2018 Hyundai Kona First Drive from

Automakers are rushing to poke as many holes in the crossover dam as possible so they can drain the seemingly endless pent-up consumer demand for all-wheel drive haulers straight into their respective corporate coffers. The 2018 Hyundai Kona might not be the biggest bucket in which to catch the current crossover zeitgeist, but subcompact SUVs like this latest Korean effort are siphoning off substantial heat from the sedan and hatchback segments, making them far more important than their diminutive stature might suggest.

The Hyundai Kona feels the burn a little more than most of its subcompact rivals because, like the Toyota CH-R, it’s a bit late to the party. Set to arrive at dealerships during the first quarter of 2018, the Kona has some catching up to do. Fortunately I was able to make the trip to Hyundai’s Namyang research and development facility in Namyang, South Korea to get a head-start behind the wheel of this upcoming up-and-coming sport-utility.

All the right ingredients
On paper, everything looks good: the Kona boasts a pair of four-cylinder engines, two transmission options, available all-wheel drive and a starting price predicted to hover just over the $20,000 mark. In person, the crossover makes an even stronger first impression thanks to its shark-eyed, big-grille forward styling, flowing profile and chunky rear.

Despite the fact that those descriptors sound like they might be incongruous when taken all together, the Kona’s design brief is cohesive and appealing, and represents one of the few times when plastic body cladding actually adds to, rather than subtracts from, the visual equation. Credit goes to Hyundai for its ability to match the mouldings to the cuts and curves in the crossover’s sheet metal, particularly on the doors as well as the rear taillight housings.