Small, all-wheel-drive crossovers leave really big tire- prints when they crunch through mile after mile of ice slicker than the paint on a $500,000 Rolls-Royce.
Thank you, Hyundai Kona, because we all know how Texans drive on a dusting of sleet, much less ice and snow and single-digit temperatures that should really be kept in Pittsburgh and Boston and Chicago.
Believe me: I’ll take five 100-degree days in exchange for not having to shiver and shake through one subfreezing day.
Keep the snow for Christmas cards, I say.
The 2021 Kona I was fortunate enough to have last week, though, rolled through the Arctic muck and mess with little more than a thick coat of road grime.
It never once left me stranded – which is more than I can say for some of the women I’ve dated.
As some of you probably know – and I had to Google it – Kona is a southwesterly winter wind in Hawaii that is often strong and brings rain. Sounds about right.
The Kona subcompact crossover, however, will also make you smile on a 72-degree day.
The dark-gray Limited model I had came equipped with an impressive turbocharged 1.6-liter four, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and all-wheel drive.
Though lacking a bit in cargo space – like most small crossovers – the Kona exuded utility, particularly as the ice piled up.
Granted, the front-end is slightly strange, peering at the world with squinty, slender headlamps that flank a familiar hexagon-shaped Hyundai grille.
Beneath those lights, tucked into a cubby of sorts, was a second light that kind of gave the Kona a vaguely prehistoric-fish look.
Fortunately, the crisp sides flashed a lot of style with short, athletic overhangs front and rear, flared fenders and taut sculpting.
Adding to its flash were nice-looking multi-spoked 18-inch wheels wrapped with 235/45 tires.
Typically, I don’t think “sporty” when I see a subcompact or compact crossover, which are generally based on small-car platforms and look like something that belongs on a college campus.
My Kona, though, packed the optional 175-horsepower turbo-four similar to the engine in Hyundai’s Veloster compact car, performing even better than the quirky Veloster, I thought.
Smooth and torquey, the Kona felt more lively and spirited than I had expected, able to sprint to 60 mph in an impressive 6 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
It also can ring up overall fuel economy of 27 miles per gallon.
Unlike some dual-clutch transmissions, the Kona’s seven-speed was generally smooth and quick to keep up with the engine.
Even more surprising was the 3,000-pound Kona’s handling. I mean, small vehicles ought to get good fuel economy. But handle pretty nicely as well?
The little crossover turned into corners a lot more eagerly than I had anticipated, attacking them pretty flatly with fine grip and balance.
(Incidentally, I did the antisocial stuff before the awful front from Canada insisted on paying us a visit.)
While the Kona was sure-footed and sporty, its ride was a tad firm. However, the little vehicle had pretty good compliance in its dampers, so bounce was minimal.
My only complaint about the Hyundai’s driving dynamics was its numb steering – an irritant I’ve dealt with in multiple late-model vehicles.
The plastic-heavy black interior in my Kona could have added a few more clouds to my day. But thanks to some flair by Hyundai designers, it looked better than you might expect in a $29,000 vehicle.
A sculpted upper dashboard, for example, rolled down to a mid-dash covered in a textured black plastic that offered a subtle contrast to the upper dash.
Meanwhile, a seven-inch touchscreen rose from the mid-dash, smartly providing knobs for tuning the stereo.
Somewhere in all that stuff behind the dash were safety features such as collision-avoidance, lane-keeping assist and blind-spot warning.
The system also included Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Though the interior suffered some from all its plastic, it looked and felt like pretty good plastic.
The door-tops, for instance, were stitched in the same textured material as the mid-dash, while the vehicle’s firm bucket seats sported smooth bolsters and perforated centers.
As you might expect in a compact or subcompact crossover – and I have found the Kona listed as both on the Inner Tube, er, Internet – cargo space was a smallish 19 cubic feet.
In addition, the head- and leg-room in back were limited, but still mostly adult friendly.
Come to think of it, I might say the same thing about the over-achieving Kona.
2021 Hyundai Kona Limited AWD Review
- What I liked most: The Kona’s slightly strange but entirely fresh styling and its eager turbo-four engine.
- What I would change: Not much.
- MSRP: Base price, $27.600; as equipped, $28,895.
- Official color: Thunder Gray.
- Fuel economy: 26 miles per gallon in town, 29 on the highway and 27 combined with fuel filler on the left.
- Odometer reading when tested: 4,286 miles.
- Spare tire: None – air pump.
- Weight: 3,072 pounds.
- Length-width-height: 164 inches long/70.9 inches wide/61 inches tall.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 13.2 gallons.
- Towing capacity: Not applicable.
- 2021 Hyundai Kona in a few words: A compact crossover that even full-sized adults can like and appreciate.
- Warranty: Five-year, 60,000-mile overall warranty and 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain protection.
- Final assembly location: Ulsan, Korea.
- Manufacturer’s website: www.hyundaiusa.com
- Up next: 2021 Genesis G80 3.5 Turbo