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2019 Hyundai Kona SEL AWD – It’s Not Electric and That’s OK

2019 Hyundai Kona SEL AWD – It’s Not Electric and That’s OK

During the week I drove this car, I had a lot of questions about Konas. Not this Kona, the electric ones. “Hey, how far does that thing go on a charge?” “Hey, how long does it take to top up the batteries?” “HAY, WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE THE FUTURE AND SAVE THE PLANET?” I disappointed everyone, saying “I dunno it runs on dinosaur guts.” At which point they lost interest in the little Hyundai. But just because it’s a gas-burner does it deserve to be ignored?



Of course not. The plucky little Kona may not be remarkably beautiful, fast or extraordinary in any way, but it is good and it is cheap.  From the outside, the Kona could be almost any other crossover. It doesn’t help that it’s coated in Forget-Me White paint. There’s a CUV shaped hole in the market and just about every manufacturer has a four-wheeled peg to fit. This is Hyundai’s peg, and it’s pretty darn good.


It has slits for headlights that look like they’re borrowed from a Jeep Cherokee circa 2014. They’re reminicent of the look my older sister gave me when I decapitated her Barbies (sorry Chrystal). The taillights are equally grumpy. There’s black plastic body cladding over the wheel wells and along the rockers. Some may find this unsightly, but it’s dead practical. Shopping carts can bag into it at the store and it won’t chip like a painted fender.


Hyundai designers fell prey to the current trend of floating rooflines, but it’s easily one of the more tasteful examples. 17inch alloy wheels offer a quality look to the Kona and are standard equipment. Overall, it looks frisky, like it’s ready to play. It’s not a serious off-roader and it’s not trying to look like one.



The Kona’s seats are wrapped in black cloth with houndstooth inserts. This is just like a 1969 Camaro. That’s fun. Hyundai could easily have done black and grey to remind us that life is just a bleak and bitter landscape of pain and regrets pocked with shattered dreams and that we all ultimately die. But no, they went with something fun and funky! It also probably hides the inevitable Taco Bell stains.


This Kona was fitted with the Tech Package. That gives it eight-way power seats, a power sunroof, Infinity sound system, a shark fin antenna and Hyundai’s bluelink services. The touch screen interface is easy to navigate and easy to reach without leaning forward in your seat. The interior layout is somewhat spartan but it’s not uncomfortable. Forward collision avoidance and cross-traffic alert systems come standard. I like that there’s still a mechanical connection to the transmission and there’s an old fashion, yank-style, hand brake. The rear seats are roomy enough for adults and downright spacious for offspring.


Under the hood, beats a capable 2.0-liter four-banger. It uses the Atkinson cycle which is basically magic. Actually, it’s a modified Otto cycle that gives the pistons a bit of a running start on their way toward the cylinder head thus increasing fuel efficiency. That’s connected to a six-speed auto with drive mode selection. Nail it on an on-ramp and it complies and accelerates to highway speed without complaint. With a sub seven second 0-60 it’s not setting the world on fire, but it’s not a painfully slow drive either. Hyundai says we can expect 30mpg highway and 25 around town. These aren’t stunning numbers, but it’s still what I consider economical.


This little Kona comes with a ton of amenities standard. But even when you doll it up with the extras that this one has, the tech package and shark fin antenna, it’s still under $26,000. In 1969 money that’s only $3,700, or roughly the price of a brand new ’69 Camaro, and Camaros never came in AWD with Bluetooth connectivity. So there you have it, if you want an icon from the heart of the muscle car era, buy a Hyundai Kona.



2019 Hyundai Elantra Limited – To All The Elantras I’ve Loathed Before

2019 Hyundai Elantra Limited – To All The Elantras I’ve Loathed Before

First off, I like the new Elantra. It’s comfortable, economical and a good value. But each time I got behind the wheel I couldn’t help but slide into reveries about Elantras past. The first car review I ever wrote was for a 2016 Hyundai Elantra Value Edition. I had to go to a used car lot in Dallas to find an example. It wasn’t a press car, and my only experience behind the wheel of it was with a nervous young salesman in the passenger seat.

I got home to write the article and tried like hell. What came out was a 1,000-word goat-choker that included needless observations and a half-cocked confession about wanting to do very bad things in someone else’s car.

“Any time I find myself behind the wheel of a front-wheel-drive vehicle I’m not financially responsible for, I have to fight a bubbling urge to crank the wheel to one side, slip the gearbox into reverse, mash the brake and floorboard the accelerator. And when the brake pads begin groaning against the rotors, let off the brake and see if the car will do a shuddering, squealing and potentially smoky reverse-donut.  This is a holdover from my adolescence when I drove an ’89 Cadillac Sedan Deville that was particularly good at this maneuver (gravel enhanced the effect). There was a sick satisfaction in making the fat, classy four-door do something so uncouth.”

I went on to insult the humble fifth-generation Elantra’s looks too. I think “ghastly” was the chosen adjective. Anyway, while driving this latest Elantra, my mind wandered back scanning over previous exposure to the Elantra. I found that it may be the car with which I have the most experience.




Way back in high school, I dated a young lady who drove a solid black third generation Elantra. I remember very little about the car other than losing my nerve during a bout of heavy petting in the gray confines of the back seat. At the proposition of terminating my virginity, I suddenly became very timid. What can I say? I was green and shy.


On the other hand, the 2019 Elantra’s back seat seems much roomier and even has an armrest that folds down. Hyundai has also improved the way the rear seats lean forward for access to the trunk. The front seats are wrapped in leather and offer heat for frigid mornings.


An eight inch touch screen in the dash controls the stereo and nav system which features Apple Carplay and Android Auto. Ahead of the gear selector, there’s a little cubby hole that with a built-in QI wireless charging pad. This is standard equipment on these cars. It even charges phones without broken screens.





The year after graduating from high school I found myself in junior college studying auto-body refinishing. I’d parted ways with the girl with the black Elantra and started dating other girls and their cars. I was surprised one day when my Nokia brick began jangling and her number appeared on the screen. She heard I was repairing cars and hoped I could help her out.


Someone had “keyed” her car. I agreed to look at it and maybe fix it. I remember being led to the back of the car to assess the damage. There, in all caps, “WHORE,” was scratched deliberately and with gusto through the paint down to the steel. I was struck with how well it was spaced on the decklid. Someone took their time. I asked why it happened and she gave me a withering glance that suggested further inquiry was unwelcome. In the end, I sanded and painted the obscenity out of existence.


Unlike the poor Value Edition I picked on in my first published review, the 2019 Elantra looks fully modern and not at all ghastly. In fact, for an economical car, it looks great. Hard body lines, LED lights and 17 inch alloy wheels all contribute the what must be the best looking Elantra to date. And, unlike my ex’s Elantra, I couldn’t find the word whore anywhere on the 2019’s body.


Fast forward a few years and another black third-gen Elantra drove into my life. This one was operated by the woman who would become the mother of my son and my wife. It was absurdly worn for the number of miles on it. A nervous previous owner picked the rubber steering wheel down to the steel. The same nervous owner worried a hole in the carpet with their heel.


During our protracted courtship, we were visiting a friend’s house. When we returned to her car the driver’s door had been caved in by a hit and run. After that, the window in that door never worked the same. It wasn’t long after that the little car gave up its little Korean ghost on the roadside.


Unlike my wife’s sad Elantra, the 2019 Elantra did not break down during my test. In fact, the 147 horsepower two-liter hummed along without a hiccup. A smooth shifting six-speed automatic sends power to the wheels. This car is not what you would call fast, but the ride is comfortable and interior noise levels are low for a car in this class. Hyundai claims this car gets 37 mpg on the highway. That’s pretty good for a roomy gas burner like this one.


Loads of standard features and Hyundai’s excellent warranty makes this car a good value at its base price of $22,600. Even with the added cost of the $3,350 for the Ultimate Package upgrade, $26,960 feels like a good price point given the comfort and features. Consider the added cost as an investment for the driver and passengers. Just know that if you buy one of these for your daughter, she may be at risk of falling for an over-educated, self-indulgent, under-employed, automotive journalist.



2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Ultimate – Hyundai Heats Up Their Hatch

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Ultimate – Hyundai Heats Up Their Hatch

For 2019 Hyundai redesigned the Veloster with more horsepower for all trim levels and an optional turbo. The Turbo Ultimate offers a bevy of driver aids, conveniences, two-tone paint and a tasteful interior. But is it better than the previous generation Veloster?


In a word, yes. The new Veloster didn’t just get a facelift. Hyundai trimmed the fat to make the car lighter and treated it to a more sophisticated rear suspension setup.


For 2019, it looks like the Veloster hit the gym to get in fighting form. There’s nothing really drastic about the redesign. But all the little changes add up to a look that’s just a little more toned and chiseled than the first gen Veloster. Gone is the bubbly, curvy aesthetic in favor of harder edges. For example, the rear side windows use to swoop upward, now they sport hard geometric angles, like the square jaw of a boxer.

Where there was once a chunky arc protruding from the quarter panels and fenders, there’s now a leaner looking body line stamped into the sheet metal. 18-inch alloys spin under the wheel wells.


The headlights, which used to appear as though they were smeared back onto the fenders, have been curtailed. Now they are set in a determined countenance and peer forward on either side of the gaping fish-mouth grille. The Turbo Ultimate has little hints of red trim below the grille that subtly convey its forced induction powerplant. The rear end looks tidy with its dashing center-mounted dual exhaust outlets.




The high-bolstered front seats are heated. When combined with the low-slung ride, they make it tough to climb in and out. But that’s old-people talk, this car is for boy racers and college kids whose joints still work. For the Ultimate trim level, seats are treated to a racy red stripe set in creamy light-gray leather. The red stripe theme continues throughout the interior.

The Turbo Ultimate features blindspot monitoring, a heads-up display and forward collision avoidance. The 8-inch touch screen stereo/nav system pumps your jams through seven speakers and a subwoofer. It features Bluetooth connectivity and Apple Carplay as well as Android Auto. There’s a wireless charging pad in the console and an extra wide sunroof above it all to let in plenty of sunlight.


The rear seats are accessed by either scrambling in behind the front driver’s seat or by opening the rear singular rear door on the passenger side. Legroom in the rear is adequate, but headroom for taller passengers is compromised. The rear seats fold flat for an uninhibited cargo space from beneath the hatch to the back of the front seats.



The Veloster turbo has a 201 horsepower turbocharged 1.6 liter to thank for its peppy acceleration. Power is transferred to the front wheels through Hyundai’s excellent dual clutch, seven-speed automatic transmission that never failed to find the right gear in short order. From zero, the car can get to sixty miles per hour in just over six seconds. Which is not bad, but the corners is where this car really shines.



Engage Sport mode, and the steering goes from light to tight. The shift points are pushed further up toward the redline, and the little Hyundai is a pleasure to toss into the curves. It feels predictable and inspires confidence. Grip is good, and body roll is minimal. The drawback of such a rigid chassis and stiff suspension is a somewhat rough ride when the going gets bumpy.

The only issue encountered during this test was is a rattle in the sunroof assembly. But it’d probably be covered under Hyundai’s excellent warranty. The combined mileage is right at 30 miles per gallon, with 34 on the highway and 28 around town. Highway noise is noticeable, but not overwhelming.



The new Veloster is a quantifiably better than the previous generation almost any way you dice it. And the new Turbo variant seems to punch above its price tag, especially in the $23,000 R-spec. However, when dolled up in the Turbo Ultimate garb as tested, the price tag swells toward $29,000. That’s Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST money. Two comparable cars which have a little more elbow room.

The bottom line is that the two plus one door configuration could be seen as a bit of a compromise. And unless you just adore the Veloster’s quirky layout, and need the top spec turbo, the R-Spec or the plain turbo might be more bang for your buck. Of course, if you’re really committed to owning the baddest Veloster on the block, you’ll keep saving those pennies and nickels and shoot for the Veloster N… But that’s another story.