Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins
The small crossover utility market continues to be a hot topic as sales increase from active lifestyle consumers seeking solutions that appease their diverse needs. With character traits based on athletic styling, inventive storage, fuel efficiency and both advanced connectivity and telematics, automakers have set the bar high with vehicles such as the all-new 2018 Hyundai Kona. It drives smarter, works harder and plays longer.
For the press drive we ventured to the big island of Kona, Hawaii where the CUV’s roots were initiated. The tropical climate, picturesque scenery and fitness focused mindsets here represent habits indicative of the target market for the Kona. Yet, it has to make strong waves in a tight field already occupied by competitors like the Toyota CH-R, Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V. These younger buyers are looking for value, style and fun-to-drive rides that are subsets of their attitudes. Since Kona is the shortest vehicle in the segment you can expect greater maneuverability in urban domains without sacrificing the ability to tote your luggage, gear or supplies. Though, the second-row seating is a bit tight.
The 2018 Hyundai Kona design story is a representation of the path of an urban adventurer and the key styling techniques are reflective of Kona island’s topography. Similar to the region’s spontaneous lava flow Hyundai infused abrupt and improvised line techniques into what they call youthful, smart armor design. Yes, the body (over 52 % is advanced high strength steel) is uniquely chiseled and squatted low with sharp edges, lines and creases like the lava rocks you see throughout the area. The vehicle’s protruding wheel arches, rear bumper, taillights and side skirts are cladded in a dark composite material like footballers in pads for added aggression. Hyundai’s compelling grille, edgy lights, contrasting black or gray roofs, power tilt/slide sunroof, sporty rims, tailgate spoiler and chin spoiler add more flavor to your view.
For three days we zipped around the island trekking to botanical gardens, national parks, volcano sites, healthy eats and lava attractions. We admired the natives and their beautiful lives while they ogled our Kona’s presentation of vibrant hues like Pulse Red, Surf Blue and Lime Twist. Fun, energetic places make you want to engage in fun active routines with the Hyundai Kona such as the set of reverse dips I completed on the hitched Thule rack carrying our Specialized road bike while admiring the all-mighty Pacific during lunch break at the Palms Cliff House Inn. Afterwards, my organic salad and brown rice dish was right on point.
There are two engine choices for the Kona starting with the 147-horsepower 2-liter which is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The FWD variant can achieve 30 combined mpg. For Hawaii, Hyundai put us in the 1.6-liter turbo 4 cylinder which is paired with a 7-speed EcoShift dual clutch transmission (DCT). It puts out 175-horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque between 1,500 and 4,500 rpm. Again, the FWD version achieves 30 combined mpg and the AWD model we operated gets 27 combined mpg. As you can imagine there were plenty of coiling roads to pass through but we had no qualms as the AWD Kona and 18” alloys wrapped in 235/45 R18 Goodyear rubber handled them nicely. The vehicle struggled while accelerating in the higher altitudes but Sport mode helped with performance.
Inside, Hyundai ascertained that the Kona was replete with today’s latest gadgetries including wireless device charging, a proximity key, heated side mirrors, push button start, Blue Link Connected Services, 8” touchscreen navigation system, Infinity premium audio, SiriusXM Radio and an 8” glass Heads-up Display that indicates road speed limit, navigation turn-by-turn, vehicle speed and some safety features. Available leather seating surfaces and a thick sporty leather steering wheel (tilting and telescopic) add to the Kona’s Comfort. The front of the cabin was spacious with ideal headroom. My drive partner is 6’8” and didn’t complain once.
If the MyHyundai app is loaded onto a smartphone then you can open up an array of conveniences to simplify your travel. Some of the key commands and services include remote start and climate control adjustment, the ability to lock and unlock your ride, remote horn and lights, car finder if you forgot where the Kona was parked, stolen vehicle recovery and a monthly vehicle report to name a few.
With four trims to choose from the SE will always be Hyundai’s base package and starts at $19,500 with an additional $950 destination fee. Then you have the SEL, Limited and Ultimate trims. Our 2018 Kona Ultimate AWD test ride totaled $29,775. A few standard features include a 7” display audio system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, rear view monitor with parking guidance, cruise control and LED daytime running lights. Human focused technologies consist of Hyundai SmartSense with Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Blind-Spot Collision Warning, High Beam Assist and Driver Attention Warning which watches how often you are touching the steering wheel or drifting out or within your lane.
You know, it’s the simple things in life I cherish most. After visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in our Chalk White Kona I discovered this enchanting vegan eatery off the beaten path dubbed Cafe Ono. Set within a 3-acre botanical garden all the food was organic and the spiritual presence was omnipresent. Here you will also find art collectibles, fish ponds, a meditational area and Zen cottages. As I drove back I begin to appreciate the nature of Kona much deeper and was thankful for elements that make life easy like pure foods, daily fitness and straightforward automotive lifestyle technologies. During this time it began to rain which was not a problem. The rain-sensing wipers came on and a rainbow appeared. Life!