New Car Previews

Preview: 2018 Hyundai Kona

LOS ANGELES – There are many words to describe the all-new Hyundai Kona subcompact SUV, but “boring” isn’t one of them. Available in a palette of bright colours with rugged yet sporty styling, an available 175 hp turbocharged engine, and a high feature content, the North-American-spec Hyundai Kona made a colourful splash at its debut in LA on Wednesday.

The Kona appears instantly more adventurous than some of its conservative rivals.

The name comes from the rugged Kona coast on the Big Island of Hawaii where images of Iron Man Triathletes, big surf, mountain trekking, and outdoorsy lifestyles fits in nicely with the Kona’s bold styling theme.

Along with its sleek LED daytime running lights, six-sided cascading mesh grille, prominent flared fenders with black “armour” cladding, bold exterior colours like Lime Twist, Surf Blue, and Pulse Red, and available contrasting black or grey roof, the Kona appears instantly more adventurous than some of its conservative rivals (I’m looking at you, Honda).

Scheduled to go on sale in Canada in March or April of 2018, the Kona leaps into the popular subcompact SUV segment currently occupied by small utes like the 2018 Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V, and Subaru Crosstrek. Canadian pricing hasn’t yet been announced but Hyundai’s Canadian PR rep, Jean-Francois Taylor, said the Kona will be “price competitive” which would mean in the $20,000 to $30,000 price range.

There are expected to be four or five trim levels in Canada, and though they will be similar to US models, Konas destined for Canada will get heated seats in all trim levels and a heated steering wheel will be optional, said Taylor.

Two engines will be offered: a 147 hp 2.0L four-cylinder with six-speed automatic transmission, and a 175 hp turbocharged 1.6L direct-injection four mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Although a manual transmission is not available, Hyundai’s choice not to go with a continuously variable automatic transmission is indicative of the company’s emphasis on livelier performance. Drivers can choose Normal or Sport driving modes that adjust throttle responsiveness and shift times for economical or sportier driving performance. Hyundai claims a zero to 100 km/h time of 10 seconds with the 2.0L engine and 7.7 seconds with the 1.6L turbocharged engine.

Both engines will be available with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

Though the Kona is shorter in length and lower in height than the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3, it is wider with a sportier stance. All Konas have a McPherson-strut front suspension but front-wheel drive models have a semi-independent torsion-beam setup while AWD models have an independent multi-link suspension. To create more room in the cabin, Hyundai designed the rear suspensions so that they would minimize intrusion into the cargo space, and optimized the design of the AWD drivetrain and exhaust system to keep the floorpan lower, thereby aiding headroom and ease of entry and exit. I sat “behind myself” in the Kona’s rear seat and found legroom and headroom to be adequate for an average-size adult. The roomy cargo area, at 544L, features a dual-level floor. Standard split-folding rear seatbacks fold down almost flat to increase cargo space.

The Kona’s cabin is sensibly laid out and features a stand-up 7.0-inch touchscreen in the centre stack with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, voice recognition, rear-view camera, Sirius/XM radio, HD radio and Hyundai’s BlueLink LTE connectivity for roadside assistance, stolen car recovery, remote start and door unlocking. An optional 8.0-inch touchscreen will be available with navigation, Infinity premium audio, and real-time traffic flow data.

Premium interior features will include available leather, heated seats, power driver’s seat, automatic climate control, four-inch colour electroluminescent gauge cluster, and head-up display with projects speed, audio, navigation, and warning lights projected onto a clear panel on the dashtop. It can be lowered with the push of a button. As well, the Kona will be available with wireless phone charging in the centre console for phones compatible with the Qi standard.

A full array of active safety features will be available: blind-spot collision warning, rear cross-traffic collision warning, park distance warning, lane-keeping assist and forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection.

Though the Kona appears ready to tackle the great outdoors, Taylor said that the Kona is targeted at city dwellers under 45, particularly women, couples with active lifestyles, and parents with two kids and maybe a dog.

We think its adventurous styling, bright colour choices, and practical yet sporty nature will likely appeal to younger buyers who want an affordable SUV that stands out from the crowd.

Frankly, we’re looking forward to driving it.