Johannesburg - Hyundai has confirmed that it will launch its flamboyant new Kona compact SUV in South Africa later this year.

The Korean automaker already has the more conservative Creta as a player in this crossover market segment, but doesn’t expect any sales cannibalisation as the slightly smaller but more premium Kona will be aimed at a different buyer, and will target the same type of style-conscious (quirky?) customer who might consider a Toyota C-HR or a Nissan Juke.

The Kona made its international debut in June 2017, and at 4165mm in length it is smaller than the 4270mm Creta and 4360mm C-HR and similar in size to the 4125mm Juke.

Like the C-HR and Juke, the Kona has edgy, futuristic styling that breaks the normal SUV mould. Its slit-eyed headlamps and tail lights are distinctly Alfa-esque in nature, and together with the sleek roofline it gives the Kona a party vibe unlike any other Hyundai we’ve yet seen. More controversial are the overstyled front and rear fog lights that don’t integrate neatly with the rest of the design, but like or hate it, there’s no denying the vehicle’s ability to turn heads.

The Kona’s interior styling is less contentious than the outside, laying on a more generically modern look with an uncluttered dashboard dominated by the obligatory large touchscreen. The infotainment has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, and there’s an optional head-up display.

Soft-touch materials on the dashboard and front doors give the cabin a premium vibe, and the more expensive models offer high-end features like wireless smartphone chargers, auto emergency braking, LED headlights, and electrically adjustable front seats.

For now it’s not yet known which derivatives are headed to Mzansi, but overseas the Kona’s initially available in a choice of three petrol petrol engines: a three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbo with outputs of 88kW and 172Nm, a normally-aspirated 2-litre (110kW and 180Nm), and a four-cylinder 1.6 turbo (130kW and 265Nm). Later this year a turbo diesel and an electric version will be added to the range.

Front-wheel drive derivatives are paired with a six-speed manual gearbox, and all-wheel drive versions get a seven-speed dual-clutch auto. FWD models have torsion beam rear suspension while AWD versions ride on a more advanced multi-link setup. A slightly raised 170mm ground clearance clearly indicates its more road-focused than gravel-duelling nature.

Interesting fact: The car will be sold in Portugal as the Hyundai Kauai, as Kona is too similar to cona, the taboo slang word for the female genitalia in Portuguese. Like Kona, Kauai is a district of Hawaii.

Hyundai also confirmed that, at the other end of the SUV scale, the latest generation of the large Santa Fe will also hit South African streets before the end of 2018. 

As usual, expect more details as they become available.

Drive360