LOS ANGELES – After unveiling the Korean-market version of its newest CUV this past summer near Seoul, Hyundai uses its Los Angeles auto show stage to show off the North American version of the Kona.
As expected, the Kona will offer the same engines as in the automaker’s U.S. Elantra C-car.
“People are saying, ‘Hey, will that be good enough?’ This is a CUV, it’s bigger, heavier, lower, but it’s within 80 lbs. (36 kg) of where Elantra is with the same powertrain,” Trevor Lai, Kona product planner, tells media at a recent preview event at Hyundai’s Superior Township, MI, technical center.
The 1.6L turbo and 2.0L Atkinson-cycle 4-cyl. engines from the current-generation Elantra compact sedan will be offered in the Kona, with the 1.6L an upgrade engine as it is in the Elantra.
The 2.0L, which will be paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission, should make about 147 hp and 132 lb.-ft. (179 Nm) of torque while achieving 30 mpg (7.8 L/100 km) combined in front-wheel-drive Konas.
CUVs with the 1.6L turbo are projected to achieve 175 hp and 195 lb.-ft. (264 Nm) of torque and 29 mpg (8.1 L/100 km) combined, again in a FWD layout. As it is in the Elantra, the 1.6T will be mated to Hyundai’s 7-speed DCT.
Not surprisingly, all-wheel-drive Konas are expected to be most popular in U.S. regions with snowy, wet weather. Lai says while it is difficult to offer AWD in a vehicle as small as the Kona, Hyundai lowered the transfer-case output shaft, and the intercooler layout was changed from vertical to horizontal to accommodate the driveline.
While Hyundai has alternately called the Kona a small or subcompact CUV, the vehicle actually rides on the Elantra’s C-size platform. The use of a compact vs. subcompact platform in the Kona creates generous passenger space, Lai explains.
Compared with Hyundai’s current smallest CUV in the U.S., the compact Tucson, the Kona is 1 ft. (0.3 m) shorter in overall length. However, Lai notes Hyundai is using more structural adhesive in the Kona than in the current Tucson: 375 ft. vs. 330 ft. (114 m vs. 101 m).
“From our learnings we found it works very well for us, and more structural adhesives means less welding to keep weight down, and it keeps things quiet for consumers and drivers,” Lai says.
As with many new vehicles, the Kona has a generous amount of high-strength steel, with 51.8% of its body above the 60k-grade of HSS.
All Konas have a MacPherson-strut front suspension, while upgrade models get a multilink-rear setup, a benefit Lai says is afforded by using a compact vs. subcompact platform.
Less-expensive Konas will have a torsion-beam rear suspension, but Lai says it is tuned for sporty driving due to a new bushing structure (soft front/rear, hard left/right), as well as a high stiffness torsion beam.
An optimized underfloor tunnel for exhaust pipes helps keep the Kona’s second-row floor flat.
As with the Mazda CX-3 small CUV, Hyundai will use in the Kona a combiner-type head-up display, with info projected onto a plexiglass panel behind the gauge cluster.
Mike O’Brien, Hyundai Motor America vice president-product, digital and corporate planning, says this type of design is less costly than a traditional HUD, which projects information onto what typically is very expensive windshield glass.
A slew of passive and active advanced-driver assist systems will be available on the Kona, including blindspot collision warning with lane-change assist (measures closing speed of approaching vehicle); rear-cross-traffic warning; a parking-distance warning for objects or vehicles when the Kona is in reverse; a driver-attention warning that messages and beeps if lane drift is sensed; forward-collision assistance; and high-beam assist.
The Kona will offer lane-keep assist, a more advanced technology than the lane-departure warning on the Elantra, Lai says.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as Hyundai’s BlueLink telematics service, with integration for Apple Smartwatch as well as Amazon Alexa, will be available.
As one may expect from a vehicle geared toward a younger buyer (the image target is singles or young couples in their early 30s with a “passion for life”), the Kona will be available in several loud paint colors, including lime-green. Lime, paired with black, also is used in some Kona interiors as an accent color.
The Kona is being built for all global markets at just one facility, Hyundai’s Ulsan, South Korea, assembly plant.
While competition is fierce among Hyundai regional affiliates for Kona inventory, O’Brien tells WardsAuto HMA should be able to get more than the 40,000-unit annual allotment some media outlets reported this past summer it was getting.
“I don’t know where that number came from (but) we’re going to do better than that,” he says. “There’s no doubt we’re doing much better than that.”
In WardsAuto’s Small CUV segment, nine of the group’s 19 entrants surpassed 40,000 sales in the January through October 2017 period, many well over that mark.
Hyundai’s own Tucson, its current smallest CUV in the U.S., was the No.1 seller, with 91,570 sales, followed by the Jeep Renegade (88,097), Subaru Crosstrek (87,685) and Honda HR-V (80,338).
The Kona is due to go on sale in the first quarter in the U.S. While O’Brien last month told WardsAuto some dealers could get units in late December, it is unclear if a 2-day strike this week at the Ulsan plant, by workers upset over future job cuts, could upend that possibility.