Stick Shift: 2018 Hyundai Kona

The 2018 Hyundai Kona features small crossover proportions and plenty of quirky styling. Anyone in the market for one should strongly consider the Ultimate AWD model, as it steps everything up in an especially big way. It adds leather upholstery and trim, big 18” alloy wheels, a sunroof and much more. Most importantly though, a peppy 4-cylinder turbo engine that churns out 175 hp and nearly 200 lb ft of torque. Everything is bolted to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission that helps keep things just interesting enough. Steering is crisp and responsive, with excellent feedback, a nimble suspension and playful chassis that’s eager to be thrown around. 

In addition to leather power seats, the interior successfully straddles plenty of fun and flair. Bright neon yellow interior accents are peppered throughout the cabin. Landing around the leather wrapped shift knob, air vents and outlining the seats. Though there’s plenty of plastic to be found, Hyundai makes good use of different sheens and textures to keep it visually interesting. The front seats offer more leg and head room than one would initially expect to find, though the back seats are exactly as tight as you’d guess they’d be. A slick little glass tile raises up behind the steering wheel to display your speed, lane-keeping assists and other basic information. 

Little surprises like the playful trim colors and glass display that raises and lowers by mechanized magic help set the Hyundai Kona apart from the competition. Unfortunately, a sporty suspension and low ride height create a bumpy, sometimes uncomfortable ride. Road and wind noise at highway speeds can make casual conversation a challenge as well, a discovery that can be hard to get around.  

A big, colorful 8-inch display with navigation and back-up camera comes smartphone ready and is easy enough to operate. Most impressive though was the long list of driving aides and safety features you’ll find in the Hyundai Kona. In the technology department, saying the Kona is well-equipped is an understatement. LED headlights come with high-beam assist. There’s blind spot monitoring with lane-change assist, driver attention warning, lane-keeping assist, pedestrian detection, collision avoidance and more. Combine so much safety, playful design elements, sporty driving characteristics and a new vehicle warranty that’s hard to beat, and the new Kona might just be the perfect fit for a first car. If not that, than certainly a great option for any young person needing something with enough personality, performance and dependability to make you feel safe and keep you from getting bored.

Price as tested: $29,805.00

By: Brandon Randall 

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