2021 Hyundai Kona Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Engine, battery, and electrical issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

This vehicle is subject to a recall. Find out if your Hyundai Kona is included in the recall.

Owners of the 2021 Hyundai Kona prepared for a fun drive, especially since the automaker claimed it is a “small SUV that’s big on adventure.” However, the adventure some owners are experiencing is different from what they expected thanks to unreliable engines, malfunctioning electrical systems, and dud batteries.

Click on other model year to view more problems: 2019   2020   2022   2023

Most Common Problems

More than half the complaints lodged with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) between the beginning of April 2021, and the end of February 2023, relate to engine problems. A few of these are also regarded as electrical issues, some of which are associated with the battery. Most of the battery-related complaints come specifically from owners of the 2021 Hyundai Kona EV. But the bulk of complaints relate to all 2021 Hyundai Kona models.

Other components and system categories used for complaints include Exterior Lighting, Forward Collision Avoidance, Lane Departure, Powertrain, Service Brakes, Steering, Tires, Vehicle Speed Control, Visibility, and Wheels.

There are also quite a lot of complaints listed in the Unknown or Other category. These include battery problems, transmission issues, and complaints that the parts required for an engine-related recall aren’t available. It’s not clear whether the parts referred to are available now, but the recall, issued on April 28, 2021, is still active, although no longer labeled urgent.

2021 Hyundai Kona Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Engine
38
Electrical System
12
Unknown Or Other
11
Power Train
8
Vehicle Speed Control
5
Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
2
Lane Departure: Blind Spot Detection
2
Service Brakes
2
Steering
2
Electrical System:12v/24v/48v Battery
1

Recall

NHTSA Campaign Number 21V301000 states that the piston oil rings of as many as 158,493 Hyundai vehicles may not have been properly heat-treated. These include 2019-2021 Kona and Veloster, as well as 2019-2020 Elantra vehicles with 2.0L Nu MPI engines. The danger is that these engines may be damaged, causing them to stall, and increasing the risk of a crash. Additionally, oil may leak onto the hot exhaust components, which increases the risk of a fire.

Owners of these Hyundai vehicles were told that dealers would inspect their cars and replace the engine if necessary, free of charge. They were also going to utilize Piston Ring Nosing Sensing System software for the repair.

Typical symptoms include excessive oil consumption as well as knocking noises. Sometimes vehicles stall or their engines seize because of improperly heat-treated piston oil rings.

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Problems with the Engine

The engine is arguably one of the most important parts of any vehicle. If it stops working, your vehicle’s not going anywhere, and nor are you.

A lot of NHTSA complaints state that the engine cuts or fails completely. Commonly, they report knocking noises, as well as excessive oil use, both of which are symptoms of piston oil rings that haven’t been correctly heat-treated. Some report stalling and a lack of acceleration, while others say their Konas suddenly lose motive power. There have also been numerous complaints from owners who received the engine recall notification only to discover that the part to do the recall repair wasn’t available. Perhaps it’s the new engines they are waiting for.

The first NHTSA complaint about the engine was lodged on April 21, 2021, a week before the publication date of the recall. It refers to an incident on February 15, 2021, when a Kona began to stall frequently. It was also “running very loud,” and the owner “discovered that there was almost no oil in the car with less than 5,000 miles on it.” The dealer determined that the engine was defective and would have to be replaced. At the time of the complaint, the owner from New York had been without the car for more than two months but was still paying the monthly repayment.

An owner from Illinois describes hearing a “loud explosion” before the engine stalled 3 times. Then, another time, while driving, there was no brake and the steering wheel felt hard.  “I almost bumped the car (in) front of me. I took my car to a dealer last week and they said (there was) no fix despite the safety recall.”

No Fix for the Recall

After receiving a recall notification letter in July 2021, an elderly owner of a 2021 Kona went to a dealer only to be told there was “no fix or test that they could do on my Kona Sel.” Instead, they suggested he “drive it until it catches fire and breaks down” and then have it towed into the dealership. He eventually took it back to the dealer and said he couldn’t drive it anymore because it was endangering the lives of his wife and 4 grandchildren whom he transports to and from school. The dealership agreed to a buyback, but he maintains he lost $3,000.

No Need for a Fix?

There are numerous complaints that state dealers maintain there is nothing wrong with their Konas. For example, an owner from Pennsylvania was told that the part needed for the recall repair was unavailable. But then they did an engine check and found no fault with it.

An owner from Maryland who received the recall notification was also told after a dealer inspection that there were no issues. But while starting the Kona, she heard abnormal knocking sounds coming from the engine. The dealer made another no-issues-found diagnosis. When the failure persisted she took it back to the same dealer who discovered the vehicle had lost 3.5 quarts of 4 quarts of oil within 4,000 miles. No repairs were attempted, but the dealer said to take the Kona back after another 1,000 miles for an oil consumption evaluation.

An owner from Kansas states the engine of his Kona was “knocking” and had been using a large amount of oil. But, despite being part of the recall, he was told there was nothing wrong with the vehicle. “We are afraid to park it in our garage due to fire risk.” His theory is that dealers are forced to charge Hyundai a “greatly reduce price” for repairs, which is why they “are getting nothing done.”

Dealers Unable to Diagnose Failures

A Pennsylvania owner also experienced loud engine noises and excessive oil consumption. Taking the Kona to the dealer 8 times didn’t help. All they did was refill the oil reservoir every 1,000 miles. The vehicle wasn’t repaired. Eventually, the manufacturer informed the owner that the engine needed to be replaced.

About 8 months after the recall was announced, a New York owner took a 2021 Kona to a dealer because it kept shutting off without warning. The dealer said that the oil level was “severely low,” but could not determine the cause of the failure.

Despite passing the dealer’s safety recall inspection, an owner from Indiana stated that there were ongoing issues with excessive oil consumption. There were also knocking issues and the engine light kept coming on. For 6 months there were also issues with stalling and the motor locking up. But the dealership wasn’t able to fix the problems.

It isn’t only the failures that relate to oil consumption, stalling, and the engine shutting down that baffles dealers. An owner from Maryland complained to the NHTSA in February 2023 that a Kona kept losing motive power and stalling. It had happened 4 times and the dealer was unable to correct the failure.

Battery Failures

Some of the complaints about batteries failing are listed as electrical system problems. Some are listed as engine issues, and others can be found as unknown or other problems. Most are specific to the 2021 Kona EV. The problem is that there is a shortage of batteries and recalls relating to several previous model Konas indicate that the problem may also affect the 2021 model.

An owner from California states that their Kona EV battery needs to be replaced. In September 2022, the dealer was unable to estimate how long it would take to get a new one, probably 1-3 months.

There already appears to have been a shortage of batteries in July 2021 when an owner from Colorado experienced problems. “After charging the vehicle at home with (a) level 2 charger to 100% it would not go into drive or reverse. It can go to neutral or Park only. The car is at the dealership and they told (me that) the battery must be replaced when one is available.”

One of the more serious complaints is from an owner in New Jersey who states that warning lights indicated that “the lithium battery was inoperable but fully charged in danger of catching fire.” The dealer immediately towed the Kona away and disconnected the battery. The complaint states that the “recall for battery replacement due to fire risk for the 2018-2020 (models) now appears to be affecting the 2021 model year. The dealer is telling me they have no replacement batteries and cannot give me a timeline for replacing mine nor can they assure me that will resolve the problem. The recall needs to be extended to all model years.”

What to do if your 2021 Kona is a Lemon?

If you are experiencing recurring problems with your 2021 Hyundai Kona that affect its value and your use of it, you might have bought a lemon. The best way to check is to contact an experienced lemon law firm.

Lemberg Law has been helping ‘lemon’ owners get recompense from manufacturers for many years. So, if you think you have a lemon, contact us and we’ll assess your problems at no cost to you. The law makes Hyundai pay legal fees for lemon law cases, so you’ve got nothing to lose.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones
3 COMMENTS
  • I f

    Locked out of our kona 3 times in its first year. Flat battery. Maybe??

  • Deanna B

    I have had my 2021 Kona for 10 months now. I bought it from the dealer used at the time it had 17,000 miles now it has approximately 27,000 miles.
    Two months after I got it I started hearing a horrible noise so I got it home and parked it called for an appointment at the dealership had to wait a week to get it in only to be told it was my fault because I let it run out of oil. When I told them I just bought the car from them and the sticker shows it just had an oil change I didn’t think about checking the oil after only 2 months.
    Another couple of months went by and I started hearing the noise again this time I had to add 2 qts. of oil again. I called to get it into the shop again this time I was told they didn’t see anything wrong and sent me on my way. Another month or so went by and because I know it is using oil I continued to check it. I took it back and told the dealer I am needing to add oil all of the time. This time they changed the oil and said we need to to what they call is an oil consumption test. I have had to take it back every 1,000 miles they write down how much oil they have to add. I’ve done this 3 times now and they always have to add 1.5-2 qts every time.
    This is not normal what can I do? I feel like they are giving me the run around because I am a 61 year old female.
    And now the car is in the shop again because someone tried to steal it, they didn’t get it but it was still damaged.

  • Henry G

    I Had a 2021 Hyundai KONA SEL-PLUS Night Edition, a beautiful ride. And it handled the road like a Porsha. I loved to drive it. However; the following issues are:
    1. Slow gear transfer from start as you pull out.
    2. Head lighting at night is not good. Needs better lighting for night time use. we had to up grade our
    head lights bulbs in order to see better at night. Head light kept blowing out. With in one year, we had to replace the head lights 4 times. The Kona would have electrical surges then the light issues would begin each time.
    3. The Blind side sensors work when they feel like it, which is rare… Along with front end collision warning. The sensors go off when nothing is there, and when you need the sensors to work….they are not there for you.
    4. Fuel per mile reader is off I have had reading where it was reading 9 mile to the gallon usage even thought we were driving conservatively. Some time it reads easy and other time you would think your driving a late 60’s muscle car.
    5. On the 28th of Sept.2022 I was involved in a accident and the blind side sensors didn’t go off and the airbags failed to deploy.
    6. Electrical issues: there were electrical power surges blowing out the radio and the other electrical related components including the warning sensors.

    We took the Hyundai Kona to the Dealer several times to have it checked. they checked all the sensor issues and the head light bulbs blowing out issues. They were unable to fix and kept trying to blame me for the issues. And we have it all document on the Hyundai paperwork.

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