2018 Los Angeles Auto Show – Hyundai Announces 2018 Kona Subcompact CUV for U.S. Market
Global Small CUV Coming to U.S. by March 2018
Hyundai announced a new subcompact crossover for 2018, called Kona. Making its U.S.-spec debut at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show, the Hyundai Kona is a region-specific version of the global CUV, which has been available since earlier this year.
Dirty BitsDoing battle with B-segment crossovers like the Jeep Renegade, Toyota C-HR, and Honda HR-V, the Kona rides on an all-new platform that incorporates available all-wheel drive while maximizing interior space. It also offers two powertrains: an Atkinson-cycle 2.0L I-4 with 147 hp and 132 lb-ft, paired to a six-speed automatic transmission; or a turbocharged, direct-injected 1.6L I-4 that makes 175 hp and 195 lb-ft, sending power through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
If its competitive set didn’t give it away, the Kona’s suspension setup betrays that it’s very clearly a soft-roader. However, it should still be a pleasant on-road companion, with the front end incorporating a MacPherson strut suspension, a hollow stabilizer bar, and a subframe bushing design that reduces NVH. The rear suspension either uses a torsion beam (front-wheel drive) or an independent multilink suspension (all-wheel drive). The torsion beam is pretty standard fare for a front-drive subcompact crossover, as the same setup is used on the Nissan Juke and Chevrolet Trax. Still, we wish all models got the sophisticated multilink design that will likely give the Kona some agile handling.
Bold Exterior, Slick InteriorBeing the first subcompact crossover in Hyundai’s lineup, the Kona sets itself apart from its larger siblings with distinctive styling. There’s a fair amount of Jeep Cherokee in the front end, with slim driving lamps mounted up high, near the hood’s shutline (the headlights are nestled on the corners of the front bumper cover). A hexagonal grille shape is shared with other Hyundai models, but the Kona’s front end is augmented with blocky, bold cladding and added air inlets. The most obvious side profile features are two significant character lines that frame the front and rear wheel openings, with black rocker and wheel arch trim that appears deliberately disjointed and “funky.”
There’s even more going on out back, with skidplate-aping lower body trim bookended by massive light arrays on the rear bumper. Aggressive taillights and a funky floating roof ensure the Kona is very on trend, but overall, we can’t help but think the styling is just a bit too fussy. The overall stance and shape of the thing reminds us a bit too much of a radiation-mutated Suzuki SX4. Still, if the Kona had played it safe, we’d be complaining that it was too boring-looking, so we won’t fault the company for trying new things with its design language. Hyundai ascribes the styling treatment to a look inspired by protective armor, which honestly makes some sense.
The news is good indoors, which features a clean dashboard design, floating center display, logical gauge layout, and youthful touches like lime-green seat piping and dash accents. Two power points, a USB input, and an auxiliary jack appear on the center stack, ensuring front seat passengers will have plenty of connectivity at their fingertips, bolstered by standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Seats-up cargo space is capped at a reasonable 19.2 cubic feet, expanding to a non-specific more with the 60/40 rear seats folded.
Safety FirstHyundai says it’s the only global car manufacturer to produce its own steel, and the Kona benefits from that expertise with 52 percent Advanced High Strength Steel in the unibody structure. A robust safety cage and “multi-load path structure,” which helps dissipate collision energy away from the passenger cabin, should help the Kona achieve a five-star safety rating on U.S. crash tests, and Hyundai expects an IIHS Top Safety Pick award as well.
But the Kona wants to help prevent crashes in the first place, given its available Hyundai Smart Sense suite of driver assistance technology. Incorporating Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic monitoring, active high beams, and lane-departure prevention, Hyundai Smart Sense should help avoid or mitigate several different types of crashes.
Paradise Found?Named for the west coast of the Big Island of Hawai’i, the Hyundai Kona aims to capture the excitement-seeking, adventure-oriented aura the region is known for. Whether its styling is the BASE-jumping kind of thrilling or the chased-by-a-mutant-crocodile kind of thrilling is up for personal debate, but there’s no denying Hyundai’s ambition in jumping into the hot subcompact crossover segment, currently dominated by the aforementioned Renegade and HR-V. And the Kona will face similarly new competition in the form of the upcoming Ford EcoSport.
With an available (and torquey) turbocharged powertrain, a tech-conscious interior, and long list of active safety features, the 2018 Kona has all the goods needed to be a success, if our traditionally unforgiving U.S. market accepts the Hyundai crossover as one of its own. We’ll know more about pricing and availability early next year, and until then, we’ll just have to speculate on the market’s acceptance of the little CUV.