Hyundai’s new Kona to fuel small SUV boom

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jun 13, 2017 - 15:46
  • Updated : Jun 13, 2017 - 18:03

Hyundai Motor, South Korea’s No. 1 automotive company, on Tuesday held a world premiere of its first-ever small sports utility vehicle Kona, fueling further competition among automakers amid a worldwide boom in B-segment SUVs.

“Hyundai Motor tried to create a value unique to the Kona that encompasses optimal technology and passion (based) on thorough market research, rather than rushing into the market,” said Chung Eui-sun, vice chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, at the world premiere event held at the Hyundai Motor Studio in Goyang city in Gyeonggi province. 
Chung Eui-sun, vice chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, introduces the Kona compact SUV during a world premiere event held at the Hyundai Motor Studio in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province. (Hyundai Motor Group)

As a latecomer to the competition, Hyundai’s Kona will rival SsangYong Motor’s flagship Tivoli that is a top-selling SUV here, Kia Motors’ Niro plug-in hybrid, GM Korea’s Chevy Trax, Renault Samsung Motors’ flagship QM3 and others in the local B-segment market.

The latest small SUV marks Hyundai Motor’s first small-size car rolled out in 15 years since the discontinuation of the Hyundai Atos compact car in 2002.

Hyundai Motor highlighted the cost effectiveness of the Kona, equipped with “cutting-edge features and a relatively affordable sticker price” that starts at 18.9 million won ($16,790).

In an attempt to reach this year’s sales goal of 5.08 million units, Hyundai Motor has set Kona’s sales target at 41,000 units in overseas markets and 26,000 units here this year, the company said.

Hyundai Motor’s accumulated global sales plunged 6.5 percent on-year to 1.82 million units between January and May this year, largely due to anti-Korean sentiment in China as well as sluggish overall automobile sales in the US.

Kona is scheduled to hit European markets in August and the US in December, the company said.

Riding on the small SUV boom, the automaker will aim to sell 150,000 units overseas and 45,000 units here in 2018, the company said.

The number of small-size SUVs in Korea totaled 107,295 units last year, up 24 percent from 86,233 units in 2015, according to findings released by the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association.

“Traditionally, midsize sedans were preferred by South Korean drivers. This is because cars were perceived as a family good and a symbol of wealth,” said Kim Pil-soo, a professor of automotive engineering at Daelim University.

“The trend has changed. Koreans now value personal taste, which has led the small SUV boom.”

B-segment automobiles worldwide totaled some 4.3 million units last year, up more than tenfold from 485,000 units in 2010, according to global market researcher IHS.

With an aim to diversify its SUV lineup, Hyundai Motor also shared plans to introduce new SUV models-- such as one smaller than Kona and one bigger than the Sante Fe midsize SUV-- and powertrains by 2020.

Fuel cell electric vehicle and electric vehicle versions of Kona that can run 390 kilometers on a full charge will be released by 2018, the company said.

Head-up display technology has been installed in the Kona for the first time among rival models, along with a wireless smart phone charger, the company said.

The model is offered in six different trims, priced between 18.95 million won and 27 million won. 

By Kim Bo-gyung (