Hyundai plays catch-up with new subcompact SUV

Hyundai Hyundai Kona Kona 2018 Hyundai Kona 2018 Kona Hyundai compact SUV

With crossovers commanding an ever-larger slice of customer dollars across the entire industry, it was only a matter of time before Hyundai added a smaller, more lifestyle-oriented option to its popular line-up of SUVs, which now includes the Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Sport, and the Tucson.

Hyundai is targeting annual production of 135,000 Kona models in South Korea next year, after shifting some output of lower-margin Accent cars to Kia Motors' factory in Mexico, a source told Reuters. The Kona region is famous among thrill-seeking travellers and the island's energetic image is reflected in the innovative, practical and highly functional design of Hyundai Motor's new lifestyle-focused SUV.

Shots are fired as Hyundai unveils its competitor in the all-important small SUV segment, with the new Kona. Mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (7DCT), the diesel Kona is quicker - 0-100kmph in 7.7 seconds and top speed of 210kmph.

The company said it will start the production of the Kona for export to Europe and the United States at its domestic plants in August and December, respectively.

The Kona will compete with Nissan's Juke, Toyota Motor's C-HR and Renault's Captur.

"Hyundai Motor tried to create a value unique to the Kona that encompasses optimal technology and passion (based) on thorough market research, rather than rushing into the market", said Chung Eui-sun, vice chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, at the world premiere event held at the Hyundai Motor Studio in Goyang city in Gyeonggi province. Kona's turbocharged gasoline engine model has a mileage of 12.8 kilometers (7.95 miles) per liter and the diesel engine model 16.8 kilometers (10.4 miles) per liter.

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The number of small-size SUVs in Korea totaled 107,295 units past year, up 24 percent from 86,233 units in 2015, according to findings released by the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association. The SUV will be reaching the North American and European market in a short while.

The subcompact SUV market grew sharply over the past seven years, jumping to 4.64 million units sold in 2016 from 485,000 units in 2010.

Sales of Kona would be crucial to help counter Hyundai's eroding auto sales this year in the US and China, where a backlash against South Korea's deployment of a USA anti-missile system hurt Korean businesses.

"We have suffered a setback in sales, but we will use this as an opportunity to overhaul our lineup".

Hyundai are clearly looking for a less traditional buyer than its current buyer demographic with the Kona, and its bold styling and funky feel should certainly appeal to younger buyers.

Riding on the small SUV boom, the automaker will aim to sell 150,000 units overseas and 45,000 units here in 2018, the company said. That's what is facing a brand-new compact SUV just revealed by Hyundai in Korea, and due to arrive in New Zealand before the end of the year.

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