2019 Kona Luxury by Hyundai – A professional driver’s perspective

2019 Kona Luxury
2019 Kona Luxury by Hyundai – A professional driver’s perspective
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About the Author

R. G. Beltzner

R. G. Beltzner

A long time automobile enthusiast, and competitive race driver, Rainer Beltzner provides performance driving and racing instruction for Porsche, BMW, and Ferrari owners and clubs. He's been doing this for over 25 years. Often, Rainer is found driving/teaching on one of the Canadian Tire Motorsport, Shannonville or Watkins Glen tracks. During the “off-season”, Rainer spends his spare time driving and evaluating a broad range of vehicles. Follow Rainer on Twitter @redy2rol.

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Hyundai does it again. Not content with an already excellent line up of vehicles, Hyundai now brings us the 2019 Kona Luxury, a sub-compact SUV that deserves your attention if you’re looking for great value, efficiency, comfort, safety, and style. The sub-compact SUV market is especially popular due to lower cost, ride height, fuel economy, ease of entry and exit and still very good storage space. I recently tested the AWD “Luxury” version for a week and here is what I found.

The 2019 Kona Luxury as a daily driver:

2019 Kona Luxury

Photo Credit: R.G. Beltzner

The first thing that I appreciate about a vehicle that I drive daily is ease of entry and exit. This means that the driver’s door and vehicle height are both designed so that you can “step” into and out of the vehicle without unduly straining your body or requiring you to practice yoga.

Once seated, I look for sensible and intuitive driver controls that don’t cause me to endlessly search the steering wheel or center console to find the right “thing” to adjust. Visibility and fundamental safety features such as rear camera, proximity warning and solid body design are of course necessary.

Then comes the ease of simply driving the vehicle daily. I expect no-nonsense acceleration, good brakes, a reasonably comfortable suspension, bright headlights and decent wipers to get me through the day. I also expect to easily park the vehicle in tight downtown Oakville parking spots, the grocery store or the local GO station.

After shopping, my daily driver needs to accommodate all the usual number of bags either on the rear seats (four doors are always better than two) or in the rear storage.

Finally, there are occasions when my daily driver needs to accommodate four adults for a short trip of perhaps an hour or so. After a week of the Kona as a daily driver, I give it a solid 9 out of 10.

The 2019 Kona Luxury for longer distance drives:

I drove the Kona for two “non-stop” 4.5 hour drives (Oakville – Ottawa – Oakville) with my wife. We had just completed a five-hour stint interviewing potential participants for a course that we jointly teach and on an early Sunday evening, headed off to Ottawa.

My biggest concern about the Kona was whether the front seats as well as overall ride quality would be sufficiently comfortable to support the 4-5 hour trip for a pair of already tired adults. We both found the ride extremely comfortable! The seats were firm and provided very good support with no resulting cramping of legs or sore lower backs. In addition to the seated comfort level, the Kona was pleasant to drive on the long 401 stretches in both dry and wet conditions.

I plugged in my phone to take advantage of Apple CarPlay and thus navigation, to get around parts of Ottawa that I was not familiar with. The vehicle’s sound system was more than adequate to handle our music choices. Of course we had the expected amount of luggage for the trip and the rear storage accommodated that with ease. After our return trip of a similar 4-5 hours, I give the Kona another solid 9 out of 10.

The Kona for the occasional “move”:

Like some, there are the rare occasions when you need to transport more than the usual amount. We teach a local course that requires us to schlep a lot of stuff to the venue. Four large plastic storage containers, two more large cardboard boxes, flip chart stand and paper, flowers, food as well as several briefcases of files, office supplies, etc.

Usually we use our pick-up truck but I decided to try the Kona. Quite a surprise – everything fit using the back seats and rear storage. Conclusion – sub-compact SUVs – particularly the Kona – can handle the occasional “move” without difficulty. Another solid 8 out of 10 for the Kona.

What options to choose for the 2019 Kona Luxury

2019 Kona Luxury

Photo Credit: R.G. Beltzner

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FWD or AWD? For our climate, I would most often opt for AWD to give that extra grip for smooth acceleration on greasy roads or to get out of that slippery parking spot – whether mud or snow. The base Kona trim “Essential” has a price difference of $2,000 to get AWD – well worth it.

2.0L normally aspirated or 1.6L Turbo? This is a more challenging question. My test Kona came with the 2.0L and after 1,142.5km with 8.5L/100km, I give this engine a 7.5/10. For the most part, it is sufficiently powerful and smooth as well as economical for daily driving. The shortcomings with this engine show up when attempting rapid acceleration. The automatic transmission downshifts and most unpleasant sounds erupt as the engine revs right to the red line without any significant resulting acceleration. This is not to be confused with more than the available adequate gradual acceleration when entering the 400 series or other gradual increases in speed.

If you have the need for more rapid acceleration or simply enjoy more enthusiastic performance, then the 1.6L turbo with 175hp and 195lb-ft of torque is definitely your better choice. The difference between the base model AWD 2.0L and the 1.6L turbo is $3,900. In the “Preferred” trim, the difference is a bit less than $2,200. When all is said and done, other than the engine power, the only other unique benefit of the 1.6L turbo is the available heads up display and wireless charging pad.

Trim levels – 2.0L Kona:

When selecting the lowest cost Kona, you get the FWD “Essential” trim at roughly $21,000. Even this base model is well equipped with:

  1. 7” touch screen
  2. rear camera
  3. Apple Carplay
  4. Android Auto
  5. heated front seats
  6. 4-wheel disc brakes
  7. drive mode select
  8. steering wheel mounted controls
  9. power windows

The standard safety features include:

  1. ABS
  2. electronic brake force distribution
  3. vehicle stability management systems
  4. airbags

For an additional $1,750, you can move up to the FWD “Preferred” that adds a number of very useful safety features:

  1. blind spot collision warning
  2. rear-traffic collision warning
  3. lane change assist

The base AWD “ Essential” trim is identically equipped to the base FWD, just $2,000 more. The next AWD trim, “Preferred”, is the same as the FWD “Preferred” trim for an additional $1,750 over the AWD “Essential”. The upper trim for the AWD version is the “Luxury” that adds some further safety, comfort and “power” activated features for yet another $2,750.

If you are looking for the most cost-effective Kona, the FWD “Essential” would be your logical choice. If you are comfortable with the features of this model, I would seriously consider the AWD version for the additional $2,000. In either case, it is worth moving up to the “Preferred” trim level to get the extra safety features at minimal additional cost. The “Luxury” trim is nice to have but really not necessary.

Trim levels – 1.6L turbo Kona:

This model is only available in AWD and comes in two trim levels. The base “Trend” that is essentially equipped as a “Preferred” AWD with an 8” heads-up display, LED tail-lights and 18” wheels, all for roughly $27,000.

The “Ultimate” trim adds a larger touch screen and sound system including navigation, wireless charging pad, full set of LED lights and Hyundai’s Smart Sense active safety. Of course this comes at an extra cost of $4,900 over the “Trend”. Once deciding that the turbo engine is your choice, there is really no practical reason to spend the additional $4,900 for the “Ultimate” other than it is the most equipped model.

Final thoughts on the 2019 Kona Luxury

Hyundai has once again come out with a model, the 2019 Kona Luxury, that speaks directly to the needs and wants of folks looking for an option to their aging two or four door compact sedan. SUVs are the popular choice and certainly the sub-compact version is gaining popularity for its lower cost, practicality and style. The all new 2019 Hyundai Kona is an excellent example of a sub-compact SUV that combined with Hyundai’s solid reputation for safety and reliability, should prove to be a winner. I really enjoyed driving the Kona for the week.

For more automotive insights, follow me on Twitter @redy2rol

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