The 2021 Hyundai Kona would like your attention, please. Now.
It’s a small crossover SUV with economy-car roots, but the 2021 Kona has fancy hardware, from all-wheel drive to a dual-clutch transmission to an all-electric companion—and it’s all wrapped in a shape that demands you notice it.
Sold in SE, SEL, Ultimate, and Limited versions—and in that separate Kona Electric model—the 2021 Kona earns a TCC Rating of 6.3 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Review continues below
The Kona is a lot to look at. All the clever crossover-SUV styling tricks show up here, from floating-roof cues to highlighter highlights to stacked headlights. It’s distinctive, but that doesn’t equal coherent. It’s better and more soothing inside, where the Day-Glo colors get subdued by a more routine layout of controls and a now-usual touchscreen interface.
Selecting the right Kona for performance takes some hoop-jumping. Base cars get a middling 147-horsepower inline-4 and a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic; we’d take the latter with the optional and way more perky 175-hp turbo-4 instead of the shifty 7-speed dual-clutch that’s supplied. (Truth? The Kona Electric has the best powertrain of them all.) Powertrain confusion aside, the Kona drives better with available all-wheel drive, which comes with an independent rear suspension that makes the most of its short wheelbase. It’s perky, entertaining on back roads, and easy to needle through city streets.
Four or five people can fit in the Kona, but the second-row seat’s snug for large adults even if only two come along for the ride. Flip down the back seat and the Kona can hold 45.8 cubic feet of cargo—about 30 boxes of books to curse at when you move, as we vividly recall.
Every Kona comes with automatic emergency braking, and the IIHS and the NHTSA give the crossover sterling crash-test scores. Base cars have a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility; our sweet spot is the $23,340 Kona SEL, which gets keyless start, 17-inch wheels, heated front seats, satellite radio, and blind-spot monitors. The Kona’s killer app? A 5-year/60,000-mile warranty and for 2021, three years or 36,000 miles of free maintenance.
We review the Kona Electric separately.