Road Test Reviews, Vehicles

2019 Hyundai Kona 1.6T Ultimate – Road Test

At last year’s Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto, my wife and I were excited at the launch of the entirely new Hyundai Kona. When we heard it was going to be available as an EV we were even more interested, and it went to the top of our next future car list. We loved the colour of the launch vehicle – Acid Yellow (Lime Twist in the U.S.), we always want something out of the ordinary – something better than the typically boring silver/black/charcoal/white options that permeate society – so this was right up our alley! You may recall we’ve covered this vehicle in a very brief 15-minute test drive last year, from a local dealer. This time we got it for a week – one of the coldest and snowiest weeks of the winter. As a bonus we even got the Acid Yellow one!!!

2019 Hyundai Kona 1.6T Ultimate, Iain Shankland,,
What Is It? 

  • Small CUV
  • Our test vehicle was the top-of-the-line Ultimate
  • Turbocharged 1.6L DOHC 4-cylinder engine with Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing and Direct Injection
  • 7-speed EcoShift Dual Clutch Transmission
  • All-Wheel Drive with Active Cornering Control
  • Also available in 4 other models: 2.0L Essential, Preferred, Luxury and 1.6L Trend

2019 Hyundai Kona 1.6T Ultimate, Iain Shankland,, RoadTest.coHow Does It Look?                              

  • I really like the look of the Kona – it’s different from just about every small CUV out there with the exception of the weird-looking Toyota C-HR
  • The last time we drove it, we considered it “a bit of an odd-ball collection of bits from different vehicles stuffed onto the front. After looking at it for a while it starts to look awkward” – this time we’re liking it much better. Can’t say if it’s the colour or the single-coloured vehicle versus the two-toned one, but it just looks better
  • The 1.6L Trend model comes with a two-tone body colour (the roof is either black or dark charcoal, depending on the body colour)

2019 Hyundai Kona 1.6T Ultimate, Iain Shankland,, RoadTest.coWhat’s It Like Inside?       

  • Driver’s position is almost perfect with a very good sightline all around – as you’d expect from being just a bit higher than a traditional car
  • One thing I noticed immediately was the thin A pillar – it gives you a much better view of the road and other vehicles, especially at stop signs. By a way of contrast, our Ford Focus has a thick A pillar and can easily hide a full-size pickup – no kidding
  • The 3-stage bum warmers will burn your butt if you leave them on high for very long! That’s a good thing during -20° temperatures
  • Heated steering wheel – this is almost as important as bum-warmers now…
  • The leather 8-way power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment are quite firm, but are very comfortable once you get it set just right
  • The very useful 8.0″ Head-Up Display projects important information like speed, navigation commands, and safety warnings into your line of sight and works very well (dare I say it? It’s better than how BMW does it). Every car should have this as standard, but unfortunately, it’s only available on the 1.6L models
  • The 8″ touch-screen with Navigation is only available on the top-of-the-line Ultimate – stupid idea when it’s basically just software that turns the screen that’s already there, into a Navigation enabled vehicle
  • The Ultimate has only two options: Lime Interior Colour Pack, and Black glossy paint interior handles
  • The Lime Interior Colour Pack really adds a nice touch of colour and pizazz to the interior, giving an upscale look.. as for the
  • Black glossy paint interior handles… huh? Who would even notice that?
  • Spending more than just a few minutes driving the Kona, our opinion of the dashboard and centre console changed entirely from: “was surprisingly bland” to “I like the look and layout of this.” Everything is perfectly placed for the driver and the front passenger
  • The 8″ touch-screen sits nice and high – right within eyesight and is easy to use with just a quick glance
  • The Infinity Premium sound system in the Ultimate is…phenomenal. I’ve driven vehicles that cost two and three times more than the Kona and the sound system didn’t come remotely close to the quality of this system
  • Rear seating was comfortable, but a third person back there would probably make things very uncomfortable for all three passengers
  • Cargo capacity, rear seats up 544 L, rear seats down 1,296 L

2019 Hyundai Kona 1.6T Ultimate, Iain Shankland,, RoadTest.coSo How Quick Is It & How Does It Handle?

  • Very quick – especially if you press the Sport button. The Normal mode is pretty good as well, but the Sport just kicks it up a notch
  • Handling is very good – the suspension is firm-ish but soaks up bad roads with aplomb
  • Getting caught in a white-out blizzard with dodgy roads really made the benefits of AWD come to the fore. The Kona was firmly planted and there were no traction control lights or ABS noise/light when stomping on the gas or the brakes. With a set of good winter boots on it, this car is a beast in bad weather!
  • Steering input is very good and the weight is just right
  • Sport mode made a discernible difference with crisper upshifts and a lot more fun – with no apparent punishment in fuel economy

Horsepower: 175 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque:  195 @ 1,500-4,500 rpm
Top Speed:   217 kph / 135 mph
0 – 96 km/h (60 mph): 6.6 seconds

2019 Hyundai Kona 1.6T Ultimate, Iain Shankland,, RoadTest.coWhat Does It Cost?
To Buy…   For up-to-date pricing and options in your region visit:

Base Price (Canada): $31,799
As Tested:  $32,026.50

5 Year/100,000 Km Comprehensive Limited Warranty & Powertrain Warranty
5 Year/Unlimited Km Roadside Assistance Program

 To Operate…
Fuel economy (L/100 km) is rated at:

  • 6L T: City – 9.0 // Highway – 8.0  // Combined – 8.6
  • We averaged 9.3 L/100 km in winter with fairly aggressive driving (when safe to do so)

2019 Hyundai Kona 1.6T Ultimate, Iain Shankland,, RoadTest.coNoteworthy Standard Features

  • Base models of the Kona come with: Air conditioning, Cruise control, Power door locks and windows, Remote keyless entry system with alarm, Heated front seats, Anti-lock Braking System with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Electronic Stability Control with Traction Control System, 7″ display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • The leather-wrapped heated steering wheel
  • LED headlights – high and low beam, with High Beam Assist
  • Wireless Device Charging
  • Downhill Brake Control and Hill-start Assist Control
  • Remote keyless entry with alarm
  • Downhill Brake Control and Hill-start Assist Control
  • Remote keyless entry with alarm
  • ElectroChromic auto-dimming rear-view mirror with HomeLink®

Noteworthy Safety features:

  • Anti-lock Braking System with Electronic Brake Force Distribution
  • Vehicle Stability Management with Electronic Stability Control and Traction Control System
  • Downhill Brake Control and Hill-start Assist Control
  • Remote keyless entry with alarm
  • Blind-Spot Collision Warning with Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning and Lane Change Assist
  • Parking Distance Warning – Reverse
  • Rain sensing wipers
  • Hyundai SmartSense
  • Lane Keeping Assist
  • Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist w/ Pedestrian Detection
  • Driver Attention Warning
  • High Beam Assist

2019 Hyundai Kona 1.6T Ultimate, Iain Shankland,, The Competition
Chevrolet Trax, Ford EcoSport, Kia Soul, Kia Niro, Mazda CX-3, Subaru Crosstrek, Toyota C-HR

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Good: Looks great, drives great – a blast to drive
Bad: Price is affordable but quickly rises as you get closer to the options you really want, but worth $32k for the tested vehicle
Ugly – or Good: Cool colour choices for a cool looking car. Pulse Red, Phantom Black and Chalk White are available across the entire lineup, but the cool colours are available in an odd assortment of different trim levels. For example, the test vehicles Acid Yellow is only available on the 1.6T Trend and 1.6T Ultimate (personally I’d pay it to get that vehicle in THAT colour… so maybe Hyundai are being smart after all hmmm)

 What’s The Verdict? 
A terrific little urban vehicle with plenty of choices to make your version unique. Hyundai call it an SUV it’s not, it’s a CUV (Compact Utility Vehicle). With a very comfortable entry/exit this CUV is perfect for everybody – young or old. If speed isn’t your thing the 2.0L will be more than adequate for most people, but the 1.6L turbo is a lot more fun to drive, has more options and just worth the extra money to get it.

Any time now (available already in some markets), there will be an EV version of the Kona to add to the mix. With more than 400 kms of range – that should be a huge seller and would probably be the one I’d lean toward. Stay tuned, that’ll be in the driveway soon!2019 Hyundai Kona 1.6T Ultimate, Iain Shankland,,

Copyright © 2019 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text and Images: Iain Shankland