The Best Compact Crossover for Adventurers? The 2018 Hyundai Kona Could Be The Answer

2018 Hyundai Kona Lime Twist 680X350

Hyundai Brings a Compact Crossover to the Market with Hyundai Kona

Compact crossovers are huge–so to speak. It’s the hottest segment for car makers right now. These small, versatile, flexible SUV-like cars are great for the city, but do double duty for our adventurous weekends. So, it’s no surprise that Hyundai has decided to venture into the market with the 2018 Hyundai Kona CUV. Hyundai’s vice president of product corporate and digital planning Mike O’Brien said the company expects the CUV category to grow by 16 percent over the next 5 years.

What’s in a Name?

The 2018 Hyundai Kona had its name long before the company even knew what this new CUV would actually look like, according to O’Brien. The name, inspired by the spontaneity of lava flow, was chosen before the project even began. Potentially dangerous, you might say, to build a project around a name, but Hyundai seems to have checked nearly all of the appropriate boxes for its first compact crossover vehicle. But best of all, the 2018 Hyundai Kona is designed for adventure.

The name Kona (the administrative zone of the Big Island of Hawaii) elicits many affirmative associations when you hear it: bright tropical flora, lush green fauna, warm ocean breezes, lava flows, and occasional tropical rains. Who doesn’t want to drive a vehicle that brings those associations to mind every time you see the name written on your tailgate? I’m almost willing to buy a car on that alone. And let’s not dismiss the marketing genius to make the inaugural drive of the new Hyundai Kona COmpact Crossover on Kona. It’s so meta.

Gray Kona At Cliff House. The Perfect Family Compact Crossover For Small Families, Active Couples, Or Singles.

2018 Hyundai Kona at Cliff House. Photo: Jana Seitzer

The 2018 Hyundai Kona Takes Care of  Most of Your Family Crossover Needs

The 2018 Hyundai Kona Compact Crossover really checks off nearly all the boxes, especially with the optional all-wheel drive (which both competitors Toyota C-HR and Nissan Kicks lack) and the standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (not available in the Honda HR-V). The available Amazon Alexa and Google Home integration is also a winning feature. While I was unable to test this feature personally, according to the automaker, Hyundais have been started 12 million times by their owners’ voices, so it’s a popular feature.

MyHyundai, the Blue Link System with companion app, functions as you would expect and does all the usual actions: it locks and unlocks doors, starts the car, flashes the lights, honks the horn, and tracks the car on a map. From a parent’s perspective, the map feature is an excellent tool for tracking new drivers if you want to know where they are. And great if you need to remember where you parked your car at an event.

Our ride was also decked out with Harman/Kardon speakers, so the sound was fabulous, something that is always a highlight for me. I hate nothing more than lousy sound in my ride.

One of the best parts? The new 2018 Hyundai Kona compact crossover starts at $19,500. That’s a lot of crossover and tech at a great price point.

Here’s the pricing matrix for you:

  • SE: $19,500
  • SEL: $21,150 (optional Tech Package $1,500 add on)
  • Limited: $24,700
  • Ultimate: $27,400
  • add AWD to any trim model for $1,300
Rear Shot Of The Kona Lime Twist In Front Of Palm Trees

2018 Hyundai Kona Lime Twist in the Trees. Photo: Jana Seitzer

The Ins and Outs of the 2018 Hyundai Kona CUV

Aside from great tech, the 2018 Hyundai Kona also looks good. The design is a bit edgy to appeal to the younger crowd while not disenchanting older buyers with its slightly aggressive lines and nice angles. Hyundai really hit the sweet spot with their design choices on this ride.

The color options are versatile, and a little fun if you are adventurous enough to go for something as bold as the Lime Twist. I’d like to convince my husband we should get the Lime Twist, but I think he’s more of a Charcoal guy, though I think I can convince him the lime-accented interior is the way to go, which is a great little flair for a nominal price.

A View Of The Kona Lime Twist Accent Interior Dashboard

2018 Hyundai Kona Lime Twist Accent Interior. Photo: Jana Seitzer

The interior is functional and logical, and what you’d expect from other Hyundais. All the controls are where you’d expect them, easy to reach and read, and you don’t have to hunt for any features. As a user, I love that about a car. I like it when it’s easy to find what I need.

I’m a big fan of the head-up display and the fact that it adjusts. For someone who is short, that’s a bonus. And the driver side seat was adequately adjustable, something that is a must for short people like me. The struggle is real trying to find a car that adequately adjusts to be 100 percent comfortable while driving.

Lime Twist Hyundai Cuv At An Aloha Sign

2018 Hyundai Kona Lime Twist at an Aloha sign. Photo: Jana Seitzer

The Utility of the 2018 Hyundai Kona Compact Crossover 

The 2018 Hyundai Kona is perfect for small families or active couples or single. As far as utility and function, there’s a decent amount of space for hauling kids and gear for the size of the vehicle. Even adults can ride in the second row pretty comfortably, despite it being a full foot shorter than the next size up Tucson. With the rear seats folded down, you have 45.8 cubic-feet of storage space and a small tray for organizing various tools and such underneath the cargo—and those seats are easy and quick to fold down.

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View Of Trunk Space With Gray Interior In The Kona

2018 Hyundai Kona trunk space. Photo: Jana Seitzer


2018 Hyundai Kona Compact Crossover Trunk Cargo Extra Space

2018 Hyundai Kona trunk cargo extra space. Photo: Jana Seitzer

Under the hood, the 1.6-L turbo engine (standard in the Limited and Ultimate trim levels) was plenty of get-up and go in just about every driving scenario. On hills, I was able to pass slower drivers with no problem. Making a 6,000-foot climb I wanted a touch more oomph, but it’s not often that you’ll make that ascent with three grown adults in the car.

The SE and SEL trim options also offer a 2.0-L engine, adequate power for this size car. All of the trim levels offer a $1,300 upgrade to all-wheel drive (AWD). That’s a really inexpensive upgrade if you live in an area with inclement weather or you like to travel in rugged terrain. We spend our winter weekends at the mountains so that would be a no-brainer for us.

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On back roads, I generally find the lane-keep assist a bit annoying so I turn it off, but it’s nice to test it out on every new vehicle. I was surprised at how well this worked. We drove the Ultimate trim level (starting at $27,400) for our test drive in Kona, and the 2018 Hyundai Kona handled like a dream.

The car stayed centered in the lane most of the time, and the only time it really didn’t perform consistently was when we drove through a complete downpour. To be honest, I doubt any car’s lane-keep assist functions perfectly when it can’t see the lane markers. I was pleasantly surprised at the fuel economy, too. The fuel rating on the vehicle is 28 city/32 highway, but we got far better than that over the two days we drove across the Big Island.

2018 Hyundai Kona Front End Greenery Shot

2018 Hyundai Kona front end greenery shot. Photo: Jana Seitzer

I mentioned the 2018 Hyundai Kona checked nearly all of the boxes on my list. The only box I didn’t check was the adaptive cruise control, which is missing on the Kona. It seems strange to me because the technology is there as it has the forward collision-avoidance assist. Hyundai said that it’s received some feedback about the adaptive cruise control on the vehicle, and we may see it at some point in the future.

In the meantime, the Kona is a hot little number and has the potential to make a big impact in the CUV/small SUV market space. With the Kona EV on the horizon, Hyundai also has the potential to make an impact in the electric car segment, too, especially if that version is anywhere near as nice as the gas-powered Kona, the best CUV for adventure.

I was Hyundai’s guest for this media drive; travel and accommodations were provided. All opinions are my own.

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Rear Shot Of 2018 Hyundai Kona In Front Of An Aloha Sign And Gray Compact Crossover With Trees And A Bike In The Background.

Jana Seitzer is a mom to four kids (including twins), owner of a marketing/communications and graphic design firm (Geek... More about Jana Seitzer