2024 Hyundai Kona Limited AWD review by Ben Lewis

It seems like we often spend the Holidays in Kona. But donʻt get jelly, because itʻs the Hyundai Kona, the companyʻs cheerful small crossover/SUV. Actually with an all-new model for 2024, maybe a little envy is due. So is the new model a little slice of paradise? Letʻs find out.

Bigger, Bolder and Electric

The first clue that things have changed is the massively different exterior design.

 Hyundai says that while the previous model started as an ICE (internal combustion engine) that migrated to an EV, for the new model, they started with the EV look, and then applied that to non-EV models.

You see that right away from the front, with a seamless LED light that spans across the width, with the actual headlamps sitting low and to the sides in chevron-shaped panels. While there is a large lower grille, the look is very simple, and reminds us of the previous Kona Electric model we tested.

The profile really hits home with larger dimensions, being nearly 6 inches longer, a full inch wider, and riding on a 2.3-inch longer wheelbase. It also looks more aggressive than before, the blacked-out wheel arches reach further across the body, while the roof line and the body pinch together at the D-pillar for a seriously racy effect. And giving the Kona some real on-and off-road cred are gorgeous 19-inch “throwing star” wheels.

The rear echoes the front with a sweeping LED taillight that goes the entire width, with K O N A spelled out beneath in big block letters – giving a very modern and upscale look. The rear taillights wrap around, mimicking the front, and it’s the one part that we didn’t love – they just look a little clunky to our eyes.

There’s nothing clunky about the Cyber Gray Metallic paint job – following the trend of “cement” pastels, it looks modern and fresh.


Welcome to Apple

Open the door of the new Kona and you’ll feel like you just entered your favorite Apple Store at the mall.

In our tester, that’s reinforced by multiple hues of gray that are tastefully matched to look elegant. What immediately catches your eye are the dual 12.-3 display screen that sweeps across the driver’s view. On left is an adjustable gauge display, and like other Hyundai and Kia models it does neat stuff like turning the gauge face into a camera display when you’ve signaled for a turn.

It’s a beautiful display, and it looks like it belongs in something much more expensive like an Audi or BMW. It’s a big improvement over the standing “tablet” display in the previous mode.

A couple of interesting things include a stylish steering wheel, that has no brand markings, just a slim horizontal line that echoes the digital light patterns on the exterior. Maybe that’s the branding for Hyundai EV’s?

Also, where the previous model had a traditional shift lever in the center console, the new model has a new shift-by-wire lever that sprouts out of the dash behind the steering wheel. And to access the gears, you’ll twist the knob forward for drive, and counterclockwise for reverse. In the week we had our Kona, we never really got used to it.

Part of the problem is the drive mode controller that sits on the center console ahead of the cupholders. OK, we’re like Pavlov’s dogs here, but we’re used to grabbing something in the center console to change gears, so your natural tendency is not the one that works here. Harumph, we say.

Well, you can certainly harumph in comfort, as the new Kona’s larger interior feels spacious, and the rear seat gives plenty of room for full-size adults. Hyundai made the front seats 30% slimmer to maximize rear legroom, and it’s noticeable. The rear seats recline for added comfort.

Loading cargo is easy, thanks to our tester’s power rear hatch –very luxurious! And the larger size pays off dividends with plenty of cargo space with the rear seats up and loads of room with the rear seats folded forward.

Along with the great design, you’re constantly impressed by the luxury content. Our Limited tester had all the goodies, including dual-zone climate control, surround view monitor, remote smart parking assist, LED interior lighting, Bose premium audio, wireless phone charger, navigation, wi-fi hot spot, and more. This is not an expensive car, but you feel absolutely spoiled!

All This and Turbo, too.

Driving the Kona reinforces the grown-up looks of the exterior and interior.  

Under the hood will be familiar to those who knew the previous model. There’s a base 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder putting out 147 horsepower. The hot tip in our minds is the 1.6-liter, turbo 4-cylinder pumping out a strong 190 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft of torque at just 1,700 rpm.

One big change in the turbo model is going away from the previous 7-speed direct sequential transmission for a more traditional 8-speed automatic. For enthusiasts, this is a bit of loss, the old DCT really snapped off shifts and combined with the turbo was fun, fun, fun.

We’ll admit the new 8-speed automatic is smoother, and fuel economy is probably better as well, but it’s the change in personality that will probably please most buyers, but not for us gearheads. Acceleration is still strong; the engine loves to pull, and it sounds great.  And in Sport mode the shifts are quick. Efficiency is also strong, especially for a turbo engine with a combined 26 mpg.

Handling takes an equal step towards refinement and away from fun. The Kona with AWD like our tester enjoys a multi-link rear suspension, and along with the longer wheelbase it provides an impressively smooth ride, and it feels just as home on the freeway as it does on tight city streets.

The overall small size means the Kona is fun to zip around and it’s super easy to grab a tight parking space. Steering feel is good, and the brake pedal has a reassuring heft. It’s a nice drive. That said, it is missing the sports car attitude, the tossability that made it a great choice for enthusiasts who needed a small crossover/SUV.

You might miss a little of the old model’s rascal attitude, but you won’t feel left out in the driver assist department, with standard goodies including Forward Collision Avoidance, Lane Keeping and Following assist, and Adaptive Cruise Control. Our tester showed how impressively you can equip a Kona, with Blind Spot Monitor and Warning, Rear Cross Traffic avoidance and alert, Rear Occupant Alert and Safe Exit Warning on board.

But there’s more! Our tester also had Surround View Monitor and Remote Smart Parking Assist, which lets you move the vehicle backward or forward out of various parking scenarios – even if you’re outside of the vehicle. Handy in tight parking spots. We have to say how impressive this level of content is – a couple years ago, this was the kind of stuff you’d find in Hyundai’s Genesis Luxury brand, but on the affordable Kona, it’s a revelation!

Grown Up Looks Grown Up Price?

There’s good new here, as the Kona remains a budget friendly choice.

The lineup starts with the Kona SE at just $24,100. With a 12.3-touchscreen display, wireless Apple CarPlay, a full load of safety equipment, modern looks and that elegant interior, it’s a bargain.

Our Limited AWD model is the top of the line (in non-EV models) and comes with everything you could ever imagine starting at $33,150. Add carpeted floor mats ($210), and $1,335 for Destination and we rang the bell at $34,695. Still impressive value.

Competitors would include the stylish Mazda CX-30, which has even more power, and is a sportier drive, but it’s also a step up in price at $37,405. We’d also look at the Kona’s sibling Kia Niro, which got a refresh last year. Comparably equipped, it comes in at $36,565 but you do get the added efficiency of the Kia’s hybrid powertrain.

All in all, the Kona’s grown up a bit, and for the majority of buyers, it’s a big win.  

With great looks inside and out, and a smooth and powerful turbo engine, the all-new 2024 Hyundai Kona remains one of our favorite small SUVs – and a little slice of paradise!






Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.

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