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Hyundai has become an increasingly popular vehicle brand with drivers in recent years. This is because they offer hard-to-beat value and above-average reliability. The small and somewhat quirky Kona is an excellent choice for many reasons. It offers a high-class experience for a lower price than most of its competitors. The Kona is also a lot of fun to look at. At the same time, there are a few areas where this SUV falls short. Ultimately, the pros need to be looked at in comparison to the cons to see if the 2021 Hyundai Kona is a smart buy.
What's New for 2021?
There are not too many updates for the Kona in 2021. This vehicle is still in its first generation, which debuted in 2018. It does say goodbye to two of its more eye-catching paint colors, known as Sunset Orange and Lime Twist. The real story is the new Night Edition, which bundles nice exterior and performance features into a brand new trim level.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2021 Hyundai Kona – The Pros
1. Fun Available Turbocharged Engine
Going with a Night Edition, Limited, or Ultimate model of the new 2021 Kona will mean getting a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder engine. This manages to produce 175-horsepower along with 195 lb-ft of torque. Considering the size of the Kona, this provides plenty of zip and satisfying acceleration. You will never have to worry about not having enough power to merge on the highway with this engine under the hood.
2. Great Value for the Money
Like all the vehicles in the lineup, Hyundai does a great job of packing in a lot of features in the Kona for a low starting price. When compared to other subcompact SUVs, the Kona's price falls on the lower end of the scale. This does not mean it is a bare-bones vehicle, however. The entry-level SE comes with nice touches like alloy wheels, a 7-inch touchscreen, and a respectable list of safety features. A fully-loaded Kona Ultimate, which throws in things like navigation and adaptive cruise control, is also affordable when compared to the competition.
3. Eye-Catching Exterior Design
For those who do not want an SUV that blends in with every other vehicle in the parking lot, the Kona may be the way to go. With the exception of the entry-level trim, all models can have two-tone paint jobs. The combination of curved and straight lines give the Kona a unique profile that helps it stand out from the pack.
4. Comfortable Interior
Drivers get room for up to five in the 2021 Kona. The standard seats offer plenty of support and remain comfortable on long journeys. There are a variety of upgrades available as well, including leather upholstery, heated front seats, and power-adjustment for the driver. You can also get a sophisticated leather-wrapped steering wheel for your Kona.
5. New Night Edition Trim
The Kona gains a whole new trim level in 2021. Known as the Night Edition, it falls in between the SEL Plus and Limited trims. This puts it in the upper half of the Kona lineup. On top of getting the turbo engine, this model has unique 18-inch wheels, chrome exterior trim, and LED headlights. Inside, it gains leather upholstery and a premium sound system. This trim reduces the available exterior paint colors down to Chalk White, Galactic Gray, and Ultra Black.
6. User-Friendly Infotainment Setup
It is hard to find an infotainment system more user-friendly than Hyundai's. It utilizes a combination of touch and physical controls, making it easy to navigate. Most models come with a 7-inch touchscreen, although the Ultimate jumps up to 8-inches. All trim levels have the popular Android Auto and Apple CarPlay features so that a compatible smartphone can easily be connected to the Kona. The well-designed infotainment system is joined by other high-tech features, such as wireless device charging, on upper trim levels.
7. Above Average Fuel Economy
The Kona is available in an all-electric version, known as the Kona EV. Drivers can stick with a gas-powered model and still get excellent fuel economy, however. With the standard engine, the Kona gets 27mpg in the city and 33mpg while on the highway. Turbocharged models are actually estimated to do better in the city, getting 28mpg. On the highway they get 32mpg, essentially balancing out the two engines.
8. Engaging Driving Experience
One thing drivers will notice if they test drive several subcompact SUVs is that the Kona is actually fun to drive. The steering is responsive and the suspension is flexible, helping the SUV to absorb most bumps in the road. Another perk of the Kona is its precise cornering and tight turning radius. While the Kona is no off-road beast, it is available with things like all-wheel drive and a locking rear differential for those who are a bit more adventurous.
9. Standard Driver Attention Monitor
Although advanced driver aids are becoming more common, not all subcompact SUVs include them on their entry-level models. All models of the Kona come with a handful of driver aids, to include a driver attention monitor. This important feature keeps track of your normal driving patterns. It will alert you if it detects major changes and feels like it is time for a break.
10. Reassuring Reliability & Warranty
The Kona is a smart buy when looking toward the future. It earns a higher-than-average score of three and a half stars from J.D. Power when it comes to reliability. The Kona also comes standard with Hyundai's impressive warranty. It gives drivers five years or 60,000 miles limited along with ten years or 100,000 miles for the powertrain. All of this peace of mind for a lower-than-average price.
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Reasons Not to Buy a 2021 Hyundai Kona – The Cons
1. Low Cargo Space
One of the biggest downsides of owning a Kona is its lack of cargo space. With the backseats up, there are 19.2 cubic feet. This actually is close to average. It is the maximum cargo capacity with the seats down, which is 45.8 cubic feet, where the Kona falls short of its competition and loses some practicality points.
2. Cramped Backseat
Although the seats are comfortable in both rows of the Kona, adults will want to avoid the backseat. Even older children will find that they feel somewhat claustrophobic if they sit back there too long. This SUV falls short of just about every competitor when it comes to room back there. The Kona may be better suited for smaller families or someone who is looking for a commuter.
3. Sluggish Standard Engine
If possible, you will want to avoid the lower three trims of the Kona simply for their lackluster engine. Underneath the hood of the S, SEL, and SEL Plus is a 2.0L four-cylinder engine. It makes only 147-horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, which is not quite enough for when you want or need to put your foot down. Those who go with the turbocharged engine will find their experience with the Kona to be much more pleasant.
4. Too Much Plastic
The interior of Kona has an abundance of hard plastic panels. Although that could be considered acceptable for the price, it does bring down the overall look of the cabin. This is unfortunately not an issue that buyers can get past by simply buying a higher trim level, either.
5. Disappointing Transmission for the Turbo Engine
As fun as the extra power of the turbo engine is, it is somewhat held back by its dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission. Many drivers find that it struggles to find the right gear in some situations. This is definitely something Hyundai will want to address in the coming years.
How it Stacks Up to the Competition
2021 Hyundai Kona vs 2021 Mazda CX30
One of the Kona's newest competitors is the subcompact CX30 from Mazda. It has an undeniable appeal with its sleek exterior and luxurious cabin. The CX30 also offers a bit more room to stretch out in. At the same time, it costs quite a bit more than the Kona. The number of standard features is comparable, making the Kona a more wallet-friendly choice.
2021 Hyundai Kona vs 2021 Honda HR-V
The HR-V is an impressive vehicle. You will find it is more practical than the Kona in many ways, with more cargo and passenger space. However, the lower trim levels of the HR-V are lacking many common features. There are things you will get in the entry-level Kona that are not available until you hit the middle of the HR-V trim ladder.
When it comes to bang for your buck, the Kona is a strong choice. Hyundai may want to consider redesigning it a bit to allow for more cargo space. Making the turbocharged 1.6L standard across the board plus giving it a better transmission to work with will also go a long way toward broadening its appeal. Otherwise, drivers will find that they get the features that they need out of this well-rounded subcompact SUV.
• Why buy a 2020 Hyundai Kona? w/ pros vs cons