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Hyundai has finally bolstered its SUV fortunes with the launch of its first-ever global small SUV, the Kona, in Korea today.
Based on a modified version of the platform that sits under the fourth generation i30 hatchback, the Kona will launch in Australia early in the second half of 2017 in three as-yet unnamed variants.
The Kona is an important vehicle for the giant Korean carmaker, as it looks to take on the sales supremacy of cars like the Mazda CX-3 and Mitsubishi ASX in the burgeoning small SUV sector.
It’s had to make do without a player in the key segment after the ix35 was replaced in 2015 by the larger Tucson, which competes in the same space as the Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester and Nissan X-Trail.
“The Kona couldn’t come soon enough for us,” said Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) chief executive officer, Scott Grant. “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.”
The design of the Kona is one of the most interesting and daring to come from the traditionally conservative company, with the front fascia a complete about-face from the handsome but straight-laced Tucson.
Executed by Hyundai’s European design team and said to be a pointer towards a new design language for Hyundai’s SUVs, the LED headlights are actually mounted under the LED daytime running lights, with spotlights for top spec cars installed on the bottom edge of the front bar.
Likewise, the rear LED light clusters are encased in black plastic cladding that highlights the Kona’s massively blistered wheel arches. Larger rims and a taller ride height complete the look.
In terms of size, the Kona is shorter and slightly wider than most of its opponents, which also include Toyota’s new C-HR and the Honda HR-V, even though the company claims it has “class leading” interior space.
While pricing and specs won’t be revealed until closer to the car’s launch, the Kona – named after a Hawaiian holiday spot in the same way the Tucson is named after a town in Arizona and the Santa Fe after a city in California – will be available in three trim levels and two mechanical specs from launch.
The entry-level car will be powered by Hyundai’s GDI 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, with a six-speed auto driving the front wheels.
The mid- and top-spec Kona will run Hyundai’s direct injection 1.6-litre turbocharged four-potter that’s currently used in the Tucson. It’ll also use a modified version of the all-wheel drive system used in the Tucson, backed by a seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission.
There’s no manual gearbox option available across any of the models; while a self-shifter is available in a three-cylinder one-litre European variant, it’s been suggested it was never actually on the table for Australia at a factory level.
Other spec items to be confirmed include auto emergency braking (AEB) – though the base model car is likely to miss out on it as a standard fitment – lane departure warning, blind spot collision warning and rear cross traffic alert for higher grades, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto contained within a new multimedia touchscreen, an upgraded head-up display and optional wireless phone charging.
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