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Driven: Hyundai Kona to be a sales cornerstone

Battle front: The Kona faces tough competition from the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V and the Toyota C-HR, among others.

Three variants and two drivetrains add spice to Hyundai’s Kona crossover

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Hyundai logo10 Oct 2017

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

HYUNDAI Motor Company Australia (HMCA) expects the freshly launched all-new Kona crossover to become its third-best-selling model behind the top-selling i30 small car and Tucson mid-size SUV.

Priced from $24,500 plus on-road costs for the base Active front-wheel-drive automatic, and climbing as high as $36,000 for the Highlander turbo-petrol all-wheel-drive auto, the South Korean-built Kona reintroduces Hyundai to the small SUV segment in which it has not competed since the ix35 was discontinued in 2015.

This is Australia’s fifth-largest segment by volume, trailing small cars, medium and large SUVs and 4x4 pick-ups, and is currently led by the ageing Mitsubishi ASX, followed by the Mazda CX-3 and Nissan Qashqai.

According to HMCA senior manager of product planning Andrew Tuitahi, the size of the segment and supply uncertainty as the Kona is launched in other global markets will keep it from playing a larger role in Australia for now.

“Small SUVs present a good opportunity for Hyundai,” he told GoAuto at the launch of the Kona in Canberra this week. “It’s a good candidate for us to diversify from the ‘i30 Car Company’.

“I don’t think (it will be our top-selling model). The segment itself is not the biggest in the market, so it would make sense that i30 and Tucson will sell more than Kona.

“And we’ll need to see how the car is embraced globally. It’s yet to launch in North America, and it’s only now launching in Europe, so we’ll have to see if there are any immediate supply constraints and manage that appropriately. But I can see it being our third-best-selling model in Australia.”

While he would not divulge sales targets, Mr Tuitahi revealed that the Kona presents an opportunity for Hyundai to lure new as well as previous owners back to the brand.

“Our research suggests that some of the small and medium passenger car buyers who are moving into SUVs have already left our brand,” he said. “So maybe Kona is an opportunity for us to put a stop to that, or maybe bring some of those people back and get some of that consideration back.” Along with the Active, the Kona range includes the mid-series Elite that kicks off from $28,500 while the range-topping Highlander starts at $33,000.

Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is standard on all variants except the base model, where it adds a further $1500 to the $24,500 starting price as part of a safety pack.

As well as the naturally aspirated 2.0-litre auto front-drive variants, Hyundai is offering a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol dual-clutch auto AWD alternative for an extra $3500 on Active and Elite, and $3000 on Highlander.

No manual gearbox or diesel powertrain will be made available for the time being.

Despite the variety, HMCA expects up to 80 per cent of consumers to choose the standard 2.0-litre. The Active should account for about 40 per cent of volume, with the other two variants capturing about 30 per cent apiece.

Styled under the watchful eye of Peter Schreyer by designer Daniel Kim in California nearly three years ago, the Kona is aimed primarily at the booming B-SUV segment in Europe.

Key rivals in Australia are the Mazda CX-3, Mitsubishi ASX, Subaru XV, Toyota C-HR and Honda HR-V.

The Kona is offered with customisable roof colours, allowing for 22 combinations in total, and Hyundai expects this to be a popular feature.

Comprising 52 per cent of what Hyundai calls advanced high-strength steel, the body is claimed to be torsionally rigid to help make it one of the safest in class.

The Kona is shorter yet wider than the CX-3, ASX and C-HR, splits the CX-3 and ASX for height, and has the second-longest wheelbase after the C-HR.

Length, width, height and wheelbase measurements are 4165mm, 1800mm, 1565mm and 2600mm respectively, while ground clearance is rated at 170mm. Again, all fall within the segment norms. As does cargo capacity, which varies from 361 litres to 1143L with all seats lowered.

Based on the derivation of the company’s ‘K’ C-segment platform also underpinning the latest Hyundai i30 as well as the closely-related Kia Stonic small SUV offered elsewhere, the Kona offers two rear suspension layouts.

The 2WD versions are fitted with a torsion beam while AWD variants feature a multi-link arrangement – a rarity in this class as the CX-3 and C-HR AWD equivalents employ a de Dion and double wishbone rear respectively.

Meanwhile, the front axle consists of MacPherson-style struts and an electrically operated rack-and-pinion steering system. The turning circle radius is 10.6 metres, with 2.5 turns lock to lock.

As is the case with many Australian-bound Hyundais, a fair degree of local tuning went into the Kona’s chassis for the sake of compliance and control.

The company says the Kona underwent “thousands of kilometres of testing on a variety of surfaces, from country lanes to freeways to corrugated dirt roads”, with three sets of front and two sets of rear springs, more than a dozen front and around two dozen rear shock absorber combinations, and two stabiliser bar set-ups.

Two Euro 5-compatible engines are offered at launch, depending on the driveline. Konas with 2WD are fitted with a 2.0-litre ‘Nu’ naturally aspirated Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder MPi unit (as per the i30) producing 110kW of power at 6200rpm and 180Nm of torque at 4500rpm and paired exclusively to a six-speed torque-converter automatic transmission.

It can hit 100km/h from standstill in 10 seconds flat, and returns a fuel consumption figure of 7.2 litres per 100km. The CO2 emissions figure is 169g/km.

AWD variants score a 1.6-litre ‘Gamma’ direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine delivering 130kW at 5500rpm and 265Nm from 1500-4500rpm.

Mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, this 1.6 T-GDi powertrain slashes the 0-100km/h sprint to 7.9s and is more frugal to boot, averaging 6.7L/100km (and 153g/km of CO2). Both engines can run on 91 RON standard unleaded petrol.

The 1.6 T-GDi AWD adds about 125kg to the Kona’s weight – mainly due to the extra kilos of the driven rear axle, multi-link suspension, dual clutch and beefed-up disc brakes – which varies from 1290kg to 1507kg depending on spec.

Hyundai’s so-called ‘SmartSense’ driver-assist system is available on all variants (including the base Active but only as part of the $1500 safety pack), and includes AEB that works up to 75km/h, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, automatic high beam, driver attention warning technology, electronic stability and traction control, six airbags and ABS brakes.

The Active has all six airbags, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, cruise control, tyre pressure monitors, automatic headlights, 7.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Hyundai Auto Link (which streams vehicle and driving-related data to a smartphone device), leather-wrapped steering wheel, roof rails and 16-inch alloy wheels.

As well as the driver-assist tech, the safety pack adds heated and folding exterior mirrors.

Stepping up to the Elite adds all the safety pack gear plus leather upholstery, keyless entry/start, climate control, rain-sensing wipers, front foglights, 17-inch alloys and a few extra convenience items.

The Highlander throws in front parking sensors, LED headlights/front indicators, LED tail-lights, high-beam assist, a head-up display, air-vented front seats, heated front seats, a wireless charging pad, a heated steering wheel and 18-inch alloys.

Three different wheel sizes are available: 205/60R16 (Active), 215/55R17 (Elite) and 235/45R18 (Highlander). A temporary space-saver spare tyre is fitted to all vehicles, but a full-sized spare alternative has been requested ex-factory by HMCA. No confirmation is available at this stage.

The maximum braked towing rating is 1300kg for the 2.0 MPi and 1250kg in 1.6 T-GDi guise.

All Konas are covered by a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, with 12 month/15,000km intervals and a capped-price servicing scheme.

2017 Hyundai Kona pricing*
2.0-litre MPi petrol FWD
Active (a)$24,500
Active with Safety Pack (a)$26,000
Elite (a)$28,500
Highlander (a)$33,000
1.6-litre T-GDi petrol AWD
Active (a)$28,000
Active with Safety Pack (a)$29,500
Elite (a)$32,000
Highlander (a)$36,000
*Excludes on-road costs

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