Hyundai's new Kona to heighten small SUV boom

Posted June 13, 2017

"At the moment, we don't have plans to acquire other automakers", Chung said during the official unveiling event of Hyundai's first compact SUV Kona at the Hyundai Motor Studio in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province.

With an aim to diversify its SUV lineup, Hyundai Motor also shared plans to introduce new SUV models- such as one smaller than Kona and one bigger than the Sante Fe midsize SUV- and powertrains by 2020.

Kona is to go on sale in Korea later this month, followed by Europe and North America.

Hyundai Motor has long focused on the Sonata and other sedans, which helped build it a reputation in the West as a maker of cars that are excellent value.

This has meant that for nearly two years Hyundai New Zealand has been without an offering in that market segment containing the small SUVs - the segment where all the sales growth is now being achieved.

With the launch of the Kona, Hyundai is seeking a slice of the subcompact SUV market — the fastest-growing sector in the auto market.

The subcompact SUV market snowballed by almost 10 times from 2010 to 2016, Hyundai said, citing data from IHS Automotive. It is expected to grow 19 percent on-year to 5.54 million units this year, according to market research firm IHS Markit. The compact SUV also adopts Hyundai Motor's new family identity, the Cascading Grille, featuring a sporty mesh pattern, flanked by exceptional wing-type fenders that dominate the front design. Named after a district on the Big Island Hawaii famous for coffee, Kona is created to stand apart from the automaker's larger SUV models Tucson and Santa Fe.

The reality of how entertaining the little SUV will be to drive is still up for discussion, but you can't deny that Hyundai's increasingly staid design language has been given a thorough going over, instilling the Kona with distinctive, if not necessarily attractive sheet metal.

To offset slowing sales in China and the U.S., Hyundai has made a decision to diversify its SUV lineup by launching a variety of SUV models, including a high-performance one, from the smallest A segment to the biggest E segment. In the domestic market, Hyundai has a challenge of having to restore its image following massive government-led recalls.

The Kona will compete with Nissan's Juke, Toyota Motor's C-HR and Renault's Captur that is sold as QM3 in South Korea.

Speaking at the reveal of the Kona in Seoul, Hyundai's vice-chairman Chung Eui-sun announced that the company would "reflect customers' needs" by expanding its SUV range further over the next three years.

The Kona is named after the coastal region on the Big Island of Hawaii, USA.

Inside is rather more conventional Hyundai than the exterior, and if you've been in an i30 recently a lot of what is on offer will look familiar.

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