As I write this, I’m sipping my third cup of Kroger-branded “Breakfast Blend” coffee, brewed via a cheap Mr. Coffee maker. It’s nobody’s first choice in gourmet coffee. But, mixed with a bit of almond milk (my lactose intolerance seems to be aggravated by hot bean water) and I’ve an acceptable cuppa joe that gets me going each morning. Sure, I could run out to Starbucks, Dunkin, or Tim Horton’s for something a little bit better, or drive a few miles for something truly special, but it’s hard to justify the time and expenditure for my daily dose of industrial-strength caffeination. I don’t even bother with grinding fresh beans or investing in a pour-over Chemex setup, because that’s too much effort and thought before I’ve had my first cup.
For those in the know, the area around Kona on the west coast of the big island of Hawaii is a major coffee producer, and some of the best beans in the world are grown there – though, if I’m being snobby, I generally prefer Sumatran coffees.
The 2024 Hyundai Kona N-Line isn’t the Kona or Jamaican Blue Mountain bean of the subcompact crossover world. Neither is it that disgusting, seemingly already-digested sludge that comes from the automated coffee maker that seems to inhabit every hospital waiting room everywhere. It’s not special. Nobody is going to be lined up at the dealership to be the first to own one of these. But it gets you where you need to go without effort or complaint, just like a store blend brew.
Ok, let’s dispense with metaphor for a bit. The 2024 Hyundai Kona is a redesigned subcompact crossover that seems at once familiar and new. This segment has grown significantly since the totally weird Nissan Juke appeared over a decade ago, with plenty of competition appearing quite recently. In all honesty, I hesitate to recommend any such wee crossover when a similarly-sized subcompact car exists, simply as the general utility of the car is virtually identical and the resulting fuel economy is markedly better. Twenty-six mpg combined in this Kona is a bit disappointing when an Elantra with similar interior space can manage 34 mpg. And the prices are generally lower for a car, too.
But buyers want the perceived utility of a crossover, whether they check the box for all-wheel drive or not. So we push on with these tall hatchbacks, and it’s hard to argue against the Kona, especially when fitted with the optional 190 horsepower, 1.6-liter turbo in this N-Line model. I’d have to imagine that the 147 hp two-liter with the CVT in the base SE and SEL trims is pretty dull to drive, but the eight-speed automatic here snaps off downshifts seamlessly. It’s not a corner carving machine, but there’s enough under the hood to get this 3,483-pound Kona moving well enough to sprint ahead at an on-ramp when needed.
Ride quality seems improved over the last Kona I drove, now that the wheelbase has been extended a bit. I shall ever be dismayed at how oversized wheels and the accompanying low-profile tires have metastasized throughout the entire industry, as I prefer a bit of sidewall to aid in the cushioning against pothole impact in the streets that remain pockmarked by weather damage and lack of infrastructure investment, but beyond a touch of harshness in those extremes the Kona is a pleasant-enough driving companion.
Hyundai still hasn’t quite caught up to the rest of the industry, as smartphone connectivity still requires cables for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Most of the competition has gone wireless. But the 12.3-inch touchscreen remains one of the nicest around, with clear displays and snappy response. The center console has been opened up a bit by the relocation of the shift selector to the column, so you can readily stow more crap alongside your morning brew in the cupholder. Seat comfort front and rear will be plenty for most, though I found a lack of lower leg support annoying at times. I’m at the extreme of human anatomy, however, so it may be perfectly comfortable for you.
Styling is exactly what you’d expect from the segment – mostly anonymous with a touch of the anodyne. I kinda dig the full-width front lightbar – someone in Hyundai’s design department truly loved the Mercury Sable, I’m sure, and adapted their work to the modern LED age. Thankfully, in this N-Line trim, there is virtually no black plastic cladding surrounding the wheel wells. In lesser trims, it’s quite heavily applied, but here the styling looks reasonably tame.
Time to brew another pot. There’s a reason Maxwell House and Folgers continue to succeed despite the proliferation of more elite options both on the store shelves and in shops. Sometimes comfortable and familiar are all you need, and in times like that something that doesn’t challenge the palate like the 2024 Hyundai Kona can be the best part of waking up.
[Images: © 2023 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars]
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