limited and Ultimate trims receive a 175-hp, 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
When equipped with the 2.0-liter engine, the Kona scores an EPA-estimated 30 miles per gallon combined, which drops to 28 mpg combined with all-wheel drive. The 1.6-liter manages to achieve 30 mpg combined with FWD and 27 mpg with AWD.
In a mix of aggressive city and highway driving, we managed a vehicle-measured 25.2 mpg in an AWD model equipped with the 1.6-liter turbo.
On the road, however, the base 2.0-liter engine feels somewhat sluggish, and while the turbo is exuberant off the line, and exhilarating to drive on the highway, the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic sometimes get confused and feels hesitant at city speeds.
City-slick interior. The city-sized Kona’s mismatched, busy exterior is wrapped around an interior that offers plenty of front seat room and a high enough ride height to make ingress and egress easy, even for less mobile occupants.
The cloth upholstery looks and feels like it will wear well, precluding the need for pricey leather. Meanwhile, the infotainment system features multiple USB ports, intuitive, user-friendly software, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. Hard plastics abound, but they’re nicely textured with an impeccable fit and finish.
The rear seats flip and fold, creating 45.8 cubic feet of cargo space with a flat load floor. When up and in use, 19.2 cubic feet remain behind them.
On the other hand, the Kona falls well short of the class-leading Honda HR-V's 24.3 cubic feet of cargo room. While head room is better than average, rear seat space is otherwise limited and more suited for short trips.
In addition, models finished in either lime green or orange receive corresponding interior trim highlights, while all gray or black interiors look and feel a bit drab.
Final thoughts. Despite a clumsy design, imperfect dual-clutch transmission, and pricey top trims, the 2020 Hyundai Kona is a solid choice in the small crossover class. Its stylish cabin, trove of active safety features, and user-friendly infotainment system offer most everything crossover buyers are looking for in a city-friendly package.
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