Following a “coming soon” teaser released earlier this week, Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors (HSDM) has announced the Malaysian launch date for the Hyundai Kona facelift. In a video featuring local girl group Dolla, posted on Facebook, the virtual launch time and date is shown as 10.30 am, April 16. That’s two weeks from now.
The arrival of the Kona facelift comes less than half a year after HSDM launched the original Kona in Malaysia. Just three days after that local launch in October 2020, Hyundai Europe announced the Kona facelift. The timing of events was such that it highlighted the late arrival of the Euro-flavoured crossover to our shores, although the “compact SUV for millennials” named after the west coast region of Hawaii’s Big Island is still as unique in design as it was in 2017.
With the new N Line trim option, the Kona facelift comes in two distinct faces. The regular face looks different from the original Kona’s fascia, but strangely, the sporty N Line is closer to the pre-facelift in looks. Let’s focus on the normal face, which appeared in HSDM’s teaser. It’s a heavy rework with a slimmer and wider grille taking centre-stage, the Hyundai logo now sits on the bodywork above the grille (previously in the middle of the face) and the letterbox vent above the grille is no more.
The Kona’s distinctive “eyebrow” LED daytime running lights are still there, but the main beam below now has a scaled appearance. Before this, the black plastic wheel arch cladding fused with the lamp surrounds (front and rear) for “body armour”, but the black bits now fully wrap around the front and rear ends, broken up by a silver chin of a skid plate.
The rear design mirrors this – black across the lower section with a silver central element. The graphics of the tail lamps are new, and the lower tier lights have a new shape that’s more teardrop than before. Lastly, the compact SUV comes with new 17- and 18-inch wheels (the 16-inch option is carried over), and overall length is 40 mm more due to the new front end.
Will we get the N Line? It’ll be relatively expensive next to mainstream SUVs, especially so for a CBU import, but if HSDM has the guts to introduce the i30 N, who’s to bet against them bringing this in?
The N Line looks more like the pre-facelift Kona due to the logo being within the grille. With that, the vent above the grille returns, but it’s split into three slots. Another reason why it appears more like the pre-facelift (despite having the new wide grille) is because the N Line does away with the new full width black cladding, or any cladding for that matter – it’s all body colour here.
In place of the skid plate is an N-style aerodynamic lip with low-lying corner fins, plus larger and “more technical” air intake features. There’s also a unique mesh grille design and unique 18-inch alloys. At the back, no one will miss that huge diffuser with visible twin pipes (no visible pipes on the regular car). The rear corners sport small fins for better air flow.
The main goal for the interior was to project more sophistication and to improve perceived quality, which is perhaps why the dashboard appears more solid and sombre than funky. The basic architecture remains, but the console area is now disconnected from the centre stack to stress the horizontal layout.
The rings around the speakers and air vents get an aluminium finish, while new additions include an electric parking brake and ambient lighting for the centre cupholders and front foot wells. There are also new colours and materials including a black woven houndstooth design for the seats. Not everyone likes black, so there’s a light beige option for the cabin and available khaki leather seats with matching brown centre console.
N Line cars come with a black interior with cloth, leather or suede seats. Red stitching, metal pedals, and N emblems on the steering wheel, gear knob and seats add to the sportier feel.
For tech and connectivity, the latest Kona gets the 10.25-inch digital cluster that was first seen in the new i20. This can be paired to a 10.25-inch AVN screen with a split-screen function and multiple Bluetooth connections. The latest Bluelink upgrade includes Last Mile Navigation, Connected Routing, Live Parking Information and Free Text Search. Voice recognition now includes climate, rear window and side mirror heating and steering wheel heating.
The regular Display Audio system is now at eight inches (from seven) and supports wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The safety and driving assist features have been updated to the latest version. These are all the available kit for European-spec cars, and ours might differ.
The European powertrain line-up is topped by an enhanced 1.6L T-GDI Smartstream engine with a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. This 198 PS option can be in 2WD or 4WD. 48-volt mild hybrid tech is applied to the 1.6L Smartstream diesel with 136 PS. This can be had with a seven-speed DCT or six-speed Intelligent Manual Transmission (iMT), as well as optional 4WD.
The base 1.0L T-GDI Smartstream petrol engine with 120 PS can also be equipped with the mild hybrid tech and 6iMT. Without the mild hybrid tech, the 1.0L T-GDI can be combined with the DCT or a regular six-speed manual gearbox.
Our pre-facelift Kona – seen above in Ceramic Blue – launched with two engines, a 2.0L Nu MPI naturally-aspirated Atkinson-cycle engine with 149 PS/180 Nm (6AT, 0-100 km/h in 10 seconds) and a 1.6L Gamma T-GDi engine making 177 PS and 265 Nm of torque from 1,500 to 4,500 rpm.
The turbo variant gets a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and is the fastest SUV in the class with a 0-100 km/h sprint time of 7.7 seconds. The 2.0L NA might return for the facelift, and how about a 1.6T in N Line spec? That would be rather hot, no?
Current Malaysian prices range from RM115,888 to RM143,888 for the CBU South Korea import. What do you think of the Kona facelift’s revised looks?
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