When it made its debut six years ago, the Hyundai Kona was the smallest and most affordable utility vehicle in the South Korean carmaker’s lineup.
Today, that role is being filled by the little Venue, freeing up Kona to not only move a bit more upmarket but also to grow a bit larger. But it still offers the distinctive design and well-thought-out features that made the original Kona such a success.
Like the original, the 2024 Kona is offered in a variety of different personalities, including the still-affordable base SE, the sporty N-Line, and the well-equipped Limited. And the Kona Electric will be back, as well, though it trades of a bit of the original model’s performance for a boost in range.
To get the feel for the 2024 Hyundai Kona, I headed to a swelteringly hot Baltimore for a day’s driving of several different versions of the new model.
Big updates for a little vehicle
The little Hyundai Kona has undergone some big changes for 2024. To start with, it’s grown nearly 6 inches longer than the outgoing model. The overall design is more refined — and more aerodynamic. The interior, meanwhile, not only grows roomier but also gains some marked improvements in materials and features.
All versions of the Kona add useful new technology, starting with twin 12.3-inch digital displays. The EV version, in particular, is now offered with a choice of battery packs, the larger one offering up to 261 miles range per charge — though that upgrade does result in a loss of low-end torque.
Two internal combustion engines are available for the rest of the portfolio, though the 1.6-liter turbocharged-4 on the N-Line and Limited models should be the option of choice for anyone who can stretch their budget.
California style on the outside
Like the original 2017 model, much of the design work on the second-generation Hyundai Kona was handled by the automaker’s Southern California styling studio.
The 2024 Kona carries over many of the distinctive cues that proved so appealing to first-gen buyers, starting with the composite headlights, the dynamic roofline, the reverse-angle C-pillar and contrasting wheel colors. But the update gets a sleeker look that stands, in sharp contrast to the blocky, truck-like styling so many of the latest SUVs have adopted. For one thing, Hyundai designers opted for a low-slung and more aerodynamic front end.
For the upcoming model year, Kona also picks up on some of the details Hyundai introduced on its first dedicated battery-electric vehicle, the Ioniq 5 — notably, the pixelated lighting on Kona’s nose.
There is at least one odd detail, however. The push for a more aerodynamic design has resulted in a curiously unfinished grille on the gas-powered Kona models.
Roomy on the inside
The 2024 Kona is larger in almost all dimensions, with an overall length of 171.3 adding an extra 5.7 inches to the original. It’s width of 71.85 inches is about an inch wider. And the wheelbase, at 104.7 inches, is more than 2 inches longer than the outgoing Kona.
There are several advantages, including ride stability. But those numbers also translate into a decidedly roomier cabin. It’s by no mean the largest model in the SUV class. But it delivers some of the segment’s best head, leg and shoulder room.
In Hyundai-speak, the new Kona adopts a “universal architecture” layout for its interior. There’s a bit of a driver-centric feel, with the gauge and infotainment display lightly canted to the left seat. But the overall feel is spacious and open.
One reason, Hyundai explained last April, when the 2024 Kona made its debut at the New York International Auto Show, was the fact that It “developed the new Kona platform with an electrified powertrain first.” That meant moving the battery pack and other key components under the load floor.
There are definite improvements as you step through the various Kona grades, the top-end Limited adding leatherette and other upscale materials. But for those who want a bit more sporty look, the N-Line adds features like performance seats and orange accents.
Plenty of powertrain options
The EV version of the Kona has proved surprisingly popular, accounting for about 10% of this year’s sales. And the automaker expects to see that increase with the second-gen 2024 model.
Two versions of the EV will be offered, though both rely on a single electric motor driving the front axle. The base Kona Electric makes 133 horsepower. With the extended-range battery that rises to 201 hp, but both versions make just 188 pound-feet of torque. Previously, torque was as high as 291 lb-ft. More on that in a moment.
The 2024 Hyundai Kona offers two gas drivetrain options:
- The base car is powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine makes 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with a continuously variable transmission;
- Both N Line and Limited models upgrade to a 1.6-liter turbocharged-4 bumping power up to 190 hp and 195 lb-ft. It’s mated to a new 8-speed automatic gearbox replacing the earlier dual-clutch transmission.
Both models are offered with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. Hyundai estimates the base engine will deliver 31 mpg combined, the turbo package dipping to 28 mpg.
Advanced tech for a safer, more entertaining ride
For 2024, Hyundai offers an expanded list of safety and security technologies. Among the long list of standard advanced driver assistance systems, you’ll find forward collision warning with automated emergency braking, blind-spot detection, lane following assist and auto high beams. Family buyers might want to opt for other technology including intersection turn alert, active cruise control and a surround-view monitor.
The twin 12.3-inch displays are a welcome upgrade and the touchscreen system is easy to operate. It helps that Hyundai has also bucked the trend towards moving all vehicle functions onto the infotainment display. It retains a number of useful buttons and knobs, including those operating the climate control system.
The automaker clearly knows the sort of young family drivers who make up a large share of Kona buyers. The subcompact is loaded with useful connectivity features, including a WiFi hotspot, front and rear USB-C ports, and Bluetooth. It also marks a shift in Hyundai’s strategy. The automaker is now making its sophisticated Bluelink system a free feature for original owners.
Add to the list a digital key which allows a driver to operate the vehicle using a smartphone, without having to carry around the traditional key fob.
And the new Kona can handle smartphone-style over-the-air updates, allowing Hyundai to upgrade virtually all onboard software. For one thing, it can remotely address many potential recalls. And it also can upload new features and services to help keep the Kona fresh, long after a buyer drives off the showroom lot.
Plenty of power
The original Kona offered a surprisingly impressive driving experience for a small and relatively inexpensive crossover. The 2024 Kona takes things up a notch.
I spent much of my day wandering through the scenic Maryland back country, the first few hours behind the wheel of a fully equipped Limited edition. It was easy to whip around corners, with surprisingly little body roll. But what was particularly noticeable — or, perhaps, I should say what was notably absent was the noise, vibration and harshness most vehicles in this class subject passengers to.
Even at highway speeds, passengers could talk in a normal voice. Among the steps Hyundai engineers took, they developed a sound-deadening layer for the inside of the Limited’s wheels. The sportier N-Line I drive in the afternoon was a bit louder, but not enough to be annoying.
Unfortunately, the N-Line is largely meant to look good. And Hyundai officials declined to either confirm or deny whether the truly performance-oriented Kona N will follow into production.
As for the Hyundai Kona Electric, I got to spend barely a half-hour flogging a pre-production model around the twisty Maryland back roads. Hyundai officials insist drivers likely won’t notice, or care that torque has come down so sharply with the 2024 EV. And they may have a point. If anything, the original model could readily overpower its low rolling-resistance tires. And that was only fun if you like to spin your tires while standing still. With the new electric drivetrain power comes on a bit later, but then gives you a nice sense of acceleration.
Plenty of pros, few cons
There’s a lot to like about the 2024 Hyundai Kona, and surprisingly little to complain about.
That includes pricing. You can get into the base SE model, with its naturally aspirated 2.0-liter inline-4 for $24,100 – before delivery fees. These days, that’s a veritable bargain. The SEL starts at $25,450 in front-drive trim, the AWD package jumping to $27,650.
The 1.6-liter turbo is the package I’d recommend if you can afford the jump, the N-Line coming in at $30,650. To be honest, however, I’d recommend shelling out an extra $1,000, the heavily loaded Kona Limited starting at $31,650. Yes, you lose those sport seats and other performance accents, but you get a lot more useful features for the money.
But by giving all these options, Hyundai clearly hopes to win over a wide range of buyers. And it’s likely to score big with the 2024 Kona. It’s an appealing, well-equipped SUV that brings a lot of well-conceived improvements in its second generation.