Kona: Hyundai’s tasty little bean coming

Wake up and smell the coffee … Hyundai New Zealand has begun talking about the Kona, its impending entrant into the small sports utility segment.

SHARP performance to match those smart looks – that’s the intention for Hyundai’s Kona, a compact crossover on sale here later this year, the brand’s local arm is suggesting.

Unmasked – slightly – by Seoul this week - and subsequently more fully in a speculative rendering (the red car at right) by in-house illustrator Josh Byrnes - the new model is based on the same platform as the i20 small car which has recently come on sale here in pure road and quasi SUV higher-riding Cross formats.

However, it seems likely there will be a huge difference in how those sister vehicles kit out, comment from Hyundai New Zealand’s boss suggests.

One key change – the four-speed automatic transmission and insipid 1.4-litre petrol that goes into the i20 almost certainly has no place in Kona.

Andy Sinclair says he expects the car, arriving late in the third quarter as a more chic city-suited alternate to the larger and potentially more mud-able Tucson and Santa Fe SUVs, to provision with a choice of two engines and transmissions.

Asked if that included the mill provided the i20, he replied: “No.”

One of the engines it would most likely have, he said, is something far more invigorating.

“I believe that it may have the 1.6 turbo GDI (petrol) engine with the seven-speed dual clutch transmission.”

That would be the drivetrain already offers in the Veloster Turbo and will also headline in the forthcoming new-generational i30. In both settings it generates 150kW and 265Nm – a big step up on the 74kW and 134Nm that drives the i20.

As for the other engine? “All I can confirm is that the automatic that matches to it will be six-speed … at the moment, too, I’m believing it will be petrol.”

But he’s not saying that’s an absolute certainty. “By the time it is released it could have the option of diesel as well.”

So where does that leave us? Some pundits suggest the alternate powertrains could mirror the forthcoming i30, so a 120kW/203Nm 2.0-litre normally-aspirated and fuel injected four-cylinder and a turbodiesel that, in the i30, generates 150kW and 280Nm (manual) and 300Nm (auto).

That’s as much as Sinclair is willing to provide as a heads up. Regardless it is down for launch late year – we’d pick September or October – he says Hyundai Motor Company is simply unwilling to give away too much information. And not just to media.

“You can find as much – which may, or may not, be right – as I can tell you because HMC gives away very little in detail to their distributors and subsidiaries until very close to the (launch) time.”

Apart from giving the name – which, as you might have guessed, references a Hawaiian island (whose “energetic image is reflected in the innovative, practical and highly functional design”) – head office has released just one single image, of a darkened, close-up image of what appears to be one of the Kona’s sleek headlights.

However, the shape of that lens alone seems it’s enough to lead to conjecture that the car that aims at the Mazda CX-3, Toyota C-HR, Mitsubishi ASX and Honda HR-V is based off a styling study that Hyundai presented to the 2014 Geneva motor show.

Sinclair hasn’t seen a Kona, but doesn’t know if it draws in any way off the Intrado styling study. (the white car here).

However, overseas’ commentators are confident there will be a link with Kona – and, also, that Kona will be presented in the EV format that Intrado was said to point to.

That thought is fuelled by the sighting of mules. Photos of those engineering development rigs – and the Intrado itself – have provided the basis for the image of the red car with this story.

Sinclair says he cannot fuel speculation about Kona and Intrado being linked, nor about the EV programme, though he says it is well known that Hyundai intends to have an EV SUV.

“They’ve confirmed that they will have an EV SUV within the next few years … it has potential to be based on the Kona but that’s very much an assumption based on logic rather than the official statement.”

He can say that Kona will have an extremely high safety specification and that it will be priced to meet the market it competes in.

“I’m also picking it is going to be pretty popular so production may be reduced at the at the start of its life cycle.”

As for the eventual EV? Talk is that it will have a range of more than 322 kilometres, which is a third more than the real world optimum cited for the hatchback Ioniq EV that has recently launched here.