Hyundai Kona: First Look at New Subcompact SUV

Filling a gap in a fast-growing segment.

by on Jun.05, 2017

Hyundai teases the new 2018 Kona SUV.

Hyundai is set to fill an increasingly big gap in its small vehicle line-up with the upcoming launch of the Kona SUV.

With only two sport-utility vehicles in its line-up right now, the Korean carmaker has been leaving lots of potential business on the table for competitors with broader line-ups. The gap has been particularly noticeable at the low end where vehicles like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V have been building momentum in the U.S. and other markets.

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Hyundai officials have been hinting for several years about plans to close the gap and while several new SUV models may follow, the roll-out is set to begin early in the 2018 model-year with the arrival of the Kona. The South Korean maker is giving us a first good look at what’s coming with some teaser images that we’ve enhanced ever so slightly to bring more details out of the shadows.

Set to join the current Hyundai Tucson and Santa Fe utes, a release from the company says the Kona “offers the same all-round ability and innovative design to suit the lifestyle of the modern customer.”

A closer look at the Kona nose reveals lamps reminiscent of the Jeep Cherokee - and the new Hyundai hexagonal grille design.

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We’re likely to get more details as we approach production but Hyundai is confirming that the Kona will be offered with optional all-wheel-drive. There will be both LED daytime running lights and headlights, both featured in these teaser images. It’s not clear if those will be standard across the board, limited to top-line models or offered as options.

It’s not unusual for automakers these days to tease upcoming products. But the images provide here seem to hide very little about the 2018 Hyundai Kona, especially after lightening up the shadows.

The headlight arrangement, if anything, reminds us a bit of the Jeep Cherokee, with the DRLs in thin strips flanking the upper grille and more traditionally shaped headlamps mid-nose. The grille itself is a cascading hexagonal design that, Hyundai says is “our new family identity.”

From the side we see the sort of black cladding around the wheel wells that manufacturers love to use to signal the ruggedness of their crossover models. The hood and side sheet metal reveal significant sculptural details, including a rising feature line that flares off of the front wheel wells to flow all the way to the Kona’s taillamps.

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The new Hyundai Kona is believed to be sharing the same platform as the 2018 Accent update.

The back end is reminiscent of the Tucson with the taillights also split into upper and lower clusters.

As with the current Santa Fe and Tucson models, the Hyundai Kona will opt for a car-based crossover design, apparently sharing its underpinnings with the current Accent, the maker’s subcompact sedan notably being redesigned for the upcoming model-year.

We’ll have to wait to see what powertrain options Hyundai goes with, though the current Accent is motivated by a 1.6-liter inline-four in U.S. trim. We might see a somewhat heavier CUV get a bit more boost, perhaps with the Elantra sedan’s 2.0-liter alternative. Look for a more options, including diesels, in other markets.

Hyundai’s decision to go after the subcompact ute segment next is no surprise. Globally, it is one of the fastest-growing market niches and has been gaining traction in the U.S. rapidly. We’ve seen all of the major Japanese makers get into the game. Jeep recently came onboard with the Renegade and Ford has its own model coming, the American version of the EcoSport making its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show last November.

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When will we get to learn more about the 2018 Hyundai Kona? In its teaser release, the carmaker promises “further details…will be revealed ahead of its world premiere in the near future.” Look for the subcompact crossover to arrive in U.S. showrooms before year-end.

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2 Responses to “Hyundai Kona: First Look at New Subcompact SUV”

  1. Edward Martelle says:

    I think the reference to the Hyundai Kona headlights was in fact Jeep Cherokee, not Grand Cherokee.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      Correct, Edward, and I DO know better. Sigh. Corrected, and thanks for the catch.

      Paul E.