It really is the baby Hyundai that could - as long as you have the turbo engine

The Hyundai Kona is a strong competitor in the subcompact SUV market, and it’s made itself known in the two short years it’s been on the market. The Toyota C-HR and Honda HR-V both claim their own fame as being top contenders, so we decided to see just how well the Kona can hold up now that it has actually established itself on the market. So, we decided to ask for a test car, and next thing we knew, the Kona was rolling up to Topspeed HQ with its gray paint finish and silver highlights. This is our experience and thoughts after spending a whole week with the Hyundai Kona.

Hyundai Kona Driving Impressions

2020 Hyundai Kona - Driven Exterior
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We found the Kona quite spacious for its size, and relatively comfortable. The front seats are shaped nicely and are supportive. If you go for the optional leather upholstery you’ll be quite a bit happier, but the cushions are notably firm. R

ear seat passengers will find that the rear seats aren’t quite as comfortable but not unbearable by any means.

In the Florida heat we did notice that the A/C didn’t work so well for the rear of the cabin area, but it still kept things fairly comfortable.

2020 Hyundai Kona - Driven Interior
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Driving the Kona grew on us quickly. At the start of things, we looked at it as another somewhat affordable subcompact crossover, but we quickly learned that it’s actually sportier to drive than you might expect.

We came to enjoy the above-average acceleration and the handling really was on point.

Our tester was able to hit 60 mph in 7.3 seconds consistently, and we have to admit that it handles quite well for such a small model. Even when pushing it, there’s little body roll and it never really loses its composure. Our only real complaint was the transmission. Upshifts were handled well, but it seemed as if downshifts were often confused and rough. Braking under stress isn’t exactly something that fills you with a sense of confidence, but it doesn’t come off as dangerous either.

The Kona managed to disperse most road and wind noise fairly well, and it seemed a bit quieter than most of its competitors that we’ve driven.

Overall, the Kona was a comfortable vehicle and would probably make a good daily driver as long as you don’t have a tall family, the need to tow, or need to carry a lot of cargo.

The Kona’s Exterior Design Stands Out in the Crowd

2020 Hyundai Kona - Driven Exterior
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These days, there’s no shortage of subcompact SUVS, and everywhere we went, people were giving the Kona the eye. It hasn’t changed at all since it launched for the 2018 model year, so this general reaction is an important one. Part of it likely has to do with the thin, sleek, modern-looking headlights or the way the hood manages to give the exterior an appearance of length despite its relatively short size – it’s actually six-inches shorter than most of the competition.

2020 Hyundai Kona - Driven Exterior
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The way the side body panels are constructed are also appealing as it has just the right blend of muscle and sport without going overboard. It’s not quite as sport as something like the Mazda CX-3, by Hyundai has done a good job at making the design stand out. The same can be said for the rear, which seems to mimic the front end a lot. Where the front has the fod lights, the rear has turn signals, reverse lights, and rear markers. The taillights are a little larger than the headlights for obvious reasons but also have the same general shape.

How Big is the Hyundai Kona?

2020 Hyundai Kona - Driven Exterior
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The Hyundai Kona measures just 164.0 inches long, 70.9 inches wide, and 61.6 inches tall, and rides on a 102.4-inch wheelbase. Those figures put it on the smaller side of competitors like the Honda HR-V and the Toyota C-HR. The shorter wheelbase would lead one to believe that it might not handle as well, but it has a wider front and rear track than either of the models it competes against, so that’s not much of a problem. In terms of garaging, you won’t have to worry as the Kona is small enough to fit in just about any single car garage.

The doors are rather small, but they do open wide, though, so you’ll still have to exercise some caution if you have a really small single-car garage.
Hyundai Kona Exterior Dimensions Comparison
Hyundai Kona Honda HR-V Toyota C-HR
Length 164.0 Inches 170.4 Inches 172.6 Inches
Width 70.9 Inches 69.8 Inches 70.7 Inches
Height 61.6 Inches 63.2 Inches 61.6 Inches
Wheelbase 102.4 Inches 102.8 Inches 103.9 Inches
Ground Clearance 6.7 Inches 7.3 Inches 5.9 Inches
Front Track 61.4 Inches 60.4 Inches 61.0 Inches
Rear Track 61.7 Inches 60.6 Inches 61.0 Inches

How Much Does the Hyundai Kona Weigh?

2020 Hyundai Kona - Driven Exterior
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They Hyundai Kona has a maximum curb weight of 3,126 pounds. That puts it right in the middle of it’s competitors, they Honda HR-C and Toyota C-HR, which have curb weights of 2,959 pounds and 3,300 pounds, respectively.

How is the Hyundai Kona’s Interior?

2020 Hyundai Kona - Driven Interior
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The interior of the Hyundai Kona is relatively easy to live with, however, it’s hard to ignore the abundance of plastic material thrown throughout the cabin.

In fact, the only soft-touch materials, outside of the seats, are on surfaces that are frequently touched – like the steering wheel, gear shifters, and shift boot, for example. Despite it’s smaller size, you’ll find that the front is rather spacious even for larger adults. All buttons here are grouped in what we’d describe as a logical fashion and the infotainment system is large enough that you don’t struggle to read it from the usual driver’s position. On that note, the menu structure of the system is easily understandable and even older folks shouldn’t have much of a problem figuring it out.

Hyundai Kona Front Interior Space (inches)
Headroom Shoulder Room Hip Room Leg Room
Front 38.0 55.5 53.3 41.5
2020 Hyundai Kona - Driven Interior
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While the front is rather spacious, you’ll find that the rear is quite as impressive. It’s not bad, but it’s not the best in its class. The only thing of note here is the lack of legroom (just 34.6 inches) that could make it difficult for taller adults to sit comfortably for longer periods of them. There is plenty of space under the seat, though, so it’s not necessarily a deal beaker unless you plan on taking a lot of road trips. At a glance, you might think that accessing the rear if you’re over the age of 12 would be difficult, but those small doors open widely, making ingress and egress quite easy.

Hyundai Kona Rear Space (inches)
Headroom Shoulder Room Hip Room Leg Room
Rear 37.8 54.5 52.2 34.6

Is the Hyundai Kona Spacious?

2020 Hyundai Kona - Driven Interior
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As mentioned above, most adults won’t have a problem sitting inside the Kona, even during long trips. The only exception would be if tall individuals were sitting up front, in which case legroom might be an issue. Overall, the Kona is about on par with both the Honda HR-V and C-HR, but it does fall inferior in a couple of categories.

Hyundai Kona Interior Specifications Comparison
Hyundai Kona Honda HR-V Toyota C-HR
Front Headroom 38.0 Inches 37.6 Inches 38.1 Inches
Front Shoulder Room 55.5 Inches 56.8 Inches 49.0 Inches
Front Hip Room 53.3 Inches 53.1 Inches 52.9 Inches
Front Leg Room 41.5 Inches 41.2 Inches 43.46 Inches
Rear Head Room 37.8 Inches 38.3 Inches 38.3 Inches
Rear Shoulder Room 54.5 Inches 54.5 Inches 52.5 Inches
Rear Hip Room 52.2 Inches 47.4 Inches 48 Inches
Rear Leg Room 34.6 Inches 39.3 Inches 31.7 Inches

How Much Cargo Room Does the Hyundai Kona Have?

2020 Hyundai Kona - Driven Interior
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Since the Hyundai Kona is smaller than most of its competitors, you shouldn’t be surprised that it falls inferior in terms of cargo room most of the time. With the rear seats in their upright positions, the Kona will carry 19.2 cubic-feet of cargo. The seatbacks lay flat, however, and when you do this, it’ll swallow up 45.8 cubic-feet of cargo.

2020 Hyundai Kona - Driven Interior
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In comparison to the main competition, the Kona falls in the middle. The Honda HR-V can swallow up between 24.3 and 58.8 cubic-feet while the Toyota C-HR can carry between 19.1 cubic-feet and 37.0 cubic-feet. All three provide fairly ample space for a subcompact SUV, but if you tend to carry a lot with you, these are figures that you need to pay attention to.

Is the Hyundai Kona’s Infotainment System Easy To Use?

2020 Hyundai Kona - Driven Interior
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While we tend to criticize the plasticy bits inside, the Kona is fairly rich in terms of tech for a vehicle in this price point. The built-in navigation system worked pretty well for us without any issues with delayed directions or traffic information, and the display itself is quite easy to read. The menu structure is simplistic in nature and it’s easy to find whatever function that you’re looking for as long as it exists. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, so you’ll have easy connectivity. We only paired via Apple CarPlay, but it was seamless and simple, so we assume Andriod Auto works just as well if not better. We do suggest that you opt for the optional Infinity audio system. We can’t say much about the standard system, but the Infinity system provided exceptionally clear audio and decent bass response if that’s your thing. Overall, the Kona’s infotainment system is one of the easiest that we’ve used in recent memory.

Hyundai Kona Powertrain and Performance

2020 Hyundai Kona - Driven Interior
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We got the glory of test driving the Hyundai Kona Ultimate with the 1.6-liter Turbo engine. It delivers 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, all of which is through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

We can’t recommend against the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter, but this turbocharged mill was plenty snappy so we’d say it’s definitely the engine to go for.

It shines well above the sole engines offered in the Honda HR-V and the Toyota C-HR, too, but does suffer just a bit in terms of fuel economy. You can have the Kona in either a FWD or AWD configuration, but unless you’re on a strict budget, in which you’d also have to choose the naturally aspirated engine, the AWD Kona is the way to go.

Hyundai Kona Fuel Economy

2020 Hyundai Kona - Driven Exterior
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The Hyundai Kona with the 1.6-liter engine is rated at 26 mpg in the city, 29 mpg on the highway, and 27 mpg combined. We managed just a hair over 26.5 mpg with mostly city driving, so if you have a light foot and mix it up between city and highway driving you should be able to easily meet or exceed the EPA rated fuel economy figures. In comparison to the Honda HR-V and Toyota C-Hr, the Kona is about on par, but does fall about 1 mpg short in most driving situations. Here’s a chart to show how the compare.

What is the Hyundai Kona’s Towing Capacity?

2020 Hyundai Kona - Driven Exterior
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Believe it or not, the Hyundai Kona isn’t capable of towing.

Well, it probably is, but the official word from Hyundai on this is that it’s “Not Recommended.” In Europe, the Kona is rated at at 600kg of towing capacity or about 1,322 pounds, however, we’d advise you against attempting to tow anything here in the States. Furthermore, you’d have to find an aftermarket solution to have a tow hitch installed and it might not be as straightforward or safe as you might think. In terms of comparison, the Toyota C-HR also suffers from the same fate here in the States as towing with it is also not recommended.
If light towing is a requirement for you, your best bet is the Honda HR-V in this price category as it is officially rated Honda at 1,500 pounds if you opt for the towing package.

How Fast is the Hyundai Kona?

2020 Hyundai Kona - Driven Exterior
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Make no mistake, the Kona – despite it’s somewhat sporty look – is meant to be a family car and even with a turbocharged engine isn’t something that’s meant to be fast. During our week of testing, we did manage to run to 60 mph in about 7.3 seconds multiple times, so you can expect that kind of acceleration. It’s pretty admirable for a vehicle in this class. The Kona will top out at 127 mph, but we don’t recommend you try to get there on public roads. Compared to both the Honda HR-V and Toyota C-HR, the Kona takes the cake in both performance tests, so it has that going for it.

How Much Does the Hyundai Kona Cost?

2020 Hyundai Kona - Driven Exterior
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They Hyundai Kona, as of the time of this writing, is priced between $19,050 and $26,700. Our tester, the Kona Ultimate, sits that the top of the lineup and is a bit pricey for something that sits in the mainstream subcompact crossover segment. It’s not horribly expensive, but we wouldn’t frown on you for questioning the high price for something that still has a lot of plastic bits and no towing capability.

Hyundai Kona Pricing
MSRP
Hyundai Kona SE $19,050
Hyundai Kona SEL $20,850
Hyundai Kona SEL Plus $22,700
Hyundai Kona Limited $24,850
Hyundai Kona Ultimate $26,700

How Does the Hyundai Kona Compare to the Honda HR-V?

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Much like the Hyundai Kona, The Honda HR-V features a sport design with semi-muscular body lines and a long hood for a model this size. While it does come off as more attractive in general, the front end doesn’t have headlights that are quite as sleek and it does suffer from current-gen Civic syndrome in that it features large fake vents for no real reason. The same story holds true for the rear end, where the large taillights overshadow those found on the Kona.

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The Honda is still a mainstream, entry-level vehicle, but it does feel a little more upscale than the Kona in terms of material and fit and finish. However, the Honda HR-V does lose out in terms of power output, as the sole 1.8-liter engine is good for just 141 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque. Like the Kona, you can have FWD or AWD, and you’ll manage to achieve somewhere between 27 and 28 mpg in combined driving conditions. The Honda HR-V is also the only model we’ve discussed here that has any type of towing capacity, but it’s only 1,500 pounds at most, so don’t get too excited. Pricing for the HR-V starts out at $20,820 and climbs to as much as $28,890 in the range-topping Touring trim level.

Hyundai Kona vs. Honda HR-V
Hyundai Kona Honda HR-V
Engine 1.6-Liter Turbo-Four 1.8-Liter Four-Cylinder
Transmission 7 DCT CVT
Horsepower 175 HP 141 HP
Torque 195 LB-FT 127 LB-FT
Driveline FWD\AWD FWD\AWD
Fuel Regular Regular
Fuel Economy 26/29/27 26/31/28
Suspension Front Independent Front Independent
Turning Circle 34.8 Feet 37.4 Feet
Front Tire Size 235/45R18 215/55R17
Rear Tire Size 235/45R18 215/55R17
Max Towing Capacity NONE 1500 LBS

Read our full review on the Honda HR-V.

How Does the Hyundai Kona Compare to the Toyota C-HR?

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The Toyota C-HR is the other main competitor that we’ve discussed here, and it’s a worthy one. That said, it’s also somewhat weird in design where it has a lot of stout bulges that make parts of it look more like a sports car than a crossover while the oddly raising belt line in the rear makes it more reminescent of the Nissan Juke than anything else in Toyota’s Lineup. It does feature a front end that’s inspired by the current-gen Toyota Camry, but the headlights a bulky in nature and harken back to the early 2000s when that as a thing.

left right

The interior of the C-HR isn’t as funky as you might expect after seeing the exterior design, but it is a relatively pleasant place to be. Like the Kona, it suffers from a lot of plasticy bits inside and while the infotainment system feels modern and is easy to use, it also looks dated because of the mounting on top of the center stack. Under the hood sits a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that delivers just 144 horepower and 139 pound-feet of torque. Out of all the vehicles we’ve discussed here, the C-HR is the only model with four-wheel independent suspension, and it also comes out on top of the fuel economy battle by 1 mpg in every category. Pricing for the C-HR starts out at $21,295 and climbs to $26,350 for the range-topping Limited trim level.

Hyundai Kona Vs. Toyota C-HR
Hyundai Kona Toyota C-HR
Engine 1.6-Liter Turbo-Four 2.0-Liter Four-Cylinder
Transmission 7 DCT CVT
Horsepower 175 HP 144 HP
Torque 195 LB-FT 139 LB-FT
Driveline FWD\AWD FWD
Fuel Regular Regular
Fuel Economy 26/29/27 27/31/29
Suspension Front Independent Four-Wheel Independent
Turning Circle 34.8 Feet 34.2 Feet
Front Tire Size 235/45R18 225/50R18
Rear Tire Size 235/45R18 225/50R18
Max Towing Capacity NONE NIONE

Read our full review on the 2020 Toyota CH-R.

Philippe Daix
Obsessive and Compulsive Automotive Expert - phil@topspeed.com
Always on the lookout for the latest automotive news, Philippe Daix is our most senior editor and founder of TopSpeed.com. He likes to see himself as a consumer advocate with a mission to educate motorheads of all ages.  Read More
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