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
13 June 2017
By TIM ROBSON in SEOUL
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
Click to see larger images
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
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 recently launched i30 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
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
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
The interior, while reminiscent of the new i30, manages to separate itself
thanks to strong horizontal lines across the dash and simple, uncluttered
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
It will be offered in Australia in both front- and all-wheel-drive
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
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
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.