Mark your calendars for April 16th, next Friday, as Hyundai Sime Darby Motors (HSDM) has now confirmed the virtual launch for their refreshed B-segment crossover competitor, the Kona.
If these phrases sound oddly familiar, that’s because we’re just about 6 months since the Kona made its first ever Malaysian debut. Even back then, the introduction of the pre-facelift version seemed strangely timed given that the updated version had only just been revealed in Europe a month prior.
As usual, though, the Malaysian market has needed its own lag time to account for this delay, so prepare yourselves for the arrival of the Hyundai Kona we should have gotten from the start. Better late than never, we suppose.
With its sleeker front end design and retained name taken from a Hawaiian locale, the Kona aims squarely at those seeking the illusive ‘active lifestyle’, hoping a front-drive high-riding small SUV can help them project such an air.
Inside, this upcoming Kona notable receives a pretty slick looking 10.25-inch digital instrument display to match its equally sized touchscreen infotainment panel.
The ‘new’ Kona does also offer an appreciable 40mm increase in overall length, though this change is mostly done to accommodate the design refresh and doesn’t improve interior space. Aside from this, Hyundai has equipped it with a broader array of powertrains over the pre-facelift, most of which include a 48-volt mild hybrid architecture. However, we’re skeptical of those being offered locally.
Instead, expect the 1.6-litre turbocharged T-GDI four-cylinder petrol engine to be retained and paired to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, alongside the 2.0-litre normally aspirated unit on lower-rung variants mated to 6-speed torque converter automatic.
A possible wild card here would be the surprise debut of Hyundai’s 1.0-litre turbocharged 3-cylinder unit (1.0 T-GDI Smartstream), as that format of ICE seems to be all the rage these days. It’s offers impressive fuel efficiency over Hyundai’s legacy atmospheric engines and its 120PS power figure makes it about as potent with even more torque to boot.
Late last year, the big hoopla about the Kona surrounded the inclusion of a more sporty N-Line variant with all the usual cosmetic/aero upgrades to give it a slightly meaner presence on the road, but it remains a mystery if HDSM elects to introduce this into the local range this time around.
If they do, the range-topping 1.6-litre turbo would at least have a more fittingly aggressive shell to present its 177PS and 265Nm output. Even better, certain European markets have the same engine tuned to a meatier 198PS.
There’s still plenty to play for in the local compact SUV arms race. Proton struck a devastating blow to the competition with the X50, but Perodua threw a nasty undercut with the recently launched Ativa. Outside of the Malaysian marques, Toyota is attempting to sideswipe the Honda HR-V’s dominance with the Corolla Cross.
While they’re all busy fighting each other, Hyundai could swoop in and land some key jabs with this refreshed Kona - but only if it’s priced just right. The outgoing model had the handicap of being fully imported, but could HDSM have pulled off the impossible? Might the new Kona be rolling off the assembly line in Kulim?