Motor Trend


ARRIVAL: 2019 Hyundai Kona 1.6T AWD


26/29/27 mpg

“Hyundai promises adventure with the Kona. Whether that means ’Milo and Otis’ or ‘Homeward Bound,’ I have yet to find out.”
Jesse Bishop

Base price $29,880 As tested $30,005

Aglance at the window sticker on any Hyundai Kona will reveal a few things. Perhaps you’ll notice the five-star NHTSA safety rating, or maybe the solid EPA numbers and relatively affordable base price catch your attention. But my eyes fall on something else: “Big on Adventure, Smart on Space.”

Those six words reveal a lot about what the Kona is—or about what Hyundai wants to suggest it will be for those who buy it. It’s also indicative of the millennial consumers Hyundai intends to target. As any good marketer or Tinder user can tell you, millennials love “adventure” and crave an experiential existence. Gen Y also wants a communal existence; those experiences, if not shared with the world, mean far less. It is this desire for shared adventure that drives millennials thousands of miles to remote locales to pose in front of a backdrop of subalpine fir and snow-kissed peaks as far as the eye can see for something as simple as a cute photo with a fiancée.

It makes sense, then, that Hyundai would use the motif to promote its newest small crossover to the highly coveted millennial market. We’re nothing if not suckers for spontaneous adventure.

I say “we” here because I, too, am a millennial, and that trek toward tree line for an engagement photo shoot was my own. I am, at least in this respect, a stereotype, precisely the sort of person that “Big on Adventure” tag line should appeal to.

I’m also, however, at least a little self-aware. The “adventure” my fiancée (now my wife) and I took looks impressive on Instagram. In reality, we drove about 45 minutes from my grandparents’ house, parked in a paved lot, and positioned ourselves such that the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center was just out of the shot. It was, in fact, a show, a facade of authentic adventure overlaid on an otherwise routine day that began with my grandma reminding me to drink my OJ so I don’t get scurvy and ended with my mom making lasagna.

Which is why Hyundai’s claim of big adventure sticks with me. That word can convey so many things, to the point that it can lose all meaning. What kind of adventure does the Kona really promise?

That depends on which Kona you get. A front-drive model necessarily limits the adventures you can have. We opted for all-wheel drive, a $1,400 premium. (AWD also adds independent multilink rear suspension over the front-driver’s torsion beam setup.) In our SUV of the Year testing, where the Kona earned a finalist nod, we said both the front- and all-wheel-drive versions ride and handle similarly. But for real adventures, there may come a time when power to all four wheels is necessary. Its relatively modest 7.0

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