When an SUV delivers as crisp a driving experience as the 2022 Hyundai Kona, it’s hard to get hung up on the usual anti-crossover sentiment—so we won’t. The subcompact Kona is, simply put, a great package that blends carlike on-road behavior with bold styling, a dose of practicality, and an elevated driving position; we like it so much we gave it an Editors’ Choice award. Two four-cylinder engines are offered: a 2.0-liter four, which is admittedly pretty poky, and a more desirable turbocharged 1.6-liter four that delivers a lot more punch. Sticking to Hyundai’s value-forward approach, the Kona comes with a long list of standard features which only grows as you move through the more expensive trims—the top few of which get downright posh. The Kona is one of the smaller offerings in the subcompact SUV segment, so it gives up cargo and passenger space to some of its larger rivals, but we think the trade-off for the Hyundai’s compact package and fun-to-drive nature more than makes up for those shortcomings.
What’s New for 2022?
A lot, actually. Hyundai has given the Kona a refreshed exterior and interior for 2022, complete with a new front-end treatment that’s even more dramatic than the 2021 model. New wheel designs, updated exterior lighting elements, a new wide-mouth grille, and faux front and rear skid plates are all new styling features. Inside, the Kona receives a redesigned dashboard and a few new optional goodies, including a new digital gauge display, wireless smartphone charging, and heated rear seats. The standard 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen has grown to a larger 8.0-inch diameter, and a new 10.3-inch unit is now available as an upgrade. On top of all these changes, a sporty N Line trim has been added to the lineup with a 195-hp version of the turbocharged 1.6-liter engine; no word yet on the performance-oriented N model that is expected soon.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Two powertrains are available with the Kona: SE and SEL models come with a 147-hp four-cylinder and a six-speed automatic transmission. This setup could use a bit of caffeine; in our testing, an all-wheel-drive SEL model required 9.2 seconds to reach 60 mph. Limited and N-Line models are powered by the considerably peppier 195-hp turbocharged four-cylinder paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic shifts quickly and smoothly once you’re rolling, but it stumbles at low speed in parking lots and in bumper-to-bumper traffic, engaging and disengaging first gear hesitantly until the driver offers more throttle input. The Kona delivers agile handling and a surprising amount of fun. This doesn’t translate to a rough ride over choppy roads; in fact, the suspension offers quite the opposite, damping out bumps and providing occupants with a cabin that is well isolated from pavement imperfections. The steering is perhaps the Kona’s biggest dynamic downfall: It’s an uncommunicative helm that, despite its heavy-weighted feel, requires frequent corrections when cruising the highway.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
In this class of fuel-sipping mini-SUVs, the Kona’s EPA ratings are good but only average among its rivals. Despite this, the Kona impressed us during our real-world testing, besting much of its competition. With the turbocharged engine under the hood, the Kona delivered 32 mpg in our 200-mile highway fuel-economy test; we managed 33 mpg with the base four-cylinder. For more information about the Kona’s fuel economy, visit the EPA’s website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Hyundai’s designers managed the tough task of bringing the charm of the Kona’s exterior design to the cabin while maintaining comfort and convenience. Quality materials, good ergonomics, and comfortable seats feel grown up and refined but not out of step with the Kona’s funkadelic outward appearance. The steering wheel is wrapped with nicely grained leather with contrast stitching and offers integrated controls for cruise control and audio settings. Those upgrading from a compact hatchback or sedan will find the Kona’s cargo space perfectly suitable, but buyers downsizing from a larger SUV will most likely feel the pinch. The Kona narrowly beat the pipsqueak Mazda CX-3 in our testing to see how many carry-on suitcases could fit. The Kona managed to hold 14 of our carry-on suitcases—two more than the CX-3 but eight fewer than the Honda HR-V.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Standing atop the Kona’s dashboard is a touchscreen infotainment system flanked by simple shortcut buttons that allow you to easily switch between common menus. We found the system to be intuitive in its operation but leisurely when responding to inputs. An 8.0-inch touchscreen is standard, but buyers wanting a larger display can upgrade to a 10.3-inch unit. Driving directions can be projected onto the optional head-up display that flips up from the dashboard and also shows the vehicle’s speed and other information. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability are standard, with a wireless connection for such features available as an option.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Buyers searching for popular driver-assistance features will find them on the Kona, which offers automated emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and a driver-attention monitor as standard equipment. Other more advanced features are still optional. For more information about the Kona’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking
- Standard lane-departure warning
- Available automatic high-beam headlamps