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TMR Team | Jun, 13 2017 | 10 Comments

This is it, the Hyundai Kona - the new model that will finally give the Korean carmaker a player in the booming compact SUV segment in Australia.

Buyers won't have to wait long to sample the Kona either, with an arrival date for local showrooms scheduled for September.

Prices are predicted to kick off from around $25,000, which is more than the likes of Mazda's CX-3 (from $20,490) and Ford's EcoSport (from $20,790) but equal to the Honda HR-V (from $24,990) and undercutting the Toyota C-HR (from $26,990).

The Kona also ushers in a new look for Hyundai and a new SUV design theme that will flow through to the mid-sized Tucson and larger Santa Fe - plus a rumoured, smaller SUV to slot below the Kona.

Describing the Kona as a car that "couldn't come soon enough for us", Hyundai Australia chief operating officer Scott Grant says the small SUV is crucial to the brand's growth ambitions.

"Kona gives us a strong entry into a booming segment," Grant said.

"Small SUVs are becoming more and more popular with Australian buyers as their needs and tastes change, and we're confident Kona offers the right blend of great space on the inside, compact dimensions on the outside, the fun to drive factor and engaging features across the range."

The Kona gets a distinctive look dominated by slimline headlights and a small slit above the mesh-inspired grille. There is also black plastic skirting – or armour, as Hyundai describes it – that toughens the look and gives the appearance the city-focused SUV is sitting higher off the ground.

Inside, a large touchscreen (expected to be 8.0 inches for Australia) sits on top of what appears to be a functional and elegant dash design.

To be sold in Australia with the choice of two engines and three trim levels, the crucial new small SUV will have one of the broadest model ranges among a growing field of sub-$30K high riding wagons. It is also one of the few small SUVs to offer both two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive.

"With the Kona we have created a stylish, highly functional compact SUV, perfectly suited to the needs of customers who pursue challenging, action-filled lifestyles," Hyundai's global vice chairman, Euisun Chung, said.

"We aim to set new standards for the compact SUV segment, with appealing design, cutting-edge connectivity and class leading safety features."

Riding on a slightly shorter version of the new Hyundai i30's platform, the Kona's 4165mm length is shorter than its rivals, but it has a generous 1800mm girth, which is wider than all but the Mitsubishi ASX.

Despite its relatively small exterior, Hyundai claims the Kona has "best-in-class interior space". In the boot there is a dual-level floor designed for easy fitment of bulky items, such as bikes.

In Australia, the Kona will be offered with two petrol engines mated exclusively to automatic transmissions.

Front-wheel drive models will be powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine used in various Hyundais, including the Elantra. Making 110kW and 179Nm, the front-drive models get a cheaper torsion beam rear suspension system paired to the McPherson strut front setup.

A leaked interior shot - Hyundai Kona
A leaked interior shot - Hyundai Kona

Four-wheel drive variants pick up the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol unit driving through a seven-speed twin-clutch auto transmission.

And it's that turbo model that is expected to raise the performance bar for small SUVs. With 130kW/265Nm it has more power than any of its rivals – and a full 53 percent more than the Toyota C-HR.

The Kona AWD also gets a more advanced multi-link rear suspension that promises better control and comfort over bumps. The top of the range Kona will also come with a head-up display and Qi wireless smartphone charging.

All models will be available with autonomous emergency braking among a suite of crash avoidance systems.

However, despite a move towards AEB becoming standard on SUVs – the CX-3 and C-HR fit it to all models, for example – it is still expected to be optional on the most affordable model.

Besides the $25k prediction there's no official word on pricing yet, other than to say it will be "competitive" and offer "superb value against the key segment rivals such as Mazda CX-3, Toyota C-HR, Honda HR-V and Mitsubishi ASX".

Scott Grant believes it will be among the top sellers in the small SUV category, which has almost doubled since 2014. However, he has previously hinted there could be some cannibalisation of other models – most likely the just-released i30 – due to similar pricing.

"We expect this brilliant addition to the Hyundai SUV range to be at-or-near the top of its class for capability and desirability, not just for price and value: though we'll definitely get that last part right, too," Grant said.

After the entry-level model, prices are expected to stretch close to $40K for the top-of-the-range AWD model. Stay tuned to TMR for more.

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