I've been on an ergonomics kick lately, closely scrutinizing the button placement and cockpit layouts of every car I get into. The 2024 Hyundai Kona has a uniquely open and homey-feeling interior, but one aspect of it that struck me was how perfect the heated seat and steering wheel buttons are.
Before your eyes roll out of your head at the thought of praising something as mundane as a button, consider this: Heated seat and steering wheel controls are features you might use every day, multiple times a day, for months and months while you own a car. It's fun to talk about max skidpad g's and 0-60 times, but realistically, how often do you take your vehicle to its extremes? When we're talking about what it's like to live with a car day in and day out, ergonomic touches can make or break the enjoyability of ownership.
All this to say: The 2024 Hyundai Kona gets my informal but rare rating of "perfect" when it comes to heated seat and steering wheel controls. First and most importantly, they're physical buttons, which are vastly superior to touchscreens and I'll take every opportunity to crow about this. It's not that I'm obsessed with old-school everything, it's just that dedicated buttons are easier to use, less distracting, and downright cooler (to me) than touchscreens.
Just look at the interior of a spaceship in Star Wars—it's all knobs and levers of various sizes and styles. Lucas and company could have given everything flat-panel fantasy displays. But their analog idea of the future is still iconic almost 50 years later because it has depth and visual distinctiveness. The Hyundai Kona's cockpit may not have the cultural gravitas of the Millennium Falcon's, but the Korean automaker's interior designers clearly have a sense of aesthetic identity. Hyundai's been a strong proponent of physical controls in cars in general, and I hope it keeps that up.
It just looks and feels more engaging, because it is in a very literal sense. Buttons are best. But screen-based interfaces lead to simpler manufacturing and superior user-data tracking, so screens are what we're going to get more and more of.
Anyway; buttons good. The other sweet thing about the Kona's heat controls is that they're placed exactly where your right hand kind of naturally falls as you get settled in the car. It's a very fluid motion to go from the start button to the heated seat and steering wheel buttons—to the point where I noticed it and yes, ended up writing a whole article about it.
As a bonus, this car has two levels of heat for the steering wheel. Heated wheels are a lot more common today than they were in previous years, and that's great because it's a glorious feature even if you don't drive in sub-zero conditions. However, a high and low setting for the heated wheel is not something I can recall seeing in too many other cars, and I've been in some very high-end hardware lately.
So kudos, again, to the Kona's heated seat and steering wheel button design. Overall, I liked this car, even though the front end is creepily dystopian and acceleration is limited. Don't worry, we'll revisit more of what this car's like and how well it hauls animals in an upcoming Will It Dog? review.