Another week, another crossover. A Hyundai, this time, the fifth one in the Korean giant’s range to join the Grand Santa Fe, the not grand Santa Fe, Tucson and the Creta.
This new one is called the Kona. There will be more crossovers, way more, because with the Kona Hyundai is just starting to unveil the master plan: to beat all the Japanese brands at their own consumerist game and rule Europe by 2021 as the continent’s leading Asian carmaker.
Last year 14.6 million passenger cars were sold in Europe. Nearly half of them were diesels, and despite the dirt on the subject the Volkswagen Group still rules the roost, increasing sales and dominating Europe with 3.6 units shifted. Every fourth car sold in Europe comes from the Wolfsburg empire.
Then you continue on down the list, and it’s Renault in second place, PSA third, BMW fourth, and just Europeans on form all the way down to eight place on the bestsellers list occupied by Mercedes. Only then do you find Toyota in ninth, currently the biggest Asian brand in Europe with 650,000 sales a year, followed by Japanese compatriots at Nissan.
Hyundai is just outside the top 10, the third-largest Asian carmaker in Europe shifting 500,000 cars annually, which means some substantial increases are targeted if the Koreans mean to usurp the Japanese and reach the target of nearly 700,000 cars sold in Europe by 2021.
That’s a huge ask, and it means Hyundai will have to achieve 7 or 8 per cent growth for five consecutive years, although unlike here in the Middle East this year, the Koreans can bank on Europe’s consumers, who are once again buying cars in droves with Q1 growth in 2017 marking an 8.2 per cent increase over the same period in 2016.
Hence, more compacts and crossovers. Or even better, a compact crossover.
The new Kona is Hyundai’s first global B-segment SUV (so it’s coming to the Middle East), which puts it up against Nissan’s wildly successful Juke (which despite its looks manages to find a hundred thousand short-sighted buyers in Europe a year), and the cheap Renault Captur and Ford Ecosport and the like. These rivals start from between Dh53K and Dh64K so that’s where you can expect the Kona to figure, too.
The Koreans have gone a bit progressive with the styling of the Kona, though not to Juke extent, with all the trendy panel surfacing, slanty eyes, and contrasting roofs present. Despite its cheap and cheerful price positioning this will also be, according to the maker, the first car in this segment to feature wireless smartphone charging as optional kit, as well as the first Hyundai to roll out with an available virtual head-up display.
In its domestic market the Kona is ready to go on sale before the month is out, before reaching European and North American customers. Sitting on Hyundai’s all-new platform developed specifically for compact crossovers, the car will be offered with a choice of two petrol engines: a 2.0-litre four-cylinder producing 149 horsepower and 179Nm of torque from 4,500rpm, for a top speed of 194kph and a 0-100kph time of 10 seconds; and a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder making 120 horsepower and 172Nm of torque, topping out at 181kph and reaching 100kph from rest in 12 seconds.
Despite playing in an urban-commuter segment the Kona will additionally offer all-wheel drive. The many options include three different display choices ranging from 5.0in to 8.0in, and a host of driver assistance and active safety systems.
And yes, before you ask, Hyundai will also offer a Kona Iron Man edition inspired by the superhero’s advanced Stark Industries armoured suit (40mm wider, 19in wheels, matte grey bonnet…). It’s Japan’s turn now. Astro Boy won’t take this lying down.
What’s in a name
Like the Tucson and Santa Fe SUVs, named after travel destinations you don’t really want to travel to, the Kona too is named after a place, except a pretty nice place this time since it takes its name from a coastal region on the Big Island of Hawaii. You know, sun, sea, volcanoes and adventure, and all the things that make you picture a Hyundai crossover.