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2024 Hyundai Kona: Will It Dog?

The new-for-2024 Hyundai Kona is a huge improvement over the last model. It’s not the best for dog transport, but it has some utility.

byAndrew P. Collins|
Hyundai Kona photo
Andrew P. Collins
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The redesigned-for-2024 Hyundai Kona is a huge upgrade over the previous model where it matters most in a machine like this: the interior. Hyundai’s designers did a great job modernizing the dashboard while maintaining a great human-machine interface, and in the back, there’s just a little more room for your passengers of all species.

The base model Kona SE is a mechanically humble car—a 147-horsepower engine with a CVT won’t have you seeding excuses to go for drives. But at about $26,000 it still gets LED headlights, a big screen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus a decent suite of safety sensors like blind spot alerts and lane keeping.

Andrew P. Collins

The all-wheel-drive Kona Limited that we tested is still definitely not a fast or exciting car to drive, but its 190-hp turbo engine makes it considerably better at getting out of its own way. If you drive somewhere at elevation (e.g. Colorado), this model will fare much better on mountain passes. Other appreciable features in the Limited include heated and cooled (and eight-way adjustable) front seats, a nice leather wrap on the steering wheel, even more safety sensors, a nice sunroof, ambient lighting, and a bigger and prettier gauge cluster. Our loaner car rang up at $34,695.

All new Konas can be spec’d with all-wheel drive (it’s a $1,500 option) and have the same 60/40 splittable rear seats. The only major difference that your dog might care about is that the nicer model has leatherette trim, and the base-base car has no rear ventilation.

Interior Materials and Layout

The Kona’s cockpit is uniquely homey. There are many shelves, storage spots, and open areas where you can stash things. If you’re wondering how you’d adapt to such a space—take a look at your bedroom. Is everything put away, or do you have to swim through mountains of laundry to get into bed? Whatever your answer, that’s probably what the driver’s area of your Kona will look like once you start living with it.

The only real downside is that if you do start sprawling out, much of this storage is un-lid’d and things might go flying around in a panic stop. So pick what you place carefully.

While I already said I wouldn’t describe this as a “driver’s car,” the control layout is exceptional and everything’s very easy to find and reach (I wrote a whole other article about this). You get a huge screen for phone, nav, and entertainment, but everything important can be accessed with a physical button you’ll be able to toggle without looking once you’ve spent a few days in the car.

The high-feature Limited trim’s materials are not luxurious but they do feel robust. I didn’t see or touch anything that looked easy to scratch. As for the cabin’s layout as a whole, Hyundai describes the Kona as a “small SUV” but it could also be called a tall hatchback. Two seats in the front are bisected by a center console loaded with storage areas, the back is a little bench area and a small but still usable cargo section behind that second row. Drop the rear bench flat and you’ve got a pretty decent little hauling area.

Climbing In and Out

Both the back seats and rear cargo section of the Kona are pretty high. Even though it’s a little car, an animal needs some degree of athleticism to leap in or out regardless of which door you use. Well, that, or you can plan to help them with a little lift. You could tote a ramp around with you too, but cargo space isn’t so abundant that you’re going to want to do that all the time.

The rear cargo hatch opens very high, but the side doors don't swing out exceptionally far. Not a dealbreaker, but I noticed it because the Honda CR-V I also drove recently opens its rear doors gloriously wide ... making me realize how nice that can be when you're trying to coax an animal in or out.

Driving With the Dog

The Kona’s rear passenger area expansion pays off for anybody in the rear; human or animal. But it’s still on the smaller side back there. Bramble was pretty keen to get her paws on the center console to try and climb up front, and when I blocked her doing that, she settled for resting her snoot on my shoulder. A harness certainly helps in this situation, but even buckled in, our 45-pound mutt took up a lot of the back seat.

You could fit a Bramble-or-smaller-sized dog behind the second row if you removed the cargo cover, but I personally would rather keep my animal closer. If you do decide to put them back there, the baby seat latch attachment on the back of the second row can be used to anchor a dog seatbelt.

Rear windows go all the way down, providing room for most dogs to get their snouts out into the fresh air. I don't recommend letting a dog get its face out of the car at any real speed, but I let Bramble sniff the environs below about 25 mph.

Driving in General

The Kona is unremarkable but inoffensive. Acceleration and handling are both perfectly fine at a speed-limit pace, and road noise isn’t bad on the highway. I mentioned the car’s excellent ergonomics earlier and that helps make driving this thing pleasant.

All the functions you’re going to want quickly are easy to find; seat and steering wheel heaters are perfectly positioned for you to hit as you power the machine on. The shifter took me a long time to get used to; it’s a stalk you twist instead of pull, but I didn’t have a problem with it once I got acclimated.

Pack Hauling—Multiple Dogs On Board

The Kona’s size makes multiple dog hauling a little challenging. Even two dogs Bramble’s size would really take over the interior of this thing. I’m not saying it’s impossible—in fact, my in-laws have two 50-plus-pound dogs and just bought one of these very cars. But if you’re also planning on carrying kids or a decent amount of cargo you’ll quickly start to feel like you’re in a clown-car situation.

Carrying Kennels

Our inflatable kennel came through in the clutch, as it could be deflated a little to easily fit through the car’s doors and then re-energized to firmness. Any small pet carrier would tuck into this car easily, of course. But a larger kennel for a grown Golden Retriever-sized dog would be a tough proposition.

Even though the rear door opens very high, and indeed, the roof inside the car seems reasonably high, the door portals themselves are kind of low. It’d be challenging to get a big dog-sports kennel into a Kona without damaging the headliner.

Hyundai Kona Dog-Friendliness Verdict

Almost every angle of the Kona, especially as viewed from the inside, really grew on me over my week-long test drive. Almost. The face of this thing is just bizarre—I can’t remember the last car design I saw that simultaneously had so much and yet so little going on. Below the clean RoboCop running light, there's just a mess of shapes and flat planes and ugliness. Luckily you never really see your own car from the front, and the cockpit you’ll be surrounded by every time you drive looks great.

As a dog taxi, the Kona is certainly viable, but I would not point to it as an exceptionally animal-friendly machine. The smaller your dogs, the less it will matter, but if you’re buying a vehicle specifically to transport pets I would suggest looking for something slightly longer and maybe even lower. We did not have trouble toting Bramble around in this thing, but she's not a particularly large dog, and she pretty much took over the whole car. Even the tiny Toyota GR86, which we also dog-tested, seemed to do a better job keeping the animal locked in place.

It feels like a good car for the price, though. You get a lot of features and a very user-friendly interior design here. Besides not being able to fit an entire wolfpack of dogs easily, the biggest knocks against this thing are fuel economy and residual values. It’s a little thirsty for a car this size. The front-drive base car can supposedly hit 35 mpg highway. But the nice all-wheel-drive Limited that I tested posted 24 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway. That's pretty weak for such a little car.

I thought Bramble might like that new Zendaya tennis movie but then I realized it's probably not actually about chasing tennis balls. Also, she's a dog, and doesn't really understand movies. Andrew P. Collins

As for the value of used Hyundais, they tend to drop pretty rapidly once a new body style is introduced, and that happens fairly often. The Korean automaker has great warranties, but factor in resale value when you’re doing your ownership cost calculation if you’re planning to unload this thing after a few years.  

2024 Hyundai Kona Specs for Dog Owners
Base Price (Limited AWD as tested)$25,625 ($34,685)
Seating Capacity (people)5
Seating Capacity (dogs)2 (or one big one)
EPA Fuel Economy24 mpg city | 29 highway | 26 combined
Cargo Volume25.5 cubic feet behind second row | 63.7 cubic feet behind first row
Quick TakeA well-equipped getaround car if you're not in a hurry. Feels high-tech in an accessible way. Viable for medium and small dogs; tough for big breeds or older animals.
Will It Dog Score6/10

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