Trucks and SUVs

Best Subcompact SUV: Hyundai Kona

The subcompact crossover segment is a hotly contested one, as buyers are flocking to the space, versatility, increased ride height, and availability of all-wheel drive that subcompact SUVs offer. Plenty of impressive new offerings and updated versions of popular models debuted this year, but the experts considered and evaluated every single vehicle in this segment to vote on the best, and it is the Hyundai Kona that impressed our judges the most.

The Kona was voted as the winner of the Best Subcompact SUV Award, besting the shortlisted Subaru Crosstrek, Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V, and Nissan Kicks. Those are all excellent vehicles, but the Kona is the most well-rounded of them all, excelling in nearly all of the criteria our judges use to vote on a winner.

For starters, the Kona is offered with two engines, and both are solid choices. The uplevel 175-hp 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine is a great motor and probably the best engine offered in the class. The base 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine isn’t bad either, but it puts out just 147 hp. While base motors can be had with front-wheel drive, the 1.6-litre engine gets all-wheel drive, which is a must-have for many Canadians. This makes the Kona more capable than other subcompacts like the Toyota C-HR and Nissan Kicks, which are both only available with front-wheel drive. The turbocharged model also uses a quick-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, a unique and high-end feature for a class of vehicle that is typically low-cost and equipped with budgets in mind.

And though the Kona is priced to be budget-friendly, it doesn’t skimp on the features, something our judges weigh heavily in this class. Some notable features in the Kona are USB ports, a head-up display, and a user-friendly infotainment system that supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. There is even an option to spruce up the interior with colour-matching accents, a small detail that makes the Kona feel far more interesting and stylish than the rest of the segment.

Thee Kona’s list of driver’s assistance and safety features is also impressive. The Kona offers lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, high-beam assist, and a driver attention warning system. While not all of that is standard, it’s a pretty impressive list of features for a car this small and affordable.

Although it’s described as a subcompact, the Kona is also spacious with 544 litres of space with the rear seats in place. Fold them down and that expands to a total of 1,296 litres. The rear seats are a bit cramped, and maybe not ideal for grownups, but kids will fit comfortably.

With a starting price of $21,199, the affordable Kona is a great value. Models with the turbocharged 1.6-litre engine and AWD start at $26,799, so the Kona definitely has value on its lists of pros. It’s pretty efficient, too, earning 9.0 litres per 100 km in city driving, 8.0 litres per 100 km on the highway, and 8.6 litres per 100 km in combined driving situations.

But what makes the Kona really stand out from its peers is how it feels on the road. Many cars in this segment can feel unrefined and unengaging, but the Kona flips those expectations around. It feels sporty with a responsive chassis and quick steering. The Kona is surprisingly fun to drive and even more so if you have the model with the upgraded engine.

Finally, the Kona has unique styling. It’s a key part of Hyundai’s design philosophy to give each model its own personality and style, and you can see that with the Kona, which looks unlike any other Hyundai in the lineup. It has a wide grille that doesn’t look obnoxious and flanks it with some high-tech flair in the form of LEDs. Hyundai might have gone a bit overboard with the plastic body cladding, as the Kona won’t fool anyone into thinking its a rugged off-roader.

It’s clear with the Kona that Hyundai is putting a lot of effort into making sure its cars set new benchmarks for their segments, but our group of more than 20 automotive experts from across the country have agreed that the Kona is the best example of a subcompact crossover out there. Our experts considered 12 important criteria when voting for the Kona, including innovation, technology, performance, design, and more. When it comes to the subcompact segment, it excelled in pretty much every category, which is a pretty big win when you consider that the Kona is the brand’s first subcompact crossover. For Hyundai to knock it out of the park with its first try, that means next year’s competition should be even tougher.