Hyundai Motor plays catch up with new subcompact SUV

Named after a district on the Big Island Hawaii famous for coffee, Kona is created to stand apart from the automaker's larger SUV models Tucson and Santa Fe.

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. If it comes to the shore, Kona will sit between the cross-hatch i20 Active and premium SUV Creta in Hyundai Motor India's portfolio, and will take on the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza and the Ford EcoSport directly.

Starting Wednesday, the Kona SUV mated to either a 1.6-liter gasoline turbo engine or a 1.6-liter diesel engine will go on sale in the domestic market.

Shots are fired as Hyundai unveils its competitor in the all-important small SUV segment, with the new Kona. It's a unit shared with the Elantra and Veloster down to its 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.

Chung said the planned Kona EV was part of the company's focus on alternate-fuelled vehicles. The Kona will give the South Korean brand a competitor to the Nissan Juke, Mazda CX-3 and Toyota C-HR, to name a few.

In South Korea, its sales were almost flat this year. There will also be a 1.6-litre diesel version for select markets, including Europe, but once again it is unlikely to come to New Zealand.

A 2.0-liter MPI Atkinson engine produces 149PS, with a 0-100km/h time of 10 seconds and a top speed of 194km/h.

Subcompact crossovers are all the rage these days and after announcing the Kia Stonic last Tuesday, the Hyundai Group has now revealed its sister model, the Hyundai Kona. This year, the segment's annual growth rate is expected to be 19 percent.

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

Hyundai Motor's accumulated global sales plunged 6.5 percent on-year to 1.82 million units between January and May this year, largely due to anti-Korean sentiment in China as well as sluggish overall automobile sales in the US.

When asked about overseas acquisitions, Chung said Hyundai now had no plans to buy other carmakers.

It's likely that Hyundai's European and United Kingdom divisions would consider selling a smaller SUV; however, an even bigger vehicle than the Santa Fe would probably be restricted to markets like North America.

The company plans to start mass producing this all-electric Kona sometime next year, though there are now no plans to offer it in the U.S. Details about this vehicle's powertrain are nonexistent, but given current industry trends, a generously sized lithium-ion battery pack seems likely.