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Practical-y Perfect – Hyundai Kona/Honda Fit

While many daydream about driving a sports car, reality eventually calls. Two remarkably sensible new models meld sport and style.

The Hyundai Kona has a sporty stance. (Photo: © Hyundai Motor America)

You might never have noticed, but Hawaii is a very small chain of islands in the midst of a very large ocean. And so it is with the Hyundai Kona, a tiny sport-utility vehicle in a sea of more sizable competitors.

Like the coast of the Big Island from whence it gets its name, the subcompact Kona packs a lot of verve into a relatively small space. This is most obvious in its expressive styling, with a hunkered-down stance that looks downright sporty.

Powering my test car was a 175-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine (a 147-horsepower, 2.0-liter is standard) that gives this little SUV a zippy quality that’s noticeably enhanced by punching the center console’s Sport button. Available all-wheel drive, a feature not even offered on some competitors, makes the entire package that much more appealing.

As with all Hyundai models, the Kona comes well-equipped. The top-of-the-line Ultimate trim level I drove, for example, sported such desirable features as leather upholstery, navigation and even a handy heads-up display.

Add 45.8 cubic feet of cargo room and you have a practical small SUV that still manages to stand out in an ocean of sport-utility models.

Base Price: $18,500

MPG: 28 city, 32 highway

Crash Test: N/A

The endearing Honda Fit is a pint-size wonder. (Photo: © Honda)

Every once in a while an athlete of smaller stature comes along and develops a reputation for doing big things. In the automotive world, that particularly impressive pint-size player is the Honda Fit.

That’s because this subcompact four-door hatchback has a knack for holding more passengers and cargo than you might imagine given its diminutive dimensions. For example, there’s room for a pair of taller adults in the back, something few small cars can claim.

The Fit is also known for its remarkably flexible cargo hold, thanks in part to the so-called “Magic” rear seat with a bottom cushion that folds up to create a tall floor-to-ceiling space behind the front seats. Fold both sections of the 60/40-split rear seatbacks down and you have 52.7 cubic feet of space, a number that compares favorably with some larger compact crossover SUVs.

The Fit endears itself with its nimble handling, especially when equipped with the six-speed manual transmission like the Sport model I drove. Add above-average fuel economy numbers and top-notch crash test ratings and you have a small player that does big things.

Base Price: $16,190

MPG: 29 city, 36 highway

Crash Test: 5 stars

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