Not interested in making lackluster products, Hyundai has taken tangible steps to rise above its competition and those efforts are obvious in the Korean brand’s new Kona, its first subcompact crossover. Although it’s a latecomer to the market, it has learned from the mistakes of its peers (mainly the Toyota C-HR, Honda HR-V, and Mazda CX-3) and will likely become the new segment benchmark.
Based on looks alone, the Hyundai Kona has a lot going for it and could be one of the most stylish CUVs in its class. While the Honda looks frumpy and the Toyota is too divisive (although I love the C-HR’s funky style), the Kona sits in the middle of the style spectrum – different enough to get some eyeballs but not radical enough to turn people off entirely. Although its design isn’t perfect — there’s a bit too much cheap plastic body cladding in some corners and too many fake air intakes — it’s up there in attractiveness with the CX-3 and Jeep Renegade.
The fact that the Kona is offered in some amazing colors like Acid Yellow, Tangerine Comet, and Blue Lagoon along with an optional cool contrast roof will go a long way into getting attention from CUV shoppers. The Kona manages to stand out and actually have a personality, which can’t be said for many of its competitors.
Interior is Actually Interesting
That personality carries over into the interior, which is rare in a class known for its no-frills approach. The Kona is available with Acid Yellow (looks more like lime green) contrast piping in the leather seats or houndstooth cloth, which is cooler than anything in this segment has a right to be (I mean, a Porsche 911 R comes with houndstooth seats). Matching matte-finish Acid Yellow/lime green trim and contrast stitching is optional inside, which I’d say is completely necessary — it livens up the cabin and makes it a lot of fun, although it would clash with most color options. This trim option is only available in the Acid Yellow, but I would have loved to see it available to match all exterior paint colors. Optioned out with these cool touches, the Kona might have the best interior in its class, but without it, it can feel rather ordinary and drab. The fact that it’s well-built, doesn’t feel oppressively cheap, and is logically laid out and functional, however, is a big bonus.
The infotainment system is modern, user-friendly, quick, responsive, and comes in two sizes (in use, it’s much better than what Toyota, Honda, and Mazda offer in this segment and is bested only by Jeep’s excellent UConnect). The physical buttons that flank the touchscreen make it even easier to use and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. Everything is clearly labeled, inherently intuitive, and there are no mystery buttons anywhere.
The only downsides to the interior are that there’s only one USB port and two cigarette lighter adapters, which absolutely no one uses anymore. In 2018, it doesn’t make sense to have just one USB port. They should have gotten rid of the useless lighter adapters and put in two USB ports instead: one for Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and the other for fast charging. Upper trims that have a wireless charging pad that helps matters slightly. There’s also a useful tray in the center console that’s perfect for storing a phone or wallet.
The rear seats are also not terrible, unless someone very tall is in the front, which turns the Kona into a 2+2. Rear seat occupants get no USBs or pretty much anything, but it’s not torture to be back there.
Trunk space measures in at 19.2 cubic feet (544 L) with the seats up and 45.8 cu-ft (1,296 L) with the 40/60 seats folded down. The trunk also has a useful under-floor storage cubby. It’s not as cargo-hungry as the HR-V, but does hold more than the CX-3 and the C-HR.
One standout tech feature is the optional head-up display (though it isn’t a true projector type) that shows a lot of useful information. It’s pretty fantastic that it’s even offered in this price bracket (the CX-3 is the only other one that has one). The Kona is also available with lane-keep assist, forward collision alert with pedestrian detection, rear cross traffic alert, a reverse camera, heated seats, a heated steering wheel, high beam assist, and blind spot monitoring, but no adaptive cruise control, a glaring omission.
Driven on some winding, wet roads around Vancouver Island, British Columbia, the Kona was not at all sloppy, as I was half expecting it to be, because that’s what most other cars in this segment are like. The Kona is surprisingly composed in a corner and although it’s not sporty, it definitely feels solid and not as disconnected and numb as many other cars in this segment.
The suspension is comfortable without being too squishy, and athletic but not crashy over rough roads. The steering had an unexpected heft and crispness to it with only a little looseness on center and it was refreshing to see an automaker other than Mazda step up the level of driving dynamics in this segment. The Toyota C-HR is actually really fun to chuck into corners, but it suffers from not being available with all-wheel drive and from being too slow. The Kona fixes that with an optional turbo engine (no other car in this class offers two engine choices) and optional AWD. Bonus points: The Kona has a locking diff and hill descent control.A
Two engines are available: a base naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque and a 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder with 175 hp and a healthy 195 lb-ft of torque.
The base engine is fine but gets very harsh and loud when stronger acceleration is called for (though it’s still not as awful as the HR-V’s engine). It struggled a lot trying to pass slower traffic or accelerate up a hill. This engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and is rated at 25 mpg in the city, 30 on the highway, and 27 combined (9.2/7.8/8.6 L/100 km) for the AWD model.
The engine you want is the uplevel and refined 1.6-liter turbo, which performs much more convincingly and adds to the Kona’s fun personality. The 1.6L turbo, which is paired with a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, has a healthy amount usable torque early in the rev range, which is always more important than flat out horsepower.
The DCT was also predictable and intuitive — during my time with it, I experienced no weirdness typical to Hyundai DCTs in the past, no juddering at low speeds and no harsh shifts. This engine is expected to get 26 mpg in the city, 29 on the highway, and 27 combined (9.0/8.0/8.6 L/100 km) for the AWD model, exactly the same as the base engine combined, so it’s definitely the more compelling pick of the two.
Add in the fact that the Kona makes a strong value play with a starting price of $20,240 ($22,931 in Canada, all pricing includes destination fees) and a fully loaded ask of an entirely reasonable $29,650 ($33,881 in Canada), and there’s very little reason not to pick this crossover over its competitors.
The Verdict: 2018 Hyundai Kona Review
Hyundai has made a legitimate effort to ensure this car is a segment leader, and the result is a subcompact crossover that easily outshines a lot of its competition in nearly all areas — it has the right stuff to be a segment leader. Many of the Kona’s competitors have a few redeeming factors and are otherwise mediocre, but Kona is the whole package. It’s very refreshing to see a car in this segment that doesn’t cut corners and is genuinely kind of cool.
Hyundai’s newest Sonata is dripping with style and character
by DAVID BOOTH | APRIL 17, 2019
What is it?
Hyundai is playing the long ball with the eighth-generation Sonata. Unlike the current car, the new model is dripping with style and character. From the bold headlight treatment, dynamic daytime running lights, and ultra low-slug hood, to the tightly bustled tail and swaged character lines through the side, it’s set to become one of the best looking mid-size sedans on the road. It will also be one serious techno-sophisticate. Of the litany of features one is the digital key — it allows the Sonata to be opened and driven via a smartphone and allows the owner to grant temporary access to another user. It also has the ability to pull into or out of a parking spot by remote control.
Why does it matter?
Under the hood, the 178-horsepower turbocharged 1.6 four-cylinder engine found in the U.S. model will become the base engine in Canada. It will be joined by a new, 191-horsepower 2.5L inline-four that will replace the aging 2.4L unit. What the new Sonata will lack at launch is a hopped-up version; hopefully when the missing link lands, it will be the turbo-four from the Veloster N — 275 horsepower would make for an intriguing drive.
When is it coming?
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata should hit in Canada this October or November.
Should you buy it?
Based on looks alone, the next-gen Sonata is going to be a significant player in the mid-sized market. If the rumor of a sportier derivative comes to fruition, there is even more reason to celebrate. Could the future also hold a full-on N version? The smart money says yes. Bring it on!
Take a tour of the new 2019 Tucson and explore the features. Ready for your adventures, the Tucson is filled with the features you’re looking for, like available HTRAC™ All-Wheel Drive and our available BlueLink® connected car system with remote start and climate control for ultimate convenience – especially on cold winter mornings.
3 January, 2019 Collin Woodard Words, Manufacturer Photos
Can Hyundai’s three-row crossover stand out in a crowded segment?
Hyundai offered a long-wheelbase Santa Fe for years, but as we found in our 2017 First Test, the three-row model was more of a two-row crossover with a pair of rear jump seats, not a minivan substitute. To comfortably fit six adult-sized passengers, it didn’t simply need to be longer. It needed to be wider, as well. To fix that problem, Hyundai developed an entirely new model: the 2020 Palisade.
Thanks to its larger size, the Hyundai Palisade serves as a more direct competitor for other three-row crossovers such as the Honda Pilot, Subaru Ascent, and VolkswagenAtlas. Of those three, only the Atlas has a longer wheelbase. And although the Palisade is only wider than the Subaru, it’s not much narrower than the other two. It’s also 3 inches longer overall than the Santa Fe XL it replaces.
Most important, whether you opt for the seven- or eight-passenger Palisade, the third row now has enough room to comfortably fit an average-sized adult. Even two of them. The Palisade’s second-row seats can also slide forward, adding even more flexibility.
But even though Hyundai hopes families will appreciate the Palisade’s size and practicality, it also took a big risk with the styling. We’re still not quite sure how we feel about the look, but with a huge chrome grille, stacked headlights, vertical daytime running lights, the Palisade certainly stands out. Around back, the shape of the taillights complements what you see up front. In profile, however, the shape is much more conventional.
Inside, the designers took fewer risks, instead focusing on giving the cabin a spacious, premium feel. We like the clean design, even if the number of buttons in the center console can be confusing at first glance. Plus, by switching to a push-button transmission, they were able to add a truly impressive amount of storage up front. Material choices won’t put Range Rover on notice, but for a mainstream crossover, the loaded version we drove felt pretty nice.
Even if you don’t spring for all the options such as premium leather, head-up display, surround-view camera system, and Mercedes-esque 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment screen, the Palisade will still come well equipped. An 8.0-inch display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support comes standard, as does remote keyless entry, adaptive cruise control with steering assist, and automatic emergency braking.
Unfortunately, because we drove Korean-spec Palisades, we can’t say much about the powertrain. Instead of the torquey 2.2-liter turbodiesel that the cars we drove had, North American models will get Hyundai’s 3.8-liter V-6 making an estimated 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission is offered on both front-wheel and all-wheel drive configurations.
Although we can’t comment on acceleration or fuel economy, Hyundai promised everything else would be exactly the same when the Palisade goes on sale in North America. Assuming that’s true, the suspension will be a bit on the firm side but well damped. Add an impressively insulated cabin and comfortable seats, and you get a quiet, refined ride that encourages long road trips.
In an attempt to further encourage family adventures, the Hyundai has six drive modes. Most people will probably stick to Comfort or Sport, but there’s also an Eco setting to maximize fuel economy. The Sand, Mud, and Snow modes, on the other hand, offer a little extra help on less-than-ideal surfaces.
Even though it snowed heavily the first day of our drive, we never felt like traction was limited enough to require switching out of Comfort or Sport. In theory, we would have had a chance to test out Sand mode, but the organizers seriously underestimated how soft the beach would be when we showed up.
After only a few minutes of low-traction shenanigans, our drive partner got the Palisade stuck. Then the driver following behind us got stuck. Then another one. Hopping out to assess exactly how bad the situation was, our feet immediately sank several inches into the sand. No wonder the Palisade had gotten stuck. More speed and lower tire pressure would have probably helped, but even that might not have been enough. Thankfully, one of the few drivers who didn’t get stuck gave us a ride, saving us from a cold, damp, sandy hike back.
Considering how soft the beach was, we can’t really fault the Palisade. It’s a solid crossover that just got in a little over its head (or, rather, up to its axles). But the situation did serve as a good reminder that even soft-roading can quickly get out of hand if you aren’t careful. Also, it never hurts to carry a set of Maxtrax and a tow strap.
Somehow, though, we think mainstream buyers will forgive the Hyundai Palisade for not being immune to the laws of physics. Consumers are probably more concerned with how spacious and practical it is, as well as what kind of features they get for their money. We’ll need to find out about pricing and actually drive the North American version before we can say for sure, but based on our initial impressions, the 2020 Hyundai Palisade delivers a well-rounded package that families will love.
For 2019, the Santa Fe is all new, marking the beginning of the mid-size crossover’s fourth generation. The styling is a big departure from the 2018 model, there’s a new 8-speed transmission plus it’s longer, wider and has a longer wheelbase than the outgoing model.
Mid-size it may be, but up front, the Santa Fe (base MSRP: $28,999) feels a lot larger than that. The 65mm longer wheelbase has made for more legroom up front and in back, as well as more room to store your wares in the cargo area – you get a total of 1,016 litres behind the rear seats, and 2,019 L if you fold the 2nd row flat. It’s helped by the segmented underfloor storage, each segment large enough to store a 4-litre jug of milk (but more likely used to store wet items).
A quick note: while this ’19 Santa Fe replaces last year’s Santa Fe Sport model – it’s just “Santa Fe” now — the three-row Santa Fe XL returns unchanged for 2019. Look for an all-new three-row Hyundai in the none-too-distant future.
Up front, the driver’s position will be a boon for shorter drivers, as it is quite high no matter how much you drop that seat. The headliner was a little close for me and my 6’3” frame, but my guess is I’m in the minority when it comes to most drivers. I also can’t help but question the logic of titling the steering wheel away from the driver as much as Hyundai has, but my drive partner – who was smaller than me – said she felt it was just right, so there you have it.
The longer wheelbase also provides a more elegant look to the car from the outside, an effect augmented by some nice creases on the doors and around the fenders, as well as a sharp beltline crease that makes the last car look somewhat slab-sided. The wheels, meanwhile, feature all-new designs that now go all the way up to 19 inches.
Up front, the addition of a new honeycomb grille and LED DRLs (plus optional LED headlights – they’re halogen otherwise) is shared with the recently-released Kona. On the smaller Kona, it looks sporty, but here it looks a mite more imposing. The DRLs are also a bit of an optical illusion; like the previous Jeep Cherokee, the lights mounted atop the grille are the DRLs, with the headlights appearing below those. While they are borrowed from said Jeep, they look a little less alien here, whether because it’s not as avant-garde now as it was on the Jeep back then, or because they’re a little more restrained.
The rear fascia also gets its share of panel creases and detailing to class it up a little, but the real highlight are the 3D taillights; they’re low-profile, and do a good job of looking somewhat BMW X3-esque, which is no bad thing. They are the focal point of the whole tailgate area, making for a very modern look overall. Too bad that like the headlights, the LED taillights only come on the top trim.
Inside, it’s an elegant place overall, but one that gets a few nice highlights here and there to spice things up a little.
The materials used are all top-quality, and whether in one of the two-tone or more monochromatic colourways, the feeling is one of richness and elegance. As you let your eyes drift across the dash, nice stuff like contrast-colour stitching, aluminum dial bezels and vent surrounds remind that you’re in a properly modern crossover. There is a plastic panel around the door pulls and glovebox that is a little too present, but it’s not a huge knock against the interior as a whole.
Plus, if saving money there meant Hyundai could still install the enormous full-length panoramic sunroof on the Luxury model and keep it below 42 grand, then I’m all for it. I assume it also allowed them to cover the headliner and roof pillars in swathes of a fantastic, soft, almost tweed- or houndstooth-like cloth. It’s incredibly upper class, calling to mind a great overcoat or canvas shoulder bag. Leather tends to be the material used to add luxury to a car in this manner, but this is an alternative I’m glad they’ve considered. If you select either of the two bottom trims that don’t come standard with leather, you get an all-new cloth treatment that provides two different cloth types.
It would have been nice to see some of the material used for the higher-spec models’ headliners used on the seats, too, but what we do get is a nice departure from the norm. The goal was to ensure that even at base, the Santa Fe was not a “basic” car.
At the same time, Hyundai has managed to keep things nice and simple when it comes to the controls. At the outset of our drive, I sat in the car and realized that the seat cooler was on. A quick glance at the centre stack revealed the button required to turn it off; no muss, no fuss. The buttons are all easily reachable, and big enough to be seen with just a glance through the corner of your eye.
Feature-wise, the base Essential trim (priced starting at $28,999, it joins three others that reflect Hyundai’s new trim nomenclature: Preferred — $35,099, Luxury — $41,899 and Ultimate — $44,999) comes well-equipped with heated steering wheel, heated front seats, and 7” LCD touchscreen display with Android Auto and Apple Carplay compatibility. Meanwhile, the $1,200 SmartSense safety package adds lane keep assist, forward collision assist with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams.
That’s not bad for a base model, though it’s too bad a blind-spot system isn’t part of the deal. You need to step up a trim for that as well as 18” wheels, dual-zone climate control, and power driver’s seat. Luxury trim adds cooled front seats, leather seating and around view parking monitor while the top Ultimate trim adds an 8” display, Infinity 12-speaker audio and heads-up display.
It’s the tier 2 “Preferred” trim however, that adds the crown jewel to the Santa Fe’s new safety features: Safe Exit Assist. Essentially, for 10 minutes after you’ve parallel parked, the system watches for traffic around the car. If an overzealous child decides they want to fling open the door into the path of that oncoming bus, the system will not let it happen.
The tech goes hand-in-hand with a rear occupant warning that first reminds you to check the back seat, then sends a message to the Hyundai Bluelink app if you happen to leave a pet or child back there. That app also allows for remote start with climate control activation, remotes access, find my car, and more. You get a five-year in-car data plan with your purchase.
Two engines, but you’ll probably want the turbo
Base models come equipped with a 2.4L four-cylinder, good for 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque fed to the front wheels only. Hyundai estimates that only about 20% of buyers will opt for that option; the rest, they say, will be going for the 235 hp, 260 lb-ft turbo four-cylinder and AWD. The turbo is a $2,000 option on the second-tier Preferred package, and standard on the other two trims.
It’s a peppy little plant, especially at speed as it works well with the new 8-speed automatic transmission (no dual-clutch set-up or paddle shifters, though) to provide good in-gear acceleration for highway passing manoeuvres and so forth. It takes a little while to get going from stop – though it’s lither than previous, the Santa Fe Ultimate AWD still remains a 1,853 kg vehicle – but it’s not pretending to be a sports car, so if it allows you to pass with confidence, then it’s achieved its goal of being a safe, insulating family crossover.
“Safe” and “insulating”; that’s about right. The one detail I kept coming back to throughout my drive was just how quiet, smooth and solid the Santa Fe felt. Measures have been taken to reduce drag for ’19, and with drag reduction comes less wind noise, too.
Of course, wind and road noise is one thing when it comes to ride comfort, but you want to make sure you don’t forget about the necessary chassis tweaks. Obviously, Hyundai hasn’t as the Santa Fe rides as its luxuriously-appointed interior suggests it should. Big road divots and concrete sags were swallowed up with confidence-inspiring gumption, and while you will encounter body roll as the turns get more severe, I have feeling that even the more queasy amongst us will be just fine.
I guess I could say that I wish there was a little less bounce from the rear end; I tried adjusting the drive modes (there are three: comfort, smart and sport) but alas, they are on-hand to modify the powertrain and AWD system only. A more heavily-laden Santa Fe may be better equipped to keep things in check but overall, it’s excellent when it comes to comfortable motoring.
As far as what the drive modes do change: yes, throttle and transmission response are shortened or lengthened depending, but the real change comes to the AWD system; in “Sport” mode, for example, up to 50% of power can be sent to the rear – this is the only mode of the three that allows this. In normal driving, meanwhile, activate “Smart” mode to get 100% of the power sent to the front wheels, for better fuel economy. It all works a treat; On paved bends, you can feel the car rotate through while on the gravel roads we sampled, the ride was controlled and predictable.
On the money
That’s all well and good, but I come back once again to just how well the Santa Fe rides. Having sampled the previous-gen vehicle (and the one before it), I wasn’t expecting that kind of isolation, luxury, and tranquility from the Santa Fe. From the styling, to the ride, to the powertrain, this is a well-rounded, road-trip-worthy crossover that ticks a ton of boxes. Well-executed, Hyundai. Well-executed, indeed.