Hyundai Motor bets on new small SUV as China sales skid

Hyundai Motor bets on new small SUV as China sales skid

The Korean manufacturer likes to name its crossover and SUV models after travel destinations - we already have Santa Fe and Tucson - so the Kona is named after a coastal district on the Big Island of Hawaii.

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. Before the summer of next year, it will launch a fuel-cell SUV and electric Kona.

Hyundai will be entering the compact SUV fray with the intricately styled Kona, an all-new rival to the ever popular Nissan Juke and Peugeot 2008. It's a unit shared with the Elantra and Veloster down to its 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.

Hyundai hasn't priced the Kona or announced an on-sale date in the US, but a showroom appointment for late 2017 and a sub-$20,000 base price seem like safe bets.

The number of small-size SUVs in Korea totaled 107,295 units previous year, up 24 percent from 86,233 units in 2015, according to findings released by the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association. Kona's turbocharged gasoline engine model has a mileage of 12.8 kilometers (7.95 miles) per liter and the diesel engine model 16.8 kilometers (10.4 miles) per liter.

The Korean version of the new Kona is powered by a 2.0-litre MPI petrol engine that makes 149PS max power and 179 Nm of top torque @ 4,500 rpm.

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Also available will be a 1.6 diesel engine for select markets, including Europe.

Sales of Kona would be crucial to help counter Hyundai's eroding auto sales this year in the US and China, where a backlash against South Korea's deployment of a USA anti-missile system hurt Korean businesses.

In the January-May period, Hyundai sold 1.82 million vehicles, down 6.5 percent from 1.95 million units a year earlier. Hyundai's deteriorating profitability and missing of its annual sales targets in recent years were attributed to its failure to respond to rising global demand for SUVs.

"Our sales plan has suffered a setback, but we will use this as an opportunity to overhaul our products", said Chung, the only son of Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo.

As for a possible acquisition of a carmaker, he said it was not under consideration for now. The compact SUV also adopts Hyundai Motor's new family identity, the Cascading Grille, featuring a sporty mesh pattern, flanked by exceptional wing-type fenders that dominate the front design.

Due for release in late September in Australia, and with new models imminent for the Honda and Subaru offerings, Hyundai has today lifted the covers off a vehicle it says will offer advanced technology and class-leading safety features, and set new standards for the segment.

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