First introduced in 2017 and 2013 respectively, the Hyundai Kona and the Subaru Crosstrek are both relatively recent additions to the subcompact crossover SUV market.
Both market themselves as adventure-ready subcompact crossover, but nothing screams outdoors more than Subaru. Can the younger Hyundai Kona go toe-to-toe with a car from a automaker that’s known for its ruggedness? Let’s find out.
The Hyundai Kona goes with bold, youthful styling while the 2019 Subaru Crosstrek’s styling is inspired by the rugged, off-road-themed styling of its larger sibling – the Outback.
Let’s explore the other differences between these two small SUVs in greater detail.
The Hyundai Kona offers more visual flair and a more exciting drive experience when equipped with the upgraded turbo engine. The Subaru Crosstrek offers excellent safety features and is a more dependable off-roader thanks to superior AWD technology, but suffers from a woefully dull exterior.
The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek starts at $22,245 for its base model, and the price can go all the way up to $27,995 for its Limited model (excluding destination and delivery charges). A hybrid version is also available should you be willing to part with $35,345.
The 2021 Hyundai Kona comes with a more attractive sticker price of $20,400, though we’d advise most buyers to go for a much more complete offering in the $26,200 Limited trim.
If you are easily swayed by a lower price, the Hyundai Kona is your winner – though we’d definitely recommend paying extra for all-wheel drive (which comes as standard on all Subaru Crosstreks).
The Hyundai is an interesting looking SUV that appeals to the young, with its slit-like headlamps and funky body shape. Overall there’s a lot of charm to the car’s appearance.
The interior is also fun to look at, though the overall quality of knobs and dials could do with some work.
By contrast, the Crosstrek looks rather plain and uninspired from the outside. There’s not really much to talk about, and going inside the car doesn’t exactly change the story, though the build quality feels superior.
There isn’t much difference in size, but the Subaru Crosstrek is the larger vehicle.
The Hyundai Kona is 164 inches long, 70.9 inches wide (without accounting for side mirrors), and 61.6 inches high (with roof rails), while the Subaru Crosstrek is 175.8 inches long, 71 inches wide, and 63.6 inches high (with the roof rails).
The Subaru Crosstrek offers significantly more rear row passenger space than the Hyundai Kona.
On the inside, the Crosstrek is expectedly more roomy, offering a total passenger volume of 100.9 cubic feet as opposed to the Kona’s total passenger volume of 94.1 cubic feet.
The Crosstrek can therefore comfortably accommodate 6-foot-tall passengers in both rows. In the Kona, space is slightly more limited and tall rear-row passengers will be itching to reach their destination.
For cargo, the 2021 Crosstrek also again boasts more room with its 20.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats that increases to 55.3 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded down.
The 2021 Kona offers 19.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats and up to 45.8 cubic feet of cargo space when the rear seats are folded down. Put into perspective, you can potentially fit an additional large suitcase into the trunk of the Crosstrek.
Power and All-road Capability
While neither SUV is amazing at off-roading, the Subaru Crosstrek offers all-wheel drive as standard, making it well-suited to slippery and icy conditions.
By default, the Hyundai Kona is front-wheel drive, although the option for all-wheel drive exists at a premium.
But even when the Hyundai Kona is equipped with AWD, Subaru’s AWD is better-suited for traversing uneven terrain. All models of the Subaru Crosstrek come equipped with symmetrical All-Wheel Drive that enhances road grip on different types of road surfaces e.g. dry, wet, muddy, sandy, etc.
Under the hood, the Crosstrek offers a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder BOXER engine that produces 152 horsepower and 145 lb.-ft. of torque for most of its models. The Crosstrek Sport and up feature the same 2.5-liter engine found on the Subaru Forest which produces a more impressive 182 horsepower.
The Crosstrek Hybrid model, on the other hand, gets a hybrid engine that pairs the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with an electric motor. While considerably more fuel efficient, this hybrid engine is slightly less powerful than the petrol counterparts.
The Hyundai Kona offers a 147-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine for its lower trims and a more turbo engine for the Limited and Ultimate trims. The base engine is poky and slow, but the upgraded engine is refreshingly responsive.
Both the Hyundai Kona and Subaru Crosstrek base models have EPA ratings of 30 mpg combined, so there’s very little difference between the two. This figure is rather average for the subcompact crossover segment, but far from bad.
But the Crosstrek is AWD whereas the Kona isn’t by default, so the Crosstrek is the more fuel efficient car compared to the AWD Kona. But however you look at things, the difference is miniscule.
Subaru doesn’t seem to be too concerned about driving joy inside the Crosstrek. The base engine is slow to accelerate, and the upgraded engine is better buy far from enjoyable.
The base Kona’s engine is equally slothful, but at least the turbocharged engine found on higher trims has some guts to it.
Both crossovers have their own intelligent driver assist technologies, although most of these features are exclusive to higher level trims.
The Subaru EyeSight® Driver Assist Technology includes adaptive cruise control, automatic pre-collision braking, lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist. EyeSight® is standard on the Limited trim.
The Hyundai Kona finally got the option for adaptive cruise control back in 2020 (which they call smart cruise control), although this is still limited to the Ultimate trim.
If you’re looking for a B-SUV, both the Hyundai Kona and the Subaru Crosstrek are decent but lackluster choices.
The Hyundai Kona is the more exciting of the two, but the fun is very much on the surface. Under the hood, it’s a very average car that won’t perform as well off-road as its looks might suggest.
The Subaru Crosstrek is definitely a better purchase if you’re going on rougher terrain, but don’t expect the drive to be the highlight of your adventure. It’ll get you there safely, but that’s about it.
Other SUVs in this segment worth checking out are the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3.