Much like the big Hawaiian island Hyundais new subcompact crossover is named after, Hyundai sees the tiny 2018 Kona as a big deal.
The all-new subcompact crossover slots below the compact Tucson in Hyundais lineup. It is Hyundais first B-segment SUV and competes in one of the hottest segments in the auto industry right now- one that is growing in virtually every corner of the world. The Kona joins a growing field of subcompacts. Even sister Kia will have a competitor with the all-new Stonic, which will also use the new platform that underpins the Kona.
Hyundai has brought us to Seoul, South Korea, with about 400 other journalists for the Konas global premiere. The small SUV will be sold around the world, starting in Korea next month and followed by North America and Europe. The 2018 Kona will go on sale in the U.S. in the first quarter of next year.
The Kona joins Hyundais SUV/crossover lineup, which includes the Tucson, Santa Fe, and Santa Fe Sport. These vehicles are crucial to Hyundais success in todays market, where customers continue to choose utility vehicles over cars. Hyundai has posted a series of declines in quarterly profits as sales slumped in China and the U.S., and in 2016 Kia did the unthinkable when it outsold Hyundai.
The Kona has the potential to turn fortunes around. It is being billed as an urban SUV with a low, wide stance and bold and modern styling for an adventurous buyer, complete with armor on the front and sides and wing-type fenders. The Kona also offers the first look at the design direction for the next generation of Hyundai SUVs, complete with Hyundais now-signature cascading grille with a mesh pattern.
Like the other SUVs in the stable, the Kona was named after a travel destination, with Kia this time choosing the coastal region of Hawaiis big island.
Hyundai also used the press event to show the Kona Iron Man Special Edition with armor styled after the suit worn by the Marvel character. The crossover is actually 40mm (1.6 inches) wider than the regular Kona, and it has special LED headlights under a matte gray hood with red and gold accents and an Iron Man mask badge in the center of the 19-inch wheels and off-road tires.
Like with many small vehicles, the design intent of the Kona is masculine and aggressive, making every attempt to look bigger and fiercer than its size would suggest, with a long wheelbase and short overhangs. The designer went for contrast and a high-tech look with futuristic LED lighting and slim running lights that incorporate the turn signals and slim taillights.
The Kona was also designed to be customized with an assortment of color variations and a two-tone roof. It has a sleek and simple interior, and Hyundai executives claim it has best-in-class interior space. The infotainment touchscreen, which comes in an assortment of sizes, appears to float on the dashboard, and the Kona has both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There is even a head-up display and optional smartphone wireless charging that reminds you to take your phone when you leave the vehicle.
Kias Kona competitor, the all-new Stonic, went for even edger styling. It also adopts slim headlights, which is becoming part of the companys look under designer Peter Schreyer. Even the upper-scale Genesis brand adopted slimmer headlights on the GV80 SUV concept shown at the New York auto show.
The Kona rides on a new compact SUV platform that gives it greater ground clearance, optional four-wheel drive, an elevated seating position, and split-folding rear seats that fold flat for more room for suitcases and gear. There is also a two-level loading floor to make it easier to grab a bike or golf clubs.
The engine choices include:
Hyundai also has the electric Ioniq, and Kia has the Niro Electric coming next year, a testament to the Korean commitment to pure electric vehicles. They are both derived from the same dedicated platform.
The Kona has a McPherson strut front suspension; there are different rear suspensions for two-wheel- and four-wheel-drive vehicles, the latter having a dual-arm multilink system. The Konas lightweight steel body is made, not surprisingly, of Hyundai steel.
Safety systems include forward collision avoidance that brakes automatically if the driver fails to, lane keep assist that will steer when required, high-beam assist, driver attention warning when the car recognizes you are not driving well, blind-spot collision warning, and rear cross-traffic collision warning.
India will not get this funky crossover but we do hope Hyundai India can bring this as it would be a big hit if it does come.