Hyundai Motor Co launched its first subcompact utility vehicle Kona on Tuesday, at a world premiere at the automaker’s amusement park-like facility an hour northwest of Seoul. It has a starting price of 18.95 million won or $16, 800.
The model will begin sales this month in South Korea, followed by North America and Europe, and is expected to compete with the Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR, and Nissan Juke. It will be the fourth crossover in Hyundai’s U.S showrooms after the Tucson, Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe.
The South Korean automaker said it would also launch an electric version of the Kona small sport utility vehicle next year and a smaller SUV and a large SUV by 2020.
“Even as the global SUV market is nearing saturation, we believe that extra small or small SUVs have more room for growth than large SUVs,” said Hyundai Motor Co Vice Chairman, Chung Eui-sun, during a launch event near Seoul.
Hyundai is counting on its first global compact SUV model to revive weakened sales for a three straight year due to the unpopularity of its mainstay small sedans and political tensions between Beijing and Seoul that have affected sales in China, the company’s biggest market.
The company has long focused on the Sonata and other sedans, which helped build it a reputation in the West as a maker of cars which have excellent value. But in recent years, most growth in global auto markets, especially in China, has come from SUVs. Hyundai’s weakening profitability and missing of annual target sales in recent years were attributed to its failure increasing global demand for SUVs.
The Kona features a large, surging grille, a twin headlight treatment and a black body cladding. It has also a short rear overhang and a low roof line to give it a distinctive silhouette, plus contrasting accents on the exterior and standard-fit roof bars to add a bit of-all important SUV flavors. Plastic covering throughout the bumpers and wheel arches gives the Kona a more outdoorsy appearance than what otherwise might be a decidedly downtown-oriented look.
The design is meant to set the Kona apart from other forward-leaning models in the segment like Nissan Juke, Toyota C-HR, Honda HR-V and Jeep Renegade, and appeal to younger generations today.
Moreover, Hyundai is also targeting best-in-class interior space with fold-flat rear seats and a high seating position. The Kona will offer two four-cylinder power trains in the U.S., which are both used throughout the Hyundai and Kia’s lineup
The base of Kona gets a 2.0-liter engine that makes 147 HP and 196 pounds-feet of torque. It is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and will go from 0 to 62 mph in 10 seconds. A 1.6-liter turbo-charged four-cylinder engine will be optional. It will make 175 HP and 132 pounds-feet of torque, enough for a 7.7-second 0-to-62 mph run. It is matched to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Front-wheel drive will be standard with both engines, while four-wheel drive will be optional. Normal, Sport and Eco, a trio of driving modes, will be optional. In addition, the Kona will also provide tech goodies such as a 5-
7-, or 8-inch screen, Android Auto
and Apple , , a head-up display, wireless smartphone charging and safety
features such as pre-collision braking, lane-keep assist and blind-spot
"We aim to set new standards for the compact SUV segment, with appealing design, cutting-edge connectivity and class-leading safety features," Euisun Chung, vice chairman of Hyundai Motor Co., said in a statement before the debut.
Meanwhile, Hyundai, together with its partner Kia, is the world’s no.5 automaker, and the subcompact SUV is the top-performing segment globally, emerging at an annual average of 46%from 2010 to 2016, Hyundai said, cited from HIS Automotive data.
According to Esther Yim, an analyst at Samsung Securities Co in Seoul, the company has plans to widen its SUV lineup to eight models, including two under the premium Genesis brand, by 2020. This could help Hyundai Motor add 500,000 in annual vehicle and increase its share of the global SUV market to 6.8%, up from currently 5.7%, Yim reported.
By 3:30 PM GMT+9, Hyundai Motor Co traded 1.23%, or 2,000, to 164,500 KRW. It opened in 163,000 KRW, with a session high of 167,000 KRW and a session low of 162,000 KRW. Its market capitalization was 43.72T, its P/E ratio was 8.75 and its dividend yield was 2.43%.
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