HYUNDAI is about to apply the blowtorch to a white-hot compact SUV segment when its new Kona arrives by October this year.
Designed to rival the likes of genre-leading Mazda CX-3, the recently released Toyota C-HR and the aging Mitsubishi ASX, pricing is yet to be released but given its rivals expect the bottom line to start from about $25,000.
There will be two four-cylinder petrol engine choices; a 2.0-litre non-turbo in front-wheel drive and an all-wheel drive turbocharged 1.6-litre - both will come standard with automatic transmissions.
It's the same 2.0-litre engine used in the Elantra, while we have seen the 1.6-litre donk previously in the Tuscon.
Just unveiled to the world at Hyundai's new Motorstudio at Goyang, South Korea, it's a muscular and squat design which will appeal to both sexes.
Hyundai has promised "playful” colour combinations and customisable options. Contrasting roof colours can be selected. Three levels of trim will be available.
Expect colour screens to be standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Some of the latest safety kit will also be available, including autonomous braking which uses a front camera and radar to help avoid or lessen a crash, automatic high beam, functionality which alerts drivers to drowsy behaviour and an ability to steer back into the lane by itself if the driver wanders.
Features are expected to be similar to those found in the i30, which has Active, Elite and SR specifications.
There will also be a blind spot warning, and radars to peer around corners to alert of any oncoming traffic when reversing.
Kona follows Hyundai's tradition of naming its SUVs after famous travel destinations, including the mid-size Tuscon and large seven-seat Santa Fe.
Kona is the famed coastal regional of Hawaii. It's also home to event regarded as the world's toughest one-day sporting event, the Hawaii Ironman triathlon where the world's best to battle over a 3.8km swim, 180km bike course and then finish with a 42.2km run through the lava fields.
That endurance is akin to the long haul Hyundai has undertaken in Australia.
Once confined to cheap and cheerful, the marque has turned the tide of public perception. Vehicles are backed by a five-year warranty, they also improved handling courtesy of a bespoke Australian tuning team, while the design has also made hefty steps forward.
Having the new model will allow Hyundai Motor Company Australia chief operating officer Scott Grant to gain more ground in the competitive market Down Under - with the marque's only deficiency the lack of a dual-cab ute.
"Kona couldn't come soon enough for us. We expect this 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,” he 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.
"All credit to HMC's design team, because Aussie research shows that Kona is a vehicle that manages to be distinctive to look at, inside and out, but not so challenging that it turns people away. It looks fabulous and we can't wait to see it in Hyundai dealer showrooms later in the year.”
Key rivals will be the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR, Mitsubishi ASX and Subaru XV.
The Kona will be shorter in length than all the segment-leading competitors, but wider than all but the ASX.
According to industry statistician VFACTS, SUVs were again the largest selling segment last month with a 38.5% share of the total market, followed by passenger cars with 37.7% and light commercial (20.6%).
AT A GLANCE
PRICE To be confirmed, expect it to start from below $25,000.
LAUNCH Late September or early October.
ENGINES 2.0-litre 4-cyl petrol 110kW/179Nm; 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbocharged petrol 130kW/265Nm.
TRANSMISSION Six-speed automatic front-wheel drive, seven-speed dual clutch all-wheel drive.
PERFORMANCE 0-100KMH 10 seconds; 7.7sec.
DIMENSIONS 4165mm (L), 1800mm (W), 1550mm (H), 2600mm (WB).