The recipe for Hyundai’s success in the U.S. market has been built on two basic ingredients. The brand’s initial calling card was value, though it was a bit lacking when Hyundai first landed on U.S. shores with a $4,995 Excel in the mid 1980s. That model proved the “you get what you pay for” cliche, but by the early 2000s Hyundai’s low prices were paired with Japanese-car-rivaling quality, a reality American buyers have increasingly discovered and embraced over the past 20 years.
The second stage of Hyundai’s success was built on the same concept driving every modern car company’s sales charts — the SUV. Hyundai reps told us SUVs represented 37 percent of sales in 2017, when the subcompact Kona was introduced. Six years later the numbers have flipped, with Hyundai’s eight SUVs making up 73 percent of it sales. The Kona, the brand’s smallest SUV, more than doubled internal sales forecasts shortly after it went on sale, and it continues to thrive.
However, Hyundai recognizes the ultra-competitive nature of the small SUV market and decided to make the all-new 2024 Kona larger and more refined without sacrificing the company’s trademark trait — value. As with the current Kona, the new Kona features both a gasoline and all-electric version. But for this model the electric version was engineered first to ensure a forward-leaning, futuristic look to the exterior, along with a youth-oriented, high-tech interior design.
This approach manifests in the Kona’s aerodynamic shape (0.30 coefficient of drag) featuring a wide “horizon lamp” just below the hood line. The “Z surfacing” side panels seen on Hyundai’s other electric models appears here, along with either body-colored fender flares on the electric model or contrasting black fender flares on the gasoline versions. A sweeping roof panel above the Kona’s rear glass houses a raised third brake light, while another body-wide horizon lamp resides below the rear glass.
These new design elements appear on a Kona with essentially the same proportions as the previous model. However, overall length has grown 5.7 inches, with the bulk of that benefitting rear-seat legroom (improved by 3 inches) and cargo space (grows by 6.3 cubic feet). The new Kona is also an inch wider and 2.6 inches taller, with a wheelbase 2.3 inches longer. It all adds up to the highest passenger volume in the category and second-highest total interior volume for the 2024 model.
Driving the Kona reflects not only this increased passenger space and driver-focused interior design, highlighted by two 12.3-inch digital displays that come standard on all models, but also Hyundai’s effort to improve refinement. A combination of upgraded exterior seals, underbody padding, and new suspension bushings reduces interior noise by 1.5 decibels. The 2024 Hyundai Kona boasts a notably quiet cabin at highway speeds, a feature you don’t normally find at this price point in this segment.
The new Kona is powered by two carry-over engines. The base SE and mid-grade SEL deliver 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque from a 2.0-liter four cylinder, while the N Line and Limited models offer 190 hp and 195 lb-ft from a turbocharged 1.6-liter. Both use an 8-speed transmission, with mpg ratings at 31 for the base engine and 28 mpg for the turbo. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive a $1,500 option — except on the electric model that only comes in front-wheel drive.
With two battery packs available, sized 48.6 kWh for 200 miles or 64.8 kWh for 261 miles, the new Kona EV makes 201 horsepower and 188 lb-ft of torque. It uses a 400-volt charging architecture with faster level 2 charging than the previous model — 85 kWh versus 75 kWh. This cuts about 3 hours from the time to fully charge a depleted battery. It also features pixelated exterior design cues similar to Ioniq 5 and Ioniq 6. Pricing for the Kona EV will be released closer to its on-sale date in a few months.
While the electric Kona benefits from the instant torque offered by all EVs, the turbocharged gasoline model feels merely adequate when maximum acceleration is requested. Once underway the turbo responds relatively quickly, but from a dead stop it takes a few beats for the engine to hit its stride. We haven’t experienced the base model with the less-powerful 2.0-liter engine, but prospective buyers should try out acceleration during their test drive to confirm it meets their expectations.
The base Kona SE now comes standard with the aforementioned dual 12.3-inch display screens, plus LED exterior lighting, a proximity key with push-button or remote engine starting, over-the-air software updates, and front and rear USB-C charging ports. Hyundai SmartSense driver-assist tech is also standard, meaning every Kona has forward collision warning and braking, blind-spot warning, lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, driver attention warning, and high-beam assist.
Premium features on higher trims include a stalk-mounted electronic shifter, a multi-bin center console, dual-zone climate control, rear-seat A/C vents, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, wireless charging, smart cruise control, and a digital key, which lets you use a smart phone or smart watch to operate the Kona. Performance-oriented buyers can choose the N Line trim to get unique front and rear fascias, body-color fender flares, 19-inch wheels, and Alcantara leather seat inserts.
Our seat time in the gasoline and electric Konas confirmed Hyundai’s effort to improve interior space, refinement, and technology. The quiet cabin and list of standard features on the base SE model are impressive for a starting price of $25,435 (including a $1,335 destination charge). The Kona Limited feels like a genuine luxury vehicle with ventilated front seats, remote parking assist, smart cruise control, wireless charging, and a digital key for $32,985.
For buyers seeking trademark Hyundai traits — high value paired with a well-executed SUV — both make an appearance on the new 2024 Kona.