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2024 Hyundai Kona First Drive Review: At the Adults’ Table

2024 Hyundai Kona
Photo: B.Charette
Hyundai expands and upgrades its small SUV Updated:

•    Auto123 gets in a first test drive of the 2024 Hyundai Kona.

Ayer's Cliff, QC - For 2024, Hyundai aimed to correct some of the Kona's inherent shortcomings by offering a larger, more technologically advanced model. The 2024 edition thus gains nearly six inches in length and one inch in width.

That takes the Kona from being the smallest in its segment to the middle of the pack, correcting a drawback of the previous generation. This translates into three extra inches of legroom in the rear. The cargo area has also been considerably improved, offering an extra 179 litres for a total of 733. It's immediately obvious.

2024 Hyundai Kona, three-quarters rear
2024 Hyundai Kona, three-quarters rear
Photo: B.Charette

Design of the 2024 Hyundai Kona

The first-generation Kona was designed first as a gasoline-powered model and then had an electric adaption sprout from it. Hyundai has done the opposite with this new version. Designers first drew an electric version and then adapted it to produce the gas-fed Kona. The result is more modern styling, with a front grille that almost seems to disappear.

The ICE model has adjustable flaps at the front to supply air to the engine, a feature not necessary in the electric Kona.

Now squarer, the SUV features wider shoulders and wheel arches. Even at a cursory glance, the new Kona’s larger size is immediately noticeable.

Powertrains and Versions of the 2024 Hyundai Kona

The two powertrains from the previous generation are carried over almost unchanged. The base 2.0L 4-cylinder engine sits in the Essential and Preferred versions and develops 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Meanwhile, the N Line and N Line Ultimate trims receive a 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder that produces 190 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque.

This engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Previously, the 1.6L turbo engine was mated to Hyundai's compact dual-clutch gearbox. It had seven gears and felt more responsive and less reluctant to downshift on getting a little encouragement via the accelerator pedal.

The new 8-speed transmission feels a little sluggish in comparison, especially when starting off. You'll have to leave the model in Sport mode to put some pep in its step.

Specifications sheet of the 2024 Hyundai Kona Preferred

Specifications sheet of the 2024 Hyundai Kona N Line

2024 Hyundai Kona, interior
2024 Hyundai Kona, interior
Photo: Hyundai

Interior of the 2024 Hyundai Kona

The new Kona's sleek, modern interior adds a touch of modernity that was missing from this model. The centre console has been reduced in size, and relocating the transmission selection buttons to a stalk behind the steering wheel frees up space for a large storage area with adjustable cup holder. The front passenger benefits from a small storage shelf on the dashboard.

Hyundai offers a fine range of optional equipment on the Kona, including heated and ventilated seats and a heated steering wheel - features not found on many rivals. At the centre of the vehicle are two 12.3-inch screens. The touchscreen is equipped with Hyundai's all-new infotainment system, which supports OTA (over-the-air) updates to keep the software up to date.

New features include the 2-Touch digital key (which allows owners to use their phone as the vehicle's key), a panoramic-view parking camera and a Bose audio system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration is standard, and some versions feature wireless connection capability.

Replacing the console-mounted shifter with a column-mounted one makes the Kona's front seats feel much roomier, even though they're not really, and it makes the whole dashboard feel less cluttered. Sitting in the back seat is much less painful.

Safety and drive-assist technologies
Advanced driver assistance systems are also included. A remote parking system (accessible via remote control), a blind spot camera, lane centering assistance and a front cross-traffic alert add to the list of features now available on the Kona. These are in addition to existing aids, including forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control and safe exit warning.

2024 Hyundai Kona, three-quarters front
2024 Hyundai Kona, three-quarters front
Photo: B.Charette

2024 Hyundai Kona prices

The top-of-the-range Kona now pushes up to $38,500, and that's without shipping and preparation charges, which add $1,925, and dealer fees of $699. The entry-level model is priced at $26,000. That's $32,350 more than last year. Even if the price goes up, the Kona remains a very good deal with above-average warranty and reliability.

Driving the 2024 Hyundai Kona

The old Kona was quite noisy, a problem that is almost entirely solved in the new model. This improvement, combined with better sound insulation elsewhere in the car, makes the new Kona a much more pleasant vehicle for daily commuting.

The automatic transmission is more pleasant to use on a daily basis than the DSG gearbox, which was a little jerky, but the extra weight gives the engine a little more work to do, and we lose a little suppleness in driving. As mentioned, Sport mode is probably best.

As for the rest, there's no shortage of winding, hilly roads with plenty of elevation changes in Quebec’s  Eastern Townships, where we conducted our first test drive. We had occasion to put the turbo through its paces on a few occasions.

We didn't try out the base engine with the new chassis, but following the same logic, we suspect the power available - already insufficient in the old version - is likely to be a little more problematic with an extra weight of around 200 lb.

For the moment, Hyundai has made no mention of giving the new Kona an N version – remember that sportier variant arrived relatively late in the life cycle of the previous generation. However, the electric model is definitely scheduled for 2024.

2024 Hyundai Kona, rear
2024 Hyundai Kona, rear
Photo: B.Charette

The final word
The Hyundai Kona 2024 offers a more modern design, updated technology and impressive safety features. However, the performance of the base engine may not satisfy some drivers.

Nevertheless, Hyundai is to be commended for daring to venture off the beaten track with mainstream models that stand out from the crowd. The styling lends an almost futuristic flair to this model, and an element of chic not often seen in this market segment.

Competitors of the 2024 Hyundai Kona

2024 Hyundai Kona, profile
2024 Hyundai Kona, profile
Photo: B.Charette