Cars

Hyundai Smartly Stands Pat with 2020 Kona Ultimate

DETROIT — Hyundai didn’t make a lot of changes to its compact crossover Kona for the 2020 model year. Why change? It is a winner.

They did give it smart cruise control, which is available on the Ultimate trim line. That was the model we tested. They renamed a couple of trim packages, they moved an infotainment screen to a second trim level, they did the same thing with wireless charging and they developed a new orange accented interior on Limited models and discontinued the Iron Man Edition.

They really didn’t have to do that much to the Kona. Our test vehicle had the smaller engine, but it was top of the line. A 1.6-liter direct-injected turbocharged four-cylinder made 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque from 1,500 to 4,00 rpm.

It was that low-end torque that gave this engine, thus the Kona, a kick. There were times when we asked the vehicle to speed up quickly and it did without any strain. There are a lot of reasons like low-inertia turbo-spooling response and an electronic wastegate control for more precise control of manifold pressure. But the bottom line is that the 1.6-liter turbo moves the car with ample thrust and authority.

About that only thing we didn’t like about the turbo was fuel consumption. Our Kona had an EPA rating of 26 mpg in the city, 29 mpg on this highway and 27 mpg combined. That’s not great for a small vehicle, especially when it is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Still, the 2020 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD was an awful lot of fun to drive. You don’t expect that trait in a small crossover.

Part of that fun was the ride. The Kona smoothed out bumps when going over ridges in the road. The MacPherson strut front end got a chance to absorb them before the rear end went across.

Hyundai said the Kona’s front suspension featured an innovative sub-frame bushing design for enhanced comfort and reduced noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). It was a quiet ride.

The MacPherson strut design used gas-filled shock absorbers and a hollow stabilizer bar for lower weight and enhanced responsiveness. Available 18-inch alloy wheels with 235/45R18 tires gave surefooted, agile handling character on a variety of road surfaces.

Inside, the 2020 Hyundai Kona interior was a straightforward affair. It had a floating infotainment screen, analog instruments and a cove of sorts that housed two 12V chargers, an auxiliary jack and a USB plug. That’s also where they put the wireless charger. We were a little disappointed that there was only one USB jack up front.

The heated front seats were comfortable. The crossover had voice controls, push-button lock and unlock, pushbutton ignition and there was also a heads-up display. This Kona had two drive modes: sport and normal. You could also lock it in all-wheel-drive, in effect turning the Kona into a 4-wheel-drive vehicle.

Kona’s are known for their loud but in good taste colors. Our test vehicle was no different. The exterior was Lime Twist, a vibrant green. And we were a bit surprised by how well they translated that to the black interior. They used the color for the trim around the vents, the gearshift template and for the trim around the seats. It sounds outlandish given the color, but it worked.

We got in the back seat and found the legroom a bit cramped. But there was ample headroom. The Kona had a sunroof which really didn’t matter in winter, but it did let in some light.

There was a full assortment of safety technology including forward collision avoidance and pedestrian detection systems, blind-spot and rear traffic alert and parking distance alert.

Of course, it had satellite radio, voice controls as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There were LED headlights and taillights. It also had a smart key with pushbutton lock and unlock and an eight-inch touch screen with navigation and a suite of apps and heated side mirror with turning signals.

The 2020 Hyundai Kona Ultimate was a well-equipped small crossover. It seemed well worth its $30,380 as tested sticker.

Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com

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