Great value.Hyundai made a name for itself by offering vehicles that put value first. It’s the same case with the 2021 Hyundai Kona, but it all depends on where you are in the lineup. If you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, you’ll want to check out the SEL or SEL Plus trims.

Push button start, a sunroof, blind-spot monitoring, heated front seats, automatic emergency braking, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto are all included as standard on the SEL. Going with the SEL Plus brings wireless charging, a power driver's seat, an Infinity audio system, and a 4.2-inch display in the instrument cluster.

Regardless of which trim you choose, every Kona comes with Hyundai’s extensive warranty. The subcompact crossover SUV comes with a five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. It’s one of the longest warranties on the market.

Strong safety scores and technology. Every Kona comes with automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane keeping assist, and driver attention monitoring.

Moving up to the SEL adds rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring. Going with the range-topping Ultimate trim nets pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, a head-up display, parking sensors, and automatic high beams. It’s a strong list of equipment for the segment.

The Kona also excelled in crash test ratings. In the NHTSA's testing, the 2021 Kona was given a five-star overall safety rating. The IIHS hasn’t tested the 2021 model yet, but the 2020 Kona was named a Top Safety Pick.

So-so engines, peppy handling. Get the Kona out on a good, windy road, and its suspension, short wheelbase, and taut chassis result in a more enjoyable vehicle than one would expect. Engaging Sport mode results in a heftier steering wheel and different transmission mapping to hold gears longer. The Kona feels like the sportiest vehicle in its segment.

While the Kona impresses around corners, its engines leave a lot to be desired. The base motor is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 147 horsepower and is paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. With this engine, the Kona feels sluggish.

A turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder is available that produces 175 hp. While the turbo motor produces a decent amount of power, the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic that it’s paired with can be sluggish and jerky at low speeds.

Choosing between the two is a difficult decision. The base engine clearly doesn't have enough power, while the turbo motor's transmission is unrefined. With both getting up to 30 miles per gallon combined according to the EPA, we'd spring for the turbo engine because of its highway performance.


Hyundai Kona

Tight cabin. Even for the subcompact crossover segment, the Kona offers a tight cabin, especially in the back. With 54.5 inches of rear shoulder room and 34.6 inches of rear leg room, it offers less space in the second row than a lot of its competitors. Rear head room isn’t a massive concern thanks to its circular design.

Cargo capacity is slightly below average, too. With the rear seats in place, the Kona has 19.2 cubic feet of space. In total, the Kona can hold up to 45.8 cubic feet. That figure is dwarfed by the Kia Soul, which has a total of 62.1 cubic feet of cargo space.

Final thoughts. The 2021 Hyundai Kona may have an odd design, but it’s a well-rounded subcompact crossover. It’s the athlete of the segment with great handling capabilities. The Kona also is an excellent value option if you choose one of the lower trims, comes with an extensive warranty, has great safety features and crash test scores, and has an intuitive infotainment system.

Having a tight cabin and a small cargo area are par for the segment. So, we can understand look past those downsides. The unrefined character of the dual-clutch transmission is harder to overlook, especially since the base engine is so underpowered. The alien-like design is hard to get over, too.

When it comes to competitors, the Mazda CX-30 has a more powerful and refined powertrain, a more upscale cabin, and a more stylish exterior design. The CX-30 also has a more spacious interior.

The Soul has similar engines to the Kona, but has a more spacious cabin, a limited amount of standard safety features, and a massive cargo area. The Soul stands out thanks to its boxy design, but isn’t as radically styled as the Kona.

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