There's plenty going on under the skin of the Kona, but most people are likely to be drawn in (or instantly turned off) by the unique way it looks. Forget about the conservative face of the i30 hatchback, Hyundai has shrugged off its cardigan and let its imagination run wild. There are hints of Jeep Cherokee and Citroen C4 Cactus in the split headlamp and running light treatment, while the flanks have a hint of Subaru Impreza about them.
The focus on bold design continues inside, where Hyundai has aimed to deliver a practical, spacious cabin at odds with the compact exterior. As is the case in the i30, the dashboard is home to a floating touchscreen tasked with infotainment, with physical climate controls below it. There's even a head-up display, complete with information about lane-keeping assist and navigation prompts. The company claims the materials used all feel high-quality, but such things can only be confirmed in person.
In the boot, the space has been laid out with versatility in mind. The rear seats fold totally flat, and the two-level boot floor leaves space for the requisite set of golf clubs, or enough bags for a weekend away.
On the technology front, the Kona will come with the semi-autonomous smarts you'd expect of a modern SUV. That means you get forward collision avoidance, lane-keeping assist, auto-dipping high beam and driver fatigue warnings. A blind spot monitor should save owners from any lane-change mishaps on the highway, and rear-cross traffic alerts make it easier to reverse out of tight parking spots.
Power will come from a choice of gasoline or diesel engines depending on where in the world you live. The range will kick off with a 110-kW (147-hp) four-cylinder engine good for a top speed of 194 km/h (121 mph) and a 100 km/h (62 mph) sprint of 10 seconds. It's hooked up to a six-speed automatic gearbox, unlike the seven-speed dual clutch that comes standard with the turbocharged 130 kW (176 hp) engine sitting above it in the range.
A three-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox will be offered in Europe, but its 12-second sprint to 100 km/h and stick shift mean it won't make it to the US. A compact four-cylinder diesel will also be offered in Europe, but given diesel cars have never really gained favor with North American buyers and there are a number of brands being sued for their diesel cheating, it's unlikely to make it stateside.
Although the car will come standard with front-wheel drive, Hyundai is keen to point out the effort that has gone into packaging the optional four-wheel drive system. Along with a new intercooler layout, the transmission has been reset to take up less space in the cabin. Both two and four-wheel drive cars have unique suspension tunes – the front drive Kona has a torsion beam setup, while the optional four-wheel drive system comes with a multi-link setup down back.
The Kona will go on sale in Korea this month, before hitting the US and Canada shortly afterwards.