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First Drive: 2018 Hyundai Kona

To say it has personality would be an understatement. We’re talking, of course, about Hyundai’s latest addition to its SUV lineup, the ’18 Kona. While it may appear late to the game, as Americans’ desire for cars dries up and the small and compact SUV classes explode, Hyundai was strategic in when and how it went about releasing Kona into the wild. Taking the more conservative approach ensured that Kona wouldn’t just be another among the crowded field, but rather be the best.

2018 Hyundai Kona

Loosely following the naming convention of its brethren, the Tucson and Santa Fe, the Kona is also named after a locale, this time from the Big Island of Hawaii. Taking inspiration for its design from the beauty of flowing lava and targeting those who enjoy a more athletic, outdoor lifestyle, the Kona name embodies all that this vehicle is. Its short front and rear overhangs give it a sporty vibe, and its stance brings visions of a linebacker crouching in position ready to attack. It’s meant to be fun and exciting instead of simple and utilitarian like many of its competitors.

Research the Hyundai Kona on MSN Autos

Typically not huge fans of small SUV styling, we adore the Kona and believe Hyundai nailed what it was going for design-wise. We also believe there’s no better color for the Kona than the available Surf Blue or Lime Twist, as these really bring out the spunk. If there has to be a negative for us, it lies in the headlights. Much akin to the ’14 Jeep Cherokee, the Kona has a beautiful LED accent strip atop a ho-hum projector headlight. Jeep fixed this for ’19, ditching the projector light entirely, and we hope Hyundai does the same at some point in Kona’s life.

The 1.6L turbocharged I-4 engine in the Limited and Ultimate models produces a modest 175 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. That torque, however, is available in full from 1,500 rpm all the way up to 4,500. What this means is the Kona feels quite peppy. It gets off the line in a hurry and has no trouble at all climbing grades.

Simplified Ordering

To keep things easy for the consumer, Hyundai offers the Kona is just four trims: SE, SEL, Limited, and Ultimate. SE starts at $19,500, SEL at $21,150, Limited at $24,700, and Ultimate at $27,400. The only options available are a Tech Package on SEL for $1,500, an accent color roof on SEL for $150, and all-wheel drive on any trim that adds $1,300. A fully loaded Ultimate checks in at an MSRP of $29,680, including destination charges.

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