By on June 13, 2017

2018 Hyundai Kona - Image: Hyundai

Nearly seven years after the Nissan Juke. Five years after the Buick Encore. Three years after the Jeep Renegade. Two and a half years after the Honda HR-V. Finally, the 2018 Hyundai Kona is set to arrive as the fourth and smallest member of Hyundai’s utility vehicle lineup.

With the silhouette of a Mazda CX-3, the quirky light treatment of a Nissan Juke, and the cladding of a Pontiac Vibe, the Hyundai Kona will arrive in North America in early 2018 with optional all-wheel drive and a new platform that will be shared with the unfortunately named Kia Stonic.

The platform, Hyundai says, “is optimized to permit SUV levels of ground clearance.” Don’t expect more than 6.7 inches, yet in the Kona’s segment, the little Hyundai won’t actually be that low. But it is small. At 164 inches from bumper to bumper, the Hyundai Kona stretches only two inches longer than a Hyundai Accent hatchback and is four inches shorter than the Mazda CX-3.

Yet by 2020, Hyundai intends to strengthen its crossover lineup by positioning below the B-segment Kona an even smaller A-segment utility vehicle. Like a sidecar for your Santa Fe.

For the Kona, North American buyers are likely to have one or two choices. At the bottom of the lineup, a 148-horsepower 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle engine works with a six-speed automatic. The 175-horsepower 1.6-liter turbo is joined to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Hyundai’s only mention of a manual transmission is linked to the European market’s 1.0-liter turbocharged triple.

Suspension depends on the number of driven wheels. Front-wheel-drive Konas are limited to a torsion beam rear; all-wheel-drive Konas get a dual-arm multilink rear suspension.

2018 Hyundai Kona Rear - Image: Hyundai

Further to the many optional technical and safety advances you expect to see in new cars — auto high beams and lane keeping assist and the like — Hyundai will offer head-up display in the Kona. Unlike systems that project a picture onto the front windscreen, however, the Hyundai Kona will adopt Mazda’s oft-used technique of displaying content on a glass panel.

Hyundai eventually hopes to reveal a Kona EV for mass production with 242 miles. You’ll remember the range of the Chevrolet Bolt’s EPA-rated range: 238 miles. But first, the conventional 2018 Hyundai Kona must make its way to dealers. According to Wards Auto, Hyundai hopes to export more than 40,000 Korean-built Konas to Europe (mainly) and North America by the end of 2017, but plans to produce 150,000 Konas for export in 2018.

Hyundai Motor America is undeniably late to the subcompact crossover party, having denied itself the opportunity of selling the Hyundai Creta. Now-departed boss Dave Zuchowski said that decision cost Hyundai 18 months.

2018 Hyundai Kona front - Image: Hyundai

Now, as Hyundai gets ready to hop into the pool, the Kona will find that the water is deeper and many swimmers don’t want to make room for a small Hyundai to do a big cannonball. General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles own 52 percent of the category; Honda and Subaru another one-third. The category is growing. Not including the front-wheel-drive-only Kia Soul and Toyota C-HR, U.S. sales of subcompact crossovers are up 16 percent to nearly 218,000 units in 2017’s first five months. But in order to gain more market share in America’s growing SUV/crossover sector, the subcompact crossover category that doubled its volume in 2015 needs more contributors.

That’s where the Hyundai Kona and Ford EcoSport step up. Now we watch to see how they’re treated by their classmates.

Hyundai is in real need of some additional volume. “If you look at our sales, (they are) not faring as great as we expected,” Hyundai vice chairman Euisun Chung said at the Kona launch. If the Kona ranks among America’s subcompact crossover class leaders, Hyundai can expect roughly 7,500 monthly U.S. sales. That’s a start.

[Images: Hyundai]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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29 Comments on “2018 Hyundai Kona: Late But Not Too Late, Little But Not As Little As The Next One...”

  • avatar

    Why can’t people just call it what it is? A hatchback. Sure, a hatchback “slightly” lifted and with a sh!t-ton of black cladding (I guess black cladding suddenly makes a vehicle a crossover, as if it adds to the “utility” aspect of the vehicle), but a hatchback, nonetheless. Oh, yeah…I forgot. Marketing. Answered my own question. They’ll sell.

  • avatar

    Looks great to me. Nice design, Hyundai.

  • avatar

    The 2011 BMW X3 wants its shoulder line back.

  • avatar

    Is anyone surprised at the lack of a manual transmission? It’s all but dead in this segment.

    FCA will still sell you a Renegade or 500X. Subaru offers a Crosstrek. Honda has the HR-V, and Mitsubishi offers the Outlander Sport.

    If you push the definition, you can get a stripped-out Kia Soul or a Nissan Juke NISMO.

    We’re not far from the date when only cars with sporting intentions offer a stick shift.

  • avatar

    I actually like it. Cladding and all.

  • avatar

    Not bad looking overall. I’m surprised at the length, or lack thereof. It’s only 7″ longer than my parent’s ’81 Civic wagon.

  • avatar

    Looks way better in these photos than the leaked ones yesterday; the black roof is executed well and the cladding isn’t really more egregious than the Crosstrek, Volvo Cross Country(s), Allroad, et al.

  • avatar

    It’s hard to accept that anything categorized as “subcompact” is now part of a hot and growing segment.

  • avatar
    velvet fog

    A few too many lights and air intakes on the front.

  • avatar

    Please make a Genesis version. We need more luxury versions of these, with actual quietness that can serve as tiny city luxury cars.

  • avatar

    Clean up the cladding around the wheels and it would be attractive among the mutants in its class. But no manual = no sale.

  • avatar

    At last, Mazda now has all the encouragement it needs to lift a Miata, and dip the bottom half in Rhino-liner. Platform amortization, thy name is CX-0.

  • avatar

    “Front-wheel-drive Konas are limited to a torsion beam rear; all-wheel-drive Konas get a dual-arm multilink rear suspension.”

    Okay, I don’t know much about this subject, but are different suspensions on the same vehicle as unusual as it sounds?

    • 0 avatar

      On the 2015 Golf, the TDI had a torsion beam in the back, while the TSI has independant rear suspension. The difference was due to VW needing space for the urea tank on the TDIs, hence the torsion beam. So it does happen.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Chevy put a basic torsion beam on the lower-spec Cruze, but the upper trims got a few extra links in the back.

      • 0 avatar

        I believe the higher-spec Cruze got the fancy Z-link rear suspension but its even richer cousin the Volt didn’t, because the better weight distribution due to the big-ass T-shaped battery seemed to obviate the need for it. Indeed the Volt is seen as a good handler as commuter cars go, but Car & Driver noted one quirk: better skidpad performance going around corners in one direction vs the other! Granted we’re talking about cornering loads that street drivers will never approach, but apparently those extra links do something useful…

      • 0 avatar

        Hyundai is also doing that with the Elantra Sport vs. the non-Sport versions.

        Despite all the criticisms of the sheetmetal, don’t think it looks too bad compared to the competition.

        Juke is fugly, but at least it is an interesting fugly.

        The HR-V is fugly and bland (the worst combination).

        The C-HR is less fugly than the Juke and more interesting than the HR-V, but that’s not saying much.

        The worst part of the Kona is the cladding (esp. how it is integrating into the headlights/taillights) – but guess some buyers will think it makes the Kona look more “rugged.”

        Being late to the party is bad enough, but the Hyundai HQ is making another misstep by only allocating 40k units for the US market.

        As I had stated before, the Hyundai brass simply hasn’t allocated enough production for its crossovers (Kia’s Mexican plant should be perfect to build this and the Kia subcompact CUV).

  • avatar

    Just looking at the front clip, this feels plastic and disposable.

  • avatar

    “…with optional all-wheel drive ”

    This Hyundai AWD is worthless. See youtube how they stuck where Subaru goes.

  • avatar

    The shape of this isn’t bad, and it avoids looking squished and awkward like the Ecosport/Trax. But why the busy, overstyled front end? Why don’t they ever know when to stop?

  • avatar

    That’s handsome.

  • avatar

    These things have become comical parodies of themselves. “Let’s sacrifice actual usable space and outward visibility for our sporty-utility-ness!” Nothing sporty and not so much utility about any of these things, and comic-book looks.

  • avatar

    Don’t know what you expect from someone that likes the Nissan Cube/Kia soul genre but I like it. Would like a small wagon or medium hatchback just as well. Guess I’m repeating myself.

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