Hyundai is refreshing its CUV lineup with updates to the well-received Kona and introducing hybrid and plug-in hybrid technology to the Santa Fe. The Kona family grows with an N Line performance model while the Santa Fe tries to win over green-minded shoppers.
2022 Kona: Minor Updates, With N Line Twist
Hyundai is making slight changes to the way the ’22 Kona looks and performs in order to better compete with the Chevrolet Trailblazer, Jeep Renegade and Toyota C-HR.
This is the first mid-cycle refresh for the Kona, which was launched in ’18 with two 4-cyl. gasoline engines. The all-electric Kona didn’t arrive until ’19. The refresh applies to both the EV and gas-powered Kona.
Hyundai also introduces a new Kona trim level, the N Line, which offers more horsepower along with exclusive badging and accents, sport seats and 18-in. alloy wheels.
For ’22, the standard gas-powered Kona gets new front and rear bumpers that increase the vehicle’s overall length by 1.6 ins. (4 cm). The front end gets a new grille, and there are new head- and taillights as well as alloy wheels.
“We feel this Kona looks a ton better than the current version,” says Melvyn Bautista, Hyundai’s assistant manager-product planning.
Inside, the ’22 Kona gets a new 10.25-in. (26-cm) digital cluster and a 10.25-in. infotainment screen (pictured below), along with updated buttons and switches.
Previously, the largest infotainment screen available was just 8 ins. (20 cm). The rear seats now offer an extra 0.6 ins. (1.5 cm) of legroom, but all other measurements remain the same.
In the powertrain arena, the optional 1.6L turbo-4 that comes with the N Line and Limited trims now offers 195 hp, about 20 hp more than the engine in the ’21 model, thanks to valvetrain improvements.
The carryover 2.0L Atkinson engine and the all-electric powertrain are both still available, without changes from ’21.
The ’22 Kona’s standard safety feature list includes forward collision avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, lane follow assist and lane keep assist. Optional safety features include bicycle detection (new for ’22) with the forward collision avoidance assist, blindspot collision avoidance assist and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist.
Hyundai will start building the refreshed gas and electric models at the beginning of March, with N Line (pictured below) production starting two weeks later. All new Kona models will go on sale later this spring.
Santa Fe Hybrid and PHEV: Powertrain Defines the Competition
Despite arriving later than the new Kona, the Santa Fe Hybrid that goes on sale this summer will be a ’21 model. The new Santa Fe Plug-In Hybrid, though, will be a ’22. Both of these electrified models are based on the ’21 Santa Fe, which was first announced in October and already is on sale.
The basics of the electrified Santa Fe models remain the same as in their gas-powered cousin, including the new exterior design, the “modernized” and “upscale” interior with a 10.25-in. widescreen navigation display and Hyundai’s Smart Sense advanced safety features.
What’s new here are the customers Hyundai is trying to woo. This is Hyundai’s first hybrid CUV, so it must reach a different group of potential buyers.
Hyundai says the new gas-electric Santa Fe (pictured below) will compete with other hybrids such as the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Ford Escape while the PHEV will pair up against plug-in versions of the RAV4 and Escape, as well as the Mitsubishi Outlander and Subaru Crosstrek.
Some of these rivals are smaller than the Santa Fe, but Hyundai says it considers them competitors based on powertrain attributes.
“There aren’t a whole lot of [hybrid] and PHEV competitors in this space,” says Trevor Lai, product planning manager for the Kona and Santa Fe.
“When we get to the PHEV side particularly, we are finding in our research that most folks who are setting out to find a PHEV will cross-shop other PHEVs. They’re not necessarily [saying], ‘Oh, I want to get a compact SUV, what compact SUV [powertrains] are there?’ The shopping considerations are a little bit different.”
Hyundai is trying to win over these customers by highlighting the standard all-wheel drive in the Santa Fe Hybrid and PHEV. The HTRAC system is fully mechanical, while Lai says some competitors’ AWD systems use an electric motor to drive the rear wheels.
Both the hybrid and PHEV Santa Fe use the 1.6L 4-cyl. that produces 177 hp along with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery.
The hybrid uses a 60-hp (44.2-kW) electric motor with a 1.49-kWh battery pack while the PHEV gets a 90-hp (66.9-kW) motor and 13.8-kWh pack that offers up to 30 miles (48 km) of all-electric range, according to Hyundai’s internal estimates.
Total system output is 226 hp for the Santa Fe Hybrid and 260 hp for the PHEV. The batteries are placed under the cabin and do not intrude into the Santa Fe’s cargo area.
The PHEV’s 30-mile range is lower than the 42 miles (68 km) offered by the RAV4 PHEV, or the expected 37 miles (60 km) from the Escape PHEV.
Hyundai says it is comfortable with this shorter range because it should cover the daily drive for many buyers and, more importantly, it means lower costs and thus more people can get into an electrified CUV.
“You can add more batteries, you can spec a larger motor, but that will reduce the reach that we have with our consumers,” says Lai. “I think that’s another big piece of the puzzle that we should always bear in mind.”