• Hyundai Kona Ultimate

Review: 2020 Hyundai Kona 1.6T Ultimate

Hyundai’s Ultimate Kona crossover

Jim Robinson By: Jim Robinson June 1, 2020


    • What’s Good: Fits the definition of urban SUV.
    • What’s Bad: In ECO drive mode, steep climbs tax the engine


Hyundai certainly has left no small crossover stone unturned with the sub-compact Venue and compact Tucson joining the officially sub-compact Kona on showroom floors for 2020.

Besides the Kona EV all electric vehicle ($44,999), there are no less than five Kona trim models starting at $21,249 for the Essential front-drive model up to the Ultimate AWD ($32,249) as tested here.

With a mix of front- and all-wheel-drive drivetrains there are two engines and transmissions depending on trim level.

In the case of this week’s tester, it is Hyundai’s 1.6-litre turbocharged inline four-cylinder with 175 hp and 195 lb/ft of torque with the corporation’s in-house designed seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission (DCT).

Like just about every sub-compact crossover I drive these days, its overall length of 4,165 mm and wheelbase of 2,600 mm makes the Kona is at least a compact in real life and it might have qualified for mid-size just a decade ago.

Competition in the sub-compact arena is intense with worthy opponents from Ford, Toyota, GM, Mazda, Honda and Nissan not to mention corporate step-sister Kia.

Hyundai Kona Ultimate

So packaging is essential, but it also has to come with style and creature comforts to attract an increasingly discerning clientele.

The styling is very much “urban SUV” with the body set high up on the wheels with thick, black plastic wheel well surrounds that not only give it a more aggressive look, but help mightily in controlling road salt rot.

The interior is contemporary with some hard, black plastic but the Ultimate gets lots of soft touch trim, supportive leather seating and orange trim pieces around the HVAC vents and other controls giving it a very sporty feel.

Hyundai engineers know how to maximize interior space and the payoff is cargo and passenger volume of 3,208 litres, which would make this a compact in my books, not a subcompact.

Hyundai’s new SmartSense suite of safety aids includes features such as Rear Parking Assistance Sensors (RPAS), Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA) and Lane Change Assist (LCA), Proximity Keyless Entry with Push-Button Ignition, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Pedestrian Detection and finally, Lane Keeping Assist with Driver Attention Warning and my new favourite, a heated steering wheel.

Located on the centre console to the right of the shifter is a lock out button for driving in low grip situations like snow and ice. Just below is a rocker switch for downhill descent control which is a handy feature for “soft-roading”.

Hyundai Kona Ultimate

To the left of the shifter is the drive mode switch for Normal, Eco and Sport.

The Kona Ultimate came with a number of thoughtful details, one of which was the cubbie at the front of the centre console with two power points, a nifty little shelf to store your cellphone just above along with a wireless cellphone charger and charge indicator.

Another smart feature is under the cargo floor where there is a shallow, sectioned storage tray, which also lifts to expose the spare tire instead of inflator kits some other manufacturers try to palm off.

And I liked the tie downs with cargo net, perfect for oddments such as a bags of groceries, instead of tossing them in the rear where they would roll around.

Sight lines from the driver’s seat are clear, but what stood out on the highway was lack of wind buffeting and noise, despite my tester having roof rails fitted.

And back to the heated steering wheel which isn’t just for winter. If you have arthritis in your hands, having the warmth of the steering wheel goes a long way to counteract cold air coming from the HVAC vents which always seem to be at knuckle level.

Hyundai Kona Ultimate

Hyundai Kona Ultimate

On a more than 300 km jaunt through the back roads and some 400-Series highways in Ontario, I left it in Normal, which is the default mode when the car is started.

I did try Eco and it makes any kind of acceleration sluggish the offset being you’re using less fuel.

The turbo engages more aggressively in Sport but you don’t really need it.

Running on regular fuel, Hyundai says consumption is 9.0,8.0/8.6L/100 km, city/highway/combined. I managed 8.3L/100 km which I call respectable.

All and all the Kona Ultimate is a well thought-out package that brings together what buyers want in a subcompact crossover.

Hyundai Kona 1.6T Ultimate AWD CUV

BODY STYLE: Sub-compact crossover
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive, seven-speed DCT
ENGINE: 1.6-litre direct injection turbocharged inline four-cylinder (175 hp, 195 lb/ft)
CARGO: 544 litres; 1,298 litres with second row folded
FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular) 9.0,8.0/8.6L/100 km (city/highway/combined)
TOW RATING: Not recommended
PRICE: $32,249 not including destination fee
WEBSITE: Hyundai