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Urban Crawler: 2018 Hyundai Kona

The Hyundai Kona, named after a region on the Hawaiian islands, is a B-Segment compact SUV for the customer "who pursue challenging, action-filled lifestyles". Euisun Chung, Vice Chairman of Hyundai, and the man who provided the quote, might have missed the fact that action-filled lifestyles and compact SUVs in a phrase together creates an oxymoron. But then again, we all know the real purpose of the Kona is to act as the counterpoint to Toyota's impending C-HR release - and in the battle of the urban shopping carts both cars are looking equally attractive.

The first thing you might notice about the Kona is its styling. This car is a mess. Its lighting setup appears to take its inspiration from the Jeep Cherokee, stacking the housings in an incomprehensive manner. In the front, the narrow strip of LEDs functions as the turn signal and daytime running light while the housing below is the real headlight and high beam. Its fog lights sit inward near the bottom splitter creating three points of illumination and too much visual noise. On the sides, Hyundai gave the Kona exaggerated fender bulges to give the car a rugged appearance of 'armor' - though it appears Hyundai's idea of armor is to leave the bottom quarter of a car in black plastic. Rearward, Hyundai went with two tiers of lights a second time, putting the reverse and turn signals at the bottom of the quarter panels. Hyundai says they drew inspiration for the design from the Marvel superhero Iron Man but the Kona looks more like the Hulk smashed a Tucson into a Citroen C4 Cactus before piecing them back together.

Tires and wheels on the Kona range from 205/60 R16 steel/alloy to 215/55 R17 alloy to 235/45 R18 two-tone alloy at its top spec.

Under its unseemly skin the Kona is more composed. Worldwide markets will have a choice of two powertrain options. The first is a 2.0-liter inline-4 Atkinson cycle engine producing 146 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque for a 0-100 kmh time of 10 seconds. The normally aspirated MPI motor can only be merged with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The second, more powerful engine is a 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4 generating 174 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. The 1.6T Gamma engine comes with a 7-speed dual clutch and offers a 0-100 kmh time of 7.7 seconds. European market Konas will offer a 1.0-liter turbo 3-cylinder with manual transmission and 1.6-liter diesel at a later time.

Further inboard, Hyundai equipped the Kona with strut suspension in the front and torsion beam suspension in the rear. If the customer opts for the all wheel drive option, the rear suspension is upgraded to a multi-link instead. Hyundai says the use of high strength steel and structural adhesives give the car less weight, more rigidity, and improved crash safety. The Kona is the smallest and lowest priced of the Hyundai SUVs but it can still be equipped with automated cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, and automated high beams as a result of its front facing camera and radar. Sensors in the rear allows the Kona to warn drivers about cars in its blind spot along with cross traffic approaching when in reverse. Not even the Honda HR-V has this level of equipment yet.

Interior trim accents match the color of the exterior

In the cabin, customers can order the Kona with a 5, 7, or 8-inch center display supporting Apple Carplay and Android Auto. Pressing a button on the steering wheel will cause a glass panel behind the gauge cluster to rise up and project navigation, warning signals, and audio data onto the glass as a type of head-up display. Its center storage compartment is equipped with wireless charging capable of reporting when a phone charge is complete or if an object impedes the charging of a phone. Other creature comforts include heated and ventilated leather seats, power lumbar support, three driving modes, and 60:40 rear folding seats. The Kona's maximum luggage capacity is rounded out to 40 ft cubed (1,143 liter) with the seats folded flat. And if you're a stickler for audio, the Kona has an optional 8-speaker Krell sound system as an optional extra.

The Kona will be on sale in South Korea next month. Release dates and prices for worldwide markets will be announced at a later time. Estimates place the Kona starting price at $19,000-$20,000 USD.