The long-awaited Hyundai Kona small crossover will launch next week with a starting price of $24,500 before on-road costs - $2500 cheaper than the base Toyota C-HR and on par with a Mazda CX-3 Maxx.
Hyundai's newest model - which sits below the Tucson - finally gives the company a rival not just to the C-HR and CX-3, but other top-sellers such as the Mitsubishi ASX, Subaru XV, Nissan Qashqai and Honda HR-V in a segment that has about 10 per cent total market share.
Pictured: Hyundai Kona Active (blue) and Elite (red)
“Arriving fashionably late for the party means that Hyundai Motor Company has had the development time needed to deliver a small SUV that is right for its time and laser-focused on its target,” claims HMCA CEO JW Lee.
That's one way to spin it... So, what is this new Hyundai all about?
Pictured: Hyundai Kona Highlander
It's smaller than most rivals, at just 4165mm long and 1800mm wide, on a 2600mm. Yet Hyundai claims above-average cabin space and packaging. The boot is a respectable 360L, expanding to 1143L with the back seats folded.
Three Kona spec levels will be offered, called Active, Elite and Highlander. The Active can also be had an optional Safety Pack that adds blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) - features standard on the Elite/Highlander.
Pictured (top-to-bottom): Hyundai Kona Active, Elite and Highlander
There are two drivetrain combinations available: a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated MPi petrol engine with six-speed automatic transmission and front wheel-drive (FWD), or a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol matched to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and all-wheel-drive AWD).
The former unit makes 110kW of power and 180Nm of torque (at 4500rpm), and uses a claimed 7.2L/100km of fuel. The range-topping turbo 1.6 GDi unit familiar from the Tucson makes 130kW and 265Nm (from 1500rpm), uses 6.7L/100km, and thanks to its on-demand AWD traction and DCT gearbox does the 0-100km/h sprint in a sprightly 7.9sec.
Both engines get 12-month service intervals, though the more complicated turbo must go back every 10,000km compared to every 15,000km for the 2.0 MPi. Five years of visits will cost a minimum total of $1395 for the 2.0 and $1405 for the 1.6.
Both versions get a Drive Mode Select system with Comfort, Eco and Sport modes that change the throttle mapping, gearbox shift points and level of motor-driven steering resistance.
In terms of suspension, FWD versions get a MacPherson strut setup at the front and a simple torsion beam at the rear, while the AWD models have a more advanced and expensive multi-link setup - a la the i30 SR hatch.
Like other Hyundais, the Kona has a suspension setup tuned in Australia by the company’s Sydney engineering team, who submit desired specs (spring rates, damper setups, stabiliser bar sizes etc) to Korea, which incorporates them into production.
“The brief was to give Kona a sporty, get-up-and-go feeling – the suspension geometry has those sorts of characteristics built in,” said HMCA’s product engineering GM Hee Loong Wong
“We tuned the chassis to make it more compliant and controlled for Australian country roads but also make it really responsive and great fun through the corners.
“We leaned towards the idea of the two-wheel-drive car being a fun and comfortable city dweller while the all-wheel-drive turbo is more of a go-anywhere vehicle with plenty of sportiness.
“Suspension development for the all-new Kona was a complex job but a rewarding one. Ultimately, I think we got it right.”
All Kona variants come with a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Qi wireless phone charging pad and Hyundai’s AutoLink phone app that sends key car data to your device in real-time, while various high-grade features available if you spend enough include a head-up display and full LED headlights.
Meanwhile the polarising exterior design comes with nine exterior colour choices - Phantom Black, Chalk White, Lake Silver, Dark Knight, Pulse Red, Tangerine Comet, Acid Yellow, Blue Lagoon and Ceramic Blue - while the Elite and Highlander bring an optional $295 two-tone roof choice of either Phantom Black or Dark Knight (dark grey).
2018 Hyundai Kona pricing (before on-road costs):
- Active 2.0 petrol with 6AT and 2WD - $24,500
- Active 1.6 turbo petrol with DCT and AWD - $28,000
- Active with Safety Pack costs a further $1500
- Elite 2.0 petrol with 6AT and 2WD - $28,500
- Elite 1.6 turbo petrol with DCT and AWD - $32,000
- Highlander 2.0 petrol with 6AT and 2WD - $33,000
- Highlander 1.6 turbo petrol with DCT and AWD - $36,000
2018 Hyundai Kona specs:
- Six airbags
- LED daytime running lights
- Dusk-sensing headlights
- 16-inch alloy wheels
- Roof rails
- Reversing camera
- Leather steering wheel
- Cruise control
- 7.0-inch touchscreen
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Hyundai Auto Link app
Safety Pack adds
- Blind-spot warning
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- AEB with pre-warning
- Lane assist
- Driver attention monitor
- Power-folding side mirrors
Kona Elite adds, above Active
- $4000 premium
- Safety Pack
- 17-inch wheels
- Leather seats
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Carbon grey cladding
- Proximity key and button start
- Climate control
Kona Highlander adds above Elite
- $4000-$4500 premium
- 18-inch alloys
- Head-up display
- Heated/ventilated front seats
- Wireless charging pad
- LED tail lights
- Heated steering wheel
- Auto high beam 4.2-inch digital TFT cluster
We're driving the Kona at the local launch next week, so keep your eyes out for our first local review