• 2018 Hyundai Kona

Road Test: 2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD

Fun Crossover for All Ages

 “Urban smart armor” is how Hyundai describes the all-new 2018 Kona small crossover design. Okay. Maybe they are trying to convey the Kona is a fresh design that will appeal to first time car buyers and empty nesters alike. Our summary for the 2018 Hyundai Kona is useful utility. The Kona gives Hyundai a fourth crossover in its line-up, joining the Santa Fe, Santa Fe Sport and Tucson. Available in front and all-wheel drive, and with two engine options, there is something for almost everyone in this fun compact CUV.

Driving Experience: On the Road

Clean Fleet Report spent a week in the 2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD with the 1.6-liter, inline four-cylinder turbocharged engine. The 175 horsepower and 195 pounds-feet of torque is distributed to all four wheels through the seven-speed EcoShift dual-clutch automatic transmission, DCT. The EPA rating of 26 city/29 highway/27 combined challenged Clean Fleet Report to see if we could exceed those numbers. Knowing the front wheel drive Kona gets up-to 33 mpg on the highway, we were confident of cracking the 30 mpg mark with the Kona AWD.

2018 Hyundai Kona

On the road you can push up the mpg

In 281 miles of 75-percent highway/25-percent city driving, we averaged 28.2 mpg. However, in a 210-mile highway run, with the cruise control set at 65 mph and in the Normal drive mode, we achieved 36.5 mpg. So, if driven judiciously on long freeway runs (think: vacation road trips) exceeding the EPA rating is quite doable. If you are not familiar with turbocharged engines, they produce added power the faster the engine is turning, as when starting from a stop light, accelerating hard to enter a freeway or stuck in stop-and-go rush hour traffic. This is when the engine is at its least efficient, as far as fuel consumption is concerned, because the turbocharger is spinning and demanding more fuel. But cruising out on the freeway, where the turbocharger is not being called on, and the Kona gets good fuel economy.

There are two driver selectable drive modes–Normal and Sport. Our zero-to-60 times, in either drive mode, were right around 6.7 seconds. The torque started kicking-in at a low 1,500 rpm and pulled nicely up-to 4,500 rpm, with the peak right around 3,000 rpm. Freeway driving should be spent in the Normal drive setting to maximize fuel economy.

The 2018  Hyundai Kona had a bit of hesitation at slow speed launches. Most likely, this was the dual clutches engaging and maybe a bit of turbo lag. When accelerating rapidly or once up to speed, this was a non-issue. Otherwise, the gear changes were smooth and unnoticeable, erring on the side of fuel-sipping versus performance. With increasing speed, the transmission easily finds the right gear to be in, especially when in the 3,000-rpm sweet spot. The acceleration felt natural. The Sport mode held the gears longer, giving a feel of sportiness but also gave the Kona a hyperactive feel. Out on the freeway, Normal had enough oomph to go from 65 to 75 mph quickly, with the transmission finding the right gear to match the necessary demand.

2018 Hyundai Kona

The Kona gauge cluster

Fuel economy numbers reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific and represent the reviewer’s driving experience. If you live in cold weather, high in the mountains, spend time in the city or stuck in rush hour traffic, then your numbers may differ.

The Kona’s brake torque-vectoring drags the inside brake to help rotation through corners. Brake torque-vectoring controlled by a computer is more sophisticated, but the Kona system, when combined with the AWD and motor-driven power steering, provided for neutral cornering. Clean Fleet Report’s Kona Ultimate AWD had 18-inch alloy wheels and 235/45R Goodyear Eagle Touring tires that gripped well. With the MacPherson struts and multi-link suspension, the Kona was nimble, and the little body roll was felt only on the tightest corners. But out on the freeway, the ride at times was vague and was affected by road undulations, tending to wander, and driving was busy.

Driving Experience: Exterior

2018 Hyundai Kona

The Edgy parts of the Kona

The 2018 Hyundai Kona has a long wheelbase and short overhangs. The front angle hits you with a very large mesh-pattern grille with separated projector LED headlights and daytime running lights, which gives the Kona eyebrows. The “armor” Hyundai refers to is the cladding that starts on the fascia and wraps the front fenders, continues below the highly sculpted doors, and then wraps the rear fenders and fascia. There is a lot going on with the exterior design that may take a few people a while to warm to. Clean Fleet Report’s Kona was painted in Lime Twist, a color that garnered more than one comment of “I would never buy a car in that color!” to “Nice, I like it!” Hyundai succeeded with their goal of getting people’s attention.

Driving Experience: Interior

Clean Fleet Report has spent a considerable amount of time in different Hyundai models where we have called out the clean and simple the interiors. The dashes have logically laid-out controls and knobs, with volume and channel knobs for the radio, and one each for the fan speed and temperature control. Simple and easy-to-understand.

2018 Hyundai Kona

Everything in its place–and knobs!

Soft touch materials are not as prevalent as hard plastic, but not in a negative way. Glossy Black replaced chrome, and the Lime Twist accents on the dash, center console, steering wheel and seats, against the black perforated leather seating surfaces looked great. The large, round speed and tach gauges, with black backgrounds and white numbers, are extremely easy to read. A shout-out to Hyundai for the head-up display, something we here at Clean Fleet Report truly appreciate. Finding this feature on a non-premium car is a plus. The display shows speed limit, miles per hour and other information that can be selected from the Settings menu on the display screen.

Clean Fleet Report’s 2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD trim level came standard with leather seating surfaces; the fronts were heated, and the driver side was eight-way power adjustable with lumbar. The passenger seat has manual adjustments. Padding and thigh bolstering was ample so as not to induce fatigue on long drives. The center armrest is nicely positioned, height-wise.

Hyundai says the Kona seats five passengers with three outback. This is doable, in a pinch, but keep your rear seat passengers 5’ 9” and shorter. The flat-folding 60/40 split rear seat, with a fold down armrest and cup holders, is best left for children. The small storage area, when the rear seat back is in the upright position, was greatly increased when the seat back was folded flat. The Kona probably will draw the attention of singles and couples who will keep the seat folded flat for hauling stuff instead of up for people. Remember, the Kona is a CUV, or crossover utility vehicle, so do your best to get the most utility out of it.

Clean Fleet Report’s Kona Ultimate AWD was fully optioned with an 8.0-inch color touchscreen, with navigation, for the infotainment (information and entertainment) system. Our tester had the eight-speaker, 315-watt Infinity premium audio system with HD FM/AM/SiriusXM (90-day subscription included), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. All of which can be managed by the leather-wrapped steering wheel mounted controls. Other features of the system include iPod/USB ports, AUX and audio input jacks and Bluetooth for voice controls and hands-free telephone calling. The Hyundai infotainment system is very driver friendly and easy to figure-out and operate.

2018 Hyundai Kona

Useful space comes with folded rear seats

Our Kona Ultimate AWD came with Hyundai’s BlueLink connected services app, cruise control, power windows and door locks, rear window wiper and rain-sensing front windshield wipers. The power tilt and slinging sunroof open the Kona to the great outdoors, while the keyless start and entry, power and heated side mirrors with turn signals, and a tilt and telescopic steering column were convenient.


The 2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD has safety features of six airbags, four-wheel power disc ABS brakes with brake force distribution, a tire pressure monitoring system and a temporary spare tire. For security there was a remote panic alarm. The Kona Ultimate AWD trim level came standard with forward collision avoidance, blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic collision warning parking distance warning when in reverse, lane change assist, rear view camera, electronic stability and traction control systems, and hill start assist.

The 2018 Kona has not been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS.)

Pricing and Warranties

Clean Fleet Report’s 2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD, with the carpeted floor mats option ($125), had an MSRP of $28,825. This price excludes the $950 freight charge.

The 2018 Kona comes with these warranties:

Powertrain                        10 years/100,000 miles

New Vehicle                      Five years/60,000 miles

Anti-perforation               Seven years/Unlimited miles

Roadside Assistance        Five years/Unlimited miles

Observations: 2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD

Useful utility makes the 2018 Hyundai Kona a contender in the already crowded compact crossover segment. If you are considering a vehicle of this size, the Kona’s

2018 Hyundai Kona

Kona=Useful Utility

exterior and interior design, plus good fuel economy, should place it on your “must see” list.

The 2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD we tested was fully optioned, with the price reflecting the equipment level. However, you can get into a Kona for as little as $19,500. When shopping at your Hyundai dealer, make sure to look closely at the trim levels and option packages. You might take a look at the Kona Limited AWD, which has the same performance as the model in this review, but a few less options. Doing without those will not negatively affect your driving and ownership experience. If you can do without AWD, then the front wheel drive Kona Limited starts at $24,700. Make sure your sales associate is trained on the different Kona packages, engine and drive options. The time spent will be well worth it to find your ideal Kona.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

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About Author: John Faulkner

John Faulkner is an automotive marketing professional with more than 30 years experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He has worked with General Motors (all Divisions), Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Eagle), Ford and Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota on consumer events and sales training programs. His interest in automobiles is broad and deep, beginning as a child riding in the back seat of his parent's 1950 Studebaker. He has a keen appreciation of Art Deco design, no bias for domestic versus foreign makes and loves competition - whether that be F1, IndyCar, Sports Cars, NASCAR or participating in Track Days at places such as Laguna Seca, Thunderhill or Willow Springs. John lives in Dana Point, CA, and enjoys a top-down drive on PCH on an early Sunday morning.

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