By Asian Journal Auto Editor

2018-hyundai-kona PIC 1The new 2018 Hyundai Kona may be a little fashionably late to the subcompact CUV party – but arrives drawing a lot of attention. First up it looks very cool, especially in the funky Blue Lagoon, Acid Yellow and Tangerine Orange paint options. There is the unique two-tiered headlight visage, cleverly integrated black plastic body cladding around the wheel arches that blend into the headlight and taillight surrounds. There is an urgent, swoopy look to the side profile.

Hyundai have given the Kona trim lines, names instead of model numbers or letter codes. The base Essential and Preferred Kona model arrive in both front and all-wheel-drive version, while the mid and upper level Luxury, Trend and Ultimate models feature All-wheel-drive. There are two engine choices, starting with a base 2.0-litre direct injection, inline four-cylinder producing 174 hp and 132 lb/ft of torque with a six-speed automatic transmission, the other engine choice is the 1.6-litre turbo direct injection four-cylinder, making a 175 hp, but with crucially more torque at 195 lb/ft with a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission and as standard all-wheel-drive. Transmission-wise there is no manual gearbox available. The Hyundai Kona starts at very competitive $20,999 to $31,199 for the top tier model.

2018 HYUNDAI KONA PIC 2Equipment levels are excellent across the board. All but the base Essential model feature rear sonic parking sensors, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning as standard equipment. The Luxury and Ultimate versions add lane keep assist, autonomous braking with pedestrian detection and driver alert system — part of Hyundai’s Smart Sense package. The top models also offer as standard AWD, Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Rear Cross traffic Alert (RCTA) and Lane Change Assist (LCA). Proximity Keyless Entry with Push-Button
 Ignition, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Pedestrian Detection and Lane Keeping Assist and a heated steering wheel are also offered. The full-load, no-options needed, ultimate model offers auto high-beam lighting as found in very high end premium cars.

Interior wise, the Kona’s cabin offers a smart nicely crafted look. Despite the sub-compact classification, it is as roomy as a compact CUV, with enough room for four adults or five at push. There are comfortable seats and good visibility. As expected there is lot of hard black plastic trim around the cabin that’s expected at this price point, but everything looks well finished, durable, and well put together. The Ultimate model gets a larger touch-sensitive infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto- integration all the usual power and convenience features abound: electric windows, mirrors, cruise control and heated front seats. All models come with rear-view camera, and the top trims offer navigation, wireless phone charging, heads-up display and BlueLink connectivity is standard. There is also a remote engine start/stop, locking/ unlocking and smartphone app tracking with diagnostic capability. No more lost Kona in the multi-level parking lot! Another smart feature is under the cargo floor where a shallow, sectioned storage tray lives above the spare tire. Cargo and passenger volume is very impressive with 544 litres behind rear seats; 1,298 litres folded.

On the road, the base Hyundai Kona’s 132lb/ft of torque, 2.0-litre Atkinson Cycle engine is designed for fuel efficiency and is good choice if that’s what important to you. However, it does not have the grunt of the 1.6T unit with a full load and on uphill stretches. I recommend you swing for the turbo four-cylinder engine option as found in the Trend and Ultimate models that offer more torque at 195 lb-ft of torque at 1,500 rpm. It also comes with the slick seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox and   all-wheel-drive system. It’s a very competent system with up to 50 percent of power sent to the rear wheels when conditions demand. There are three automatic transmission drive modes – Normal, Eco and Sport. There is also a high-end downhill descent control and a lock button for the AWD. Handling, braking and steering are all good. Fuel economy is rated at (Regular) 2.0-litre FWD, 8.6/7.0/7.0L/100 km city/highway/combined; 2.0-litre AWD, 9.2/7.8/8.6L/100 km; 1.6-litre AWD, 9.0,8.0/8.6L/100 km. To sum up, once again, Hyundai delivers a very creditable CUV that is fun to drive, has a unique look to it and all the technology buyers expect.

Pricing for the new Hyundai Kona starts at $20,999 for the Essential front driver; and tops out $31,799 for the 1.6T Ultimate AWD.