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A sporty compact SUV, the 2021 Hyundai Kona is not only fun to drive, but it also won’t break the bank. In fact, the Hyundai Kona is one of the top sportiest SUVs under $30,000. It’s in good company with the Mazda CX-5 and the Honda CR-V taking the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively. And it also has some fun colors to choose from, including Surf Blue and Sunset Orange. Of course, the color of a car is not what makes it sporty, but the Kona definitely has other features that deliver on that sporty feel.

Sporty SUVs under $30,000

U.S. News recently put out a list of the 14 sportiest SUVs in 2021 that are also under $30,000, and in the No. 6 spot is the 2021 Hyundai Kona. The 2021 Kona beat out SUVs such as the GMC Acadia and the Toyota RAV4, as well as three Kias – the Soul, the Seltos, and the Sportage. The SUVs that were sportier than the Kona included three from Mazda, the CX-30, the CX-3, and the CX-5, which was number one.

A few things U.S. News noted as the Kona’s strengths include an upscale cabin and an infotainment system that is fairly straightforward. And the performance is an area where the Kona really shines, with a turbocharged engine that puts out more horsepower than SUVs of a similar size. The CX-3, for example, only puts out 148 hp from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with no option to upgrade, unlike the Kona.

The 2021 Hyundai Kona is sporty

A black Hyundai Motor Co. Kona electric vehicle stands on display with other vehicles at the company's Koncept Hyundai showroom
The Hyundai Kona | Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The engine in the 2021 Hyundai Kona is really a big part of what makes it sporty. It comes standard with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine which puts out 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque, similar to the CX-3; however, you can upgrade to a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which puts out 175 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. And the turbocharged engine does not add a ridiculous amount to the price, but it does increase the fun, and sporty, factor by quite a bit.

The Kona also has stiffer suspension which leads to great handling on corners, and the small size, at 13.7 feet long compared to the Elantra at 15.4 feet long, makes it quite maneuverable. The stiff suspension does make for a rougher ride, but most testers have said it is still very fun to drive.

But the 2022 Hyundai Kona N is even more sporty

If you really want an SUV that is even sportier, you might want to wait until the 2022 Hyundai Kona N is released. We recently wrote about this particular model and how it is ready to race. It has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 276 hp and has an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, all of which are reported to come standard on the base model.

It will also feature various performance driving modes, including the N Gtin Shift, the N Power Shift, and the N Track Sense Shift. Hyundai should also include some updates to the suspension to keep up with the extra sport factor. It may also have features to cut down on some road noise. Hyundai has not released any details on pricing, but it should be priced fairly close to $30,000.

If you are looking for a sporty SUV and are on a budget, the 2021 Hyundai Kona is a good choice. It is definitely worth it to upgrade to the turbocharged engine, and the price will stay under $30,000. But if you want the super sporty, ready-to-race SUV, you should wait for the 2022 model. 


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