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First look: Hyundai gets creative with new Kona

Howzit: The Kona gets its name from a volcanic stretch of Hawaii’s main island – and it’s set to blow up the small SUV segment when it launches in September.

Long-awaited Hyundai Kona crossover adds ‘quirky’ to brand’s design repertoire


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13 Jun 2017


AFTER one of the shortest model gestation periods in the company’s history, Hyundai has officially unveiled its first global small SUV challenger, the Kona, at an outdoor event in Seoul, ahead of its Australian showroom debut this September.

The five-door Kona’s development was fast-tracked in response to the rapid growth of the sector in key markets such as the United States, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, including Korea and Australia.

Hyundai offers a B-segment SUV in China and India called the Creta, but it was not designed to meet the stringent safety requirements of western markets.

“Kona couldn’t come soon enough for us,” Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) chief executive officer, Scott Grant, said in a statement. “We expect this brilliant addition to the Hyundai SUV range to be at or near the top of its class for capability and desirability, not just for price and value though we’ll definitely get that last part right, too.”

Mr Grant, who was unable to attend the event, said that research clinics conducted with the Kona in Australia have revealed that the relatively overt style of the Kona – one of the edgiest designs to come out of the brand’s Californian studios to date – is unlikely to play against it, despite the inherent conservatism of Australia buyers.

“It’s a vehicle that manages to be distinctive to look at, inside and out, but not so challenging that it turns people away,” he said.

“The Kona gives us a strong entry into a booming segment. Small SUVs are becoming more and more popular with Australian buyers as their needs and tastes change, and we’re confident the Kona offers the right blend of great space on the inside, compact dimensions on the outside, the fun to drive factor and engaging features across the range.”

HMCA public relations manager Bill Thomas told GoAuto that the Kona – which will join the medium Tucson and the large Santa Fe SUVs – is set to attract buyers not currently served by the brand’s other offerings.

“They will be a different buyer to an i30 or Tucson customer,” he said. “They see a higher driver position and the SUV image as a desirable thing, but the Tucson may be too big. They may also have a young family where a smaller, easier-to-park SUV suits their needs more closely than an i30 or Tucson.”

Mr Thomas suggested that sales would add incremental growth to the company’s bottom line, and would help to gain – and retain – customers who were looking exclusively for a small SUV.

Based on the underpinnings of the European market i20 hatch, the Kona will drop directly into a segment in the Australian market that is primed to explode.

Pricing has not yet been revealed, but HMCA said it will offer “competitive pricing and superb value for money” against key competitors including the Mazda CX-3, Toyota’s equally quirky C-HR, the Honda HR-V and the Mitsubishi ASX.

Hyundai has been left without a player in the sector since 2015, when it repositioned the ix35’s replacement, the slightly larger Tucson, to sit in the medium SUV category.

Said to be benchmarked against aggressively styled cars such as the Nissan Juke, the Kona’s front end is its most striking feature, with a thin grille line dissecting the upper half of the front valance and cascading grille, while narrow LED daytime running lights are placed above the low-mounted headlight cluster along the leading edge of the bonnet.

Spotlights are located on the bottom edge of the bumper bar on higher grade cars.

At the rear, the tail-light arrays are built into the bulbous rear guard’s plastic sheathing, which runs along the flanks to join up with equally pumped front guards.

The appearance of a floating roofline is created through the use of blacked out C-pillars, while oversized rims exaggerate the increased ride height of the Kona over the i30.

At 4165mm long and 1800mm wide, the Kona will be shorter and wider than its main competitors, while offering what it claims to be “best-in-class” interior space.

The interior, while reminiscent of the new i30, manages to separate itself thanks to strong horizontal lines across the dash and simple, uncluttered button arrays.

The platform that underpins the fourth-generation i30 and the Elantra has been modified to provide more ground clearance and more interior room through tighter packaging of key mechanical components. It is 50mm shorter in the wheelbase than the i30.

While final specification is yet to be set, the Kona will debut in Australia with three variants, led by a front-wheel-drive, 2.0-litre four-cylinder MPI petrol-powered entry-level version that sports a six-speed automatic transmission.

It will be offered in Australia in both front- and all-wheel-drive configurations.

HMCA officials also revealed that mid- and top-spec grades would be all-wheel-drive, powered by Hyundai’s direct-injection 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol and use a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The 1.6-litre engine uses the same tune as the Tucson, with lower turbo boost levels and a different torque curve to the unit used in the Elantra and i30 SR.

GoAuto understands that a 1.6-litre turbo-powered entry-level version is also under consideration.

Items like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with Hyundai’s latest tablet-style multimedia system, are likely to be included as standard across the range, while inductive phone chargers and head-up displays are set to be offered on higher spec cars.

HMC engineers have restructured the packaging of the Kona’s platform to minimise intrusion into the cabin. The front end sports a new intercooler design and a relocated gearbox, while rear suspension parts, fuel tank and exhaust system have also been tweaked to make more room for the all-wheel-drive system, thought to be a revised version of the system used in the Tucson.

All Konas will use MacPherson strut front suspension, with all-wheel-drive versions running multi-link rear suspension. Front-drive models will use a torsion beam rear end.

Local suspension tuning is already well advanced, according to HMCA, with cloaked Kona mules already spotted undergoing testing in Australia.

Safety inclusions such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning, high-speed blind spot collision warning and rear cross-traffic alert are also set to feature, although the entry level car is unlikely to get AEB as standard.

The small SUV sector in Australia is led by the all-conquering CX-3, which has logged 7292 sales to the end of May. The ageing ASX, meanwhile, holds ground with 6792 units for the same period. Nissan’s Qashqai (4963) and Honda’s HR-V (4761) are next, with the C-HR logging 1721 sales after three months on sale.

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