2022 Hyundai Kona Test Drive Review

Hyundai's little Kona SUV has matured with a more sophisticated look and added performance.

7.7 /10
Overall Score

In its fifth year on the market, the Hyundai Kona gets its first significant refresh, complete with updated exterior styling, enhanced powertrains, and upgraded convenience, connectivity, and safety features. There are also two new sporty variants—the N Line and the Kona N—giving this subcompact SUV shoppers a legitimate performance option at a budget price.

Look and Feel

7/ 10

Far from a total redesign, the Hyundai Kona nevertheless gets a significant makeover for the 2022 model year. Not only is the 2022 Kona 1.6 inches longer than the 2021 model, revised front and rear fascias, enhanced LED lighting front and back, and sporty new character lines give the Kona a more sophisticated look. The sharp new body lines are contrasted by lower body cladding—a must on any crossover SUV. New alloy wheel designs round out the exterior styling changes.

On the inside, the instrument panel and center console are now separated, which Hyundai says emphasizes a more horizontal layout and gives the Kona's interior a wider, more spacious look. New ambient lighting for the front cupholders and footwells add a welcome touch of sophistication, while a rear USB port increases convenience for those in the back.

While these updates to the Kona are certainly welcome, the more exciting development for 2022 is the addition of two new trim levels: the sporty N Line and even sportier Kona N. Both new trims bring unique styling elements, including body-color cladding and rocker panels, and new wheel designs that make the Kona look more athletic, and in the Kona N's case, downright racy. On the inside, the N Line has exclusive black seats with red stitching, a black headliner, and alloy sport pedals. The seats, steering wheel, and shift lever are all adorned with N logos.

The top dog Kona N raises the sport quotient even more with wide fenders covering 19-inch alloy wheels with Pirelli P-Zero summer tires, front lip spoiler, red accent along the lower edge of the body, double-wing roof spoiler, and side valance. In the cockpit, drivers sit in N sport bucket seats while gripping the leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

Our test vehicle, a Kona N Line in Blue Wave with a black interior, was handsome, indeed. The proportions of the refreshed 2022 model give the Kona a more streamlined look than the previous model. We especially liked the Blue Wave exterior color and the N Line-exclusive 18-inch wheels. Overall, the fit and finish and interior material quality were appropriate for the price point. We appreciated the red accent stitching on the seats and gear shift lever, in addition to the "N" logos on various components and alloy pedals, all of which exuded sportiness.

Performance

9/ 10

Unlike most subcompact SUVs whose manufacturers tend to take a "one size fits all" approach to powertrains, Hyundai offers a wide variety of engines and transmissions across the 2022 Kona lineup, plus front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). The lower two trims—SE and SEL—feature a normally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder base engine paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Power output is 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque.

Buyers looking for a little more performance from their SUV can step up to the sporty N Line or the Kona Limited and get a direct-injected, turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT). That combo delivers a more spirited 195 hp and 195 pound-feet of torque.

Finally, the new-for-2022 Kona N is powered by a direct-injected, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that works with an N eight-speed wet DCT with paddle shifters. The powertrain delivers 276 hp and 289 lb-ft of torque. Hyundai says the N DCT is more durable, utilizes unique gear ratios, and is specially calibrated to provide quicker shifts. The N DCT transmission is also your gateway to exclusive driving features, including N Grin Shift (turbo over-boost), N Power Shift, N Grin Control (drive-mode selector), and N Track Sense Shift. The Kona N features other performance goodies, including launch control, a variable exhaust system, an electronic limited-slip differential (to optimize torque distribution while carving corners), 19-inch light-alloy wheels, and high-performance brakes and tires.

Our test vehicle—a Kona N Line with the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, seven-speed DCT, and (AWD)—had more than adequate power and was a pleasure to drive, both around town and on the highway. In city settings, where the Kona is likely to spend most of its time despite being an AWD crossover, the Kona's torquey turbo engine and small dimensions made it easy to maneuver through traffic. Other than some very minor turbo lag and some clunkiness in the lower gears, the DCT did an admirable job handling shifts and noticeably increased the Kona's sportiness factor.

With a curb weight of around 3,300 pounds, the Kona felt light on its feet yet solid and stable, again thanks to ample torque and AWD. Owing to the small SUV's low ride height and corresponding low center of gravity, handling was surefooted with nary a hint of understeer. Overall, the Kona's handling was very composed and on par with vehicles costing tens of thousands of dollars more. And, like most other Hyundai vehicles we've tested lately, noise levels inside the cabin were quieter than you'd expect for a car at this price point.

Form and Function

6/ 10

While there's no denying the Kona is a small vehicle, Hyundai did a commendable job of making front-seat occupants comfortable. Headroom is ample, even with the optional sunroof, as is legroom. Finding a comfortable position in the driver's seat is easy even for taller drivers. Front seats, at least in the N Line, do an excellent job of holding you in place when the road starts to bend.

Rear-seat occupants aren't going to be as happy. First of all, the rear door openings are small, so there's a bit of twisting involved during the act of seating yourself. Once seated, head- and legroom are a bit compromised, the former by the short, sloping roof, the latter simply due to the vehicle's compact dimensions.

With a small car such as the Kona, something has to give. Quite often, it's those in the back that suffer. Hyundai says that with the 2022 refresh, rear-seat legroom has been increased, but we were hard-pressed to find it. There wasn't much with the front seat adjusted to our test driver's seat position. Also, three-across adults in the back seat is pretty much out of the question, unless it's a very short trip. Even with three young children seated in the back, hip room is at a premium.

Hyundai also claims that the Kona's cargo space has improved for 2022. Perhaps, but at 19.2 cubic feet, cargo room with all seats up is still tight and, realistically, will only accommodate one large duffel bag or airport roller bag and a laptop case or purse. If you need to carry anything more, you'll need to fold down the rear seats to access 45.8 cubic feet of space—still not commodious, not to mention your five-seat SUV will now be a two-seater. Oh, and don't count on renting a trailer to help with that cross-town move; towing with the Kona isn't recommended.

Tech Level

7/ 10

Hyundai added more tech for the 2022 model year. Starting with the base SE trim, an 8-inch display (up from 7 inches in 2021) is the gateway to the six-speaker AM/FM audio system with Bluetooth connectivity. Bumping up to SEL trim adds SiriusXM satellite radio, HD Radio, and Hyundai Blue Link. This system is also standard on the N Line.

Standard on the Limited and Kona N (and optional on the N Line) is a new 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation and traffic information. An eight-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system is optional on the Kona N Line, and standard on the Limited and Kona N. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard features with the base 8-inch screen, but the larger screen only gets wired versions. The Kona also offers Digital Key, supported via a dedicated smartphone app, to lock and unlock the vehicle, activate the panic alert, and start the engine.

The Kona SE and SEL get a 4.2-inch color multi-information display, while the N Line and above trim levels get a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster. All 2022 Hyundai Konas have two USB ports in the front; back-seat passengers in the Limited and Kona N also get a USB port. Wireless device charging is standard on the N Line and above, and available on the SEL.

Owners can also access Hyundai Blue Link, a suite of connected services to make life easier and is complimentary for three years. It includes remote engine start with climate control, remote locking/unlocking, stolen-vehicle recovery, and voice-controlled destination search.

The Kona's infotainment system is easy to use and intuitive. Connecting a smartphone via Bluetooth is a breeze. The standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto bring a level of tech accessibility to an entry-level model that was unheard of 10 years ago, although they are also available on most competitor vehicles.

Safety

8/ 10

As it is an entry-level model, the Hyundai Kona's driver aid menu is somewhat limited. That said, Hyundai provides the basics. Standard features include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assistance, lane-following assistance, driver attention warning, and rear occupant alert, which reminds drivers to check the back seat before leaving the vehicle unattended.

Available technologies include adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, blind-spot warning with collision avoidance, Highway Drive Assist, rear cross-traffic alert with collision avoidance, and Safe Exit Warning, which can warn passengers if it's not safe to exit the vehicle.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2022 Hyundai Kona gets five stars (out of a possible five) for overall crash protection. The Kona gets a combined five stars for front and side crash protection and four stars for rollover resistance in the individual tests.

Meanwhile, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2022 Hyundai Kona the highest-possible "Good" ratings in all six crashworthiness tests. Regarding crash avoidance and mitigation, the Institute gave the Kona with the optional forward collision-avoidance system with pedestrian detection a best-possible "Superior" rating in vehicle-to-vehicle front crash protection and a next-best "Advanced" rating for vehicle-to-pedestrian front crashes. Additionally, the Kona's child-seat anchors received a "Marginal" rating (testers found the lower anchors too deep in the seat and difficult to maneuver around), the likely cause for the Kona failing to achieve Top Safety Pick status.

Cost-Effectiveness

9/ 10

Pricing for the gasoline 2022 Hyundai Kona begins at $22,375 (including a $1,225 destination charge) for the SE with FWD and tops out at $35,425 for the Kona N. AWD is available on all Kona models except the N for an additional $1,500. While the Kona's base price is average for the class, the little SUV becomes a better value as you ascend the trim level ladder. The N Line, in particular, presents nearly unbeatable bang for the buck.

A $1,700 Convenience Package for the SEL adds a power moonroof, power windows, heated front seats, automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, wireless device charging, Hyundai Digital Key, and a hidden cargo-area storage compartment.

There's also an optional Tech Package ($2,500)for the N Line that includes LED headlights and taillights, automatic high-beam headlights, a power moonroof, an eight-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system, 10.25-inch touchscreen with navigation, Highway Drive Assist, intelligent cruise control with stop-and-go capability, and an electric parking brake.

Our test vehicle, a 2022 Kona N Line AWD with the Tech Package and carpeted floor mats, had an MSRP of $29,580, including destination. When you factor in Hyundai's complimentary maintenance (three years/36,000 miles of regular oil changes and tire rotations) and outstanding warranty coverage (five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain), the built-in value that accompanies any Hyundai purchase makes for a very compelling argument.

According to the EPA, combined fuel economy for all FWD Konas (except Kona N) is 32 mpg. Konas equipped with AWD are rated at 29-30 mpg combined, depending on the engine. The performance-oriented Kona N delivers 23 mpg combined. While not earth-shattering, the Kona provides better fuel economy than most rivals. But if you really want to stretch your dollar, Hyundai will gladly sell you a Kona Electric that gets 120 MPGe.

During our test of the Kona N Line, we averaged 28.5 mpg in mostly city driving. Based on the Kona's 13.2-gallon fuel tank, this equates to a range of about 375 miles on a single tank of gas.

Updated by Jeff Youngs

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