Hyundai Kona: Millennial Seoul food
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Hyundai's entry to the compact urban SUV market, the Kona, heralds the beginning of an new and expanded range of SUVs.
Although the Korean conglomerate acknowledges it is late to the fastest-growing segment of the motor industry in much of the world, including New Zealand, it says the Kona is the result of years of research and consultation with its customers.
Hyundai says the result is a bold and innovative SUV with industry-leading safety and technology features that make it a safe but agile urban model that will appeal to the millennial generation.
The Kona will arrive in New Zealand showrooms late this year or early in 2018, and will come with sector-leading features such as a detailed heads-up windscreen display, collision avoidance technology and distinctive styling features.
Hyundai flew more than 100 motoring correspondents from 20 countries to Seoul this week for the global launch. A European launch is also scheduled this month.
The scale of the launch underlines the importance of the Kona to Hyundai's global sales, because the compact SUV sector of the market is humming throughout the world.
Hyundai executives said the Kona was just the beginning of an expanded SUV range, to include a smaller A-SUV segment model, and a larger E-SUV segment model to join the current Tuscon and Santa Fe models.
The company is also working on electric versions of the Kona, aiming to have models with a range of around 390km on the world market before the end of next year.
The Kona was launched at the ultra-modern and futuristic Hyundai Motorstudio at Goyang, an hour's drive from the centre of Seoul, on Tuesday.
Named after a region of the Big Island in Hawaii, the Kona was launched against a backdrop of massive screens showing pictures of rolling Hawaiian surf and sunshine, and pumping surround-sound music, all aimed at underlining its target millennial market.
This is a model aimed at young, active, urban sophisticates living in cosmopolitan cities such as New York and London.
Hyundai says its customers want a safe vehicle with agile handling that can be used during a busy weekday schedule, but is also practical for their weekend activities, whether that involves surfing or other active outdoor pursuits.
The Kona has striking front-end treatment, with what Hyundai describes as "masculine protective armour" accentuating the four wheel arches.
describes as "masculine protective armour" accentuating the four wheel arches.
Composite lamps at the front provide a high-tech look, with slim daytime running lights incorporating turn signals positioned senate to the LED headlights.
Hyundai's new family identity, the cascading grille, sits between wing-type fenders that dominate the front design.
The contrasting black "armour" provides a protective skin that wraps around each of the four corners of the Kona, which Hyundai says reinforces the car's tough and functional qualities.
The vehicle designers say the strong horizontal character of the dashboard creates a wide and spacial feel. It is relatively clean, with a well-incorporated screen well positioned in the centre.
The Kona has split-folding rear seats that fold flat, with a two-level loading floor that allows easy access for a bike or golf clubs.
It sits on a new compact SUV platform, which Hyundai says sets new performance standards for the compact SUV segment. A 2-litre Atkinson engine coupled with a six-speed automatic transmission, will deliver a claimed 0-100km/h time of 10 seconds.
Hyundai is also offering the Kona with a Gamma 1.6-GDI engine, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which the company says will travel from zero to 100km/h in 7.7seconds.
There will also be a 1.6 litre diesel engine available in some markets. Both two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive variants of the Kona will be available in New Zealand.
Advanced safety features on the Kona include a forward collision-avoidance system, which uses the car's front-facing camera and radar to detect imminent collision, and avoid impact or minimise damage by braking autonomously.
There is also a lane-keeping assist programme and driver attention warning system on board.
Full Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity is available, with buyers getting to choose from five, seven or eight-inch display screens.
An option on some models is a smartphone wireless charging pad where drivers need only lay their phones on a pad to be recharged.
Hyundai New Zealand says an arrival date for the Kona has yet to be determined, along with precise model specifications and pricing.
However, the Kona will compete head-on against models such as the Mazda CX-3 and the Honda HRV.
Both model ranges start here around the $30,000 mark for baseline models.
Small SUV next big thing
The Hyundai Kona will be one of the best-equipped compact SUVs on the New Zealand market when it arrives either late this year or in early 2018.
It is fitted with the clearest, brightest and most-detailed head-up display unit of any vehicle in its class, and comes with a range of driver safety aids (such as a collision avoidance system) that until now have only been available on premium models.
The four headlights, four tail-lights, and protective "armour" wrapping around each corner of the Kona help distinguish it from blander rivals.
During just seven-minutes driving a prototype of the Kona at Hyundai's sprawling Nanyang research and development centre north of the South Korean capital of Seoul this week, the vehicle felt confident and assured over a range of surfaces.
It was also a right-hand-drive model destined for the North American market, sitting on tyres suitable for that market rather than those to be fitted on New Zealand-bound models.
A Hyundai research expert told me our models will feel even more assured when fitted with tyres more suited to our roads and conditions.
Hyundai had crash-tested 120 Kona models before its global launch this week, and wrecked yet another one in front of international journalists on Wednesday. The carmaker is confident it will pass rigorous requirements to qualify for a top Ancap safety rating.