It is arguably the most difficult task for an automaker: Deliver a fun, functional interior in a vehicle priced less than $30,000, but the Hyundai Kona small CUV does just that and more to create a seismic event within the compact segment.

A 2018 Wards 10 Best Interiors winner, the all-new Kona Ultimate jazzes up an increasingly crowded and competitive segment where lots of look-alike product resides. WardsAuto judges were impressed by a lengthy list of advanced driver-assistance items, user-friendly controls and a wonderful infotainment gateway, although they kept returning to the little car’s heaping helping of pizzazz.

“Metal accents, steering wheel stitching that matches exterior color lends personality,” says WardsAuto editor Jim Irwin.

Editor and judge Christie Schweinsberg adds: “The Kona smashes the notion that a small-vehicle interior will be bland or have low-quality materials.”

The top-trim-line Kona tested by judges included bright lime seat piping and like-colored surrounds ringing the HVAC vents, gear shifter and push-button starter to give the interior some pop while also bringing inside the Lime Twist exterior. Strategically placed chrome trim pieces and soft metal on switchgear gives the interior an upscale look and again draws some of the exterior brightwork inside the cabin.

Eight-way power and heated leather seats with power lumbar support (driver’s side) are comfortable enough for an extended adventure, while matching stitch work to the steering wheel suggests a degree of craftsmanship.

In a day when cars increasingly are saving drivers from themselves, the Kona Ultimate delivers as standard equipment life-saving technology such as blindspot crash warning with lane-change assist; rear cross-traffic crash warning; forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection; lane-keep assist with driver-attention warning; and parking-distance warning while in reverse gear.


“A lot of ADAS for less than $30,000, including pedestrian detection and numerous forms of automatic emergency braking,” says editor Drew Winter.

The judges also enjoyed the Kona’s functionality. The 8-in. (20-cm) color touchscreen with navigation and rear-view monitor sits high on the dash to keep the driver’s eyes on the road, while its economical combination of buttons and knobs makes it intuitive and quick. A 4.2-in. (10.7-cm) LCD multi-information display with Bluetooth provides critical performance details and is bookended by easy-to-read analogue gauges.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard throughout the Kona line, while the model tested by WardsAuto judges included a rollicking 315-watt, 8-speaker Infiniti audio system.

A color head-up display is the largest in its segment, Hyundai claims, twice as bright as the competition, and can be reconfigured to monitor speed, navigation or active safety alerts. It also is projected onto the dash from a retractable screen, so if the windshield suffers damage replacement costs are lower.

Rear legroom is sufficient for second-row passengers, while the split-folding seats flip flat to easily slide gear in and out of the cargo area.

“Lots of comfort and convenience for the money,” concludes editor Bob Gritzinger.

The compact-CUV segment will only grow more crowded with time and automakers continue to raise the bar for interiors of value-oriented crossovers, but for now the Hyundai Kona easily establishes the benchmark.