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Is this the best new commuter car?
Hyundai Kona
By: Ricardo   |  Email:

Since 1729, Baltimore has been a port and shipping center. In addition to very significant and historical places within its city limits, it has been an industrial area since its beginning. The port opens to the Atlantic Ocean through the Chesapeake Bay. Today is also a significant automobile shipping point.

All this industrial activity and its proximity to Washington, D.C. makes for a busy commute in all directions over numerous county roads, bridges, and old cobblestone streets. The Hyundai Group picked this busy spot to introduce the all-new Hyundai Kona. This compact SUV offers connectivity, safety, and better overall performance than the American and Japanese makers in the automotive segment.

Today, about seventy percent of the auto sales are of some SUV type. These vehicles offer more interior space and have become the family-type car of preference. The Kona is the perfect size for most average American families (3.13 people), offering a larger second seat-row space and bigger trunk space than the previous model and its competitors.

With a total length of about fourteen feet, it is maneuverable around town and tight city spaces. The improvements are primarily within its interior space.

I had the chance to ask the lead designer, Kevin Keng, about the goals set for the new look and their target customer. I learned that the California design team was instrumental in creating an expressive exterior that retains the parametric "Z" (a line that you can see forming between the front wheel arch and the rear of the car) and incorporates a "pixel" language that it's a feature in the electric Hyundai IONIQ 5. A row of small squares along the front and rear of the car suggests the pixels that create the images in our computers. I like the sleek new front fascia that minimizes the front grille space and gives the vehicle a clean look. Since the Kona is available with a combustion or electric motor, the "pixel touch" tells us about the transition to new technology on wheels.

This Hyundai Kona is best appreciated for its interior ambiance. The open space and light-colored interior create an atmosphere of tranquility. The shifter has moved behind the steering wheel, and the center console sits further down, removing the busyness to the eyes. Additional touch knobs support the double 12" digital screens to get access to most infotainment functions. I appreciate this because the touch-screen-only version found on other cars requires you to take your eyes off the road. Nothing is better than a finger sensing a nearby switch to get what you need on the digital screen. The general interior layout is quite simple but well done. The rear seat has an almost all-across flat surface reminiscent of a modern sofa. The trunk space is a few inches larger for more capacity. The engineers stretched the distance between the front and rear car axles to increase interior space. The designer mentioned having more "human space," and they achieved that. 

This Kona is available with multiple power trains to appeal to consumer needs. There is an EV (Electric Vehicle) and two gasoline engine options. A hybrid version is currently available in Europe, so it should make its way to the United States soon. The EV uses the 400DC quick charge architecture, similar to the IONIQ 5 & 6, with an 11 KWhr on-board charger. You can select a 48KW / 133 HP version capable of 200 miles of range or go with the extended range model (261 miles) that uses a more robust 64 KWhr motor. If an all-electric car is not for you, Kona offers a 2.0L four-cylinder gasoline motor powered by a CVT single-gear transmission. I enjoy this version the most as it is quiet and smooth at any speed. Hyundai has a 1.6 Turbo four-cylinder motor with almost two hundred horsepower (190 HP) for more power. This engine connects with an eight-speed transmission, and it's a bit quicker to react to a full-throttle demand. Since this is no sportscar but a family or commuting vehicle, I suggest the bigger 2.0 L motor for better overall performance.

I had the opportunity to drive all three versions on Baltimore streets. My opinion of the gasoline version is that on the road, you immediately notice that this is quieter than the previous generation and its competitors. The reasons are the hydro-filled engine mounts, the new padding under the floor of the car, and the new Kumho tires that incorporate a foam pad inside the tire itself. The steering, which is electronically controlled, is very responsive, and it is hard to believe that there are so many components to make it work. I noticed that the 1.6L turbo version keeps the transmission working hard, searching for the right gear to offer more power push. There are 2WD (Wheel Drive) and All-WD. Depending on the weather where you live, the All-WD is a better option for rain or snowy conditions.

The EV, as I expected, feels the more powerful of the three versions, but only because of the instant power delivery from the electric motor. Like the previous generation, this EV exceeds the demands needed for daily commuting. If you can quickly and easily charge a car at home or work, the Kona electric is what all EV cars should be—a compact family car with a minimal emission footprint and affordability.  

The vehicle incorporates the Hyundai Smart Sense driving assistance system with many features to help mitigate a collision. An entire surrounding monitoring system comprised of sensors and cameras makes it almost impossible not to see what is around you at low speeds. The Kona can also park itself in tight spots.

Regarding connectivity, the system has more memory to handle a higher data flow. It can also update its software automatically to ensure that every car has the latest or revised updates for all systems to work seamlessly. I tried the Apple Car-Play and Android Auto, and it worked without hiccups once I understood the process. I like the real-time Goggle maps view that helps you visualize your surroundings. Between the apps and options, you can see that it has everything for you to continue doing whatever you do on your phone while you safely drive. 

The trim options are SE, SEL, N-Line, and Limited. The N-line offers premium interior, exclusive wheels, and exterior panels that change its presence. From $24,000 to $31,650, the SEL with the convenience package is the one I recommend. At around $27,000, you get all you need to take your family safely and in style around town.  

Is this the best new commuter car?
Hyundai Kona

By: Ricardo

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