The hotly contested small SUV segment got even more crammed full when Korean car maker, Hyundai, threw off the covers off Kona.

We spoke with Kevin Kang, USA car designer, about the reasoning and inspiration for the interiors…

The small SUV was driven in hideous Canberra traffic, delightful dirt roads, and stunning country lanes, where dust was kicked up in the true Aussie tradition of a road trip.

Hyundai are selling a lifestyle, not merely a way to get from A to B.

4 adults are comfortable, in a cabin that simply bursts with exciting visual cues.

There are 3.5 levels:

Active, Active with safety pack, Elite, and Highlander.

The drivetrains:

A choice of 2, 16 valve engines, drive the front, or all wheels.

Both engines are Euro 5, of course, and importantly drink the very cheapest of 91ron, and E10 fuels. There is no diesel available. Diesel sales are falling off the cliff.

There is no manual, which is suffering the same fate as the diesel engine.

A Nu 2.0L 110kW/180Nm naturally aspirated (Atkinson cycle) 4cylinder drives the front wheels via a smooth 6 speed auto.

The more powerful 1.6L 130kw/265Nm Turbo GDi gets a brilliant 7 speed DCT (dual clutch automatic) transmission.

A clever on-demand AWD system has a 50/50 front/rear lock mode.

The 6speed auto has decent 7.2L/100k, but the DCT is a winner, winner, chicken-dinner with a claimed 6.7L/100k.

Steering and Suspension:

Kerb weight is between 1290 and hefty 1509kg. All models have Macpherson struts at the front, with the lighter FWD models having a rather disappointing Torsion beam axel. AWD cars get a sophisticated multi-link rear end, and is my pick.

Hyundai have opted for column mounted electric steering over the more costly, but better feeling, rack mounted system. There are 2.5 turns lock-to-lock with a turning circle of 10.6m.

The exterior:

The outside is daring, and, dare I say, polarising.

With a wheelbase of 2600mm, and a length of 4165mm, the design is chockers full modern design ethos.

The front cascade grille sits between a lighting array split between the slimline upper assembly for the DTRLs, and the main headlights below. Highlanders get LEDs all-round.

I have a love/hate relationship with all the brands who are doing this split-lighting thing at the front. It might take a few years to get my head around it.

Kevin made particular note of the muscular lines over the wheel arches, and the character line which joined them. It incorporates the door handles culminating in a sexy-looking “shark fin” as the body sweeps up to meet the blackened roof.

It makes the modern, young, side profile, look unique, even in Hyundai’s own range.

Kona is 2600mm high with the roof rails, and with an Approach / departure / ramp break over angle of  17 / 29 / 16 degrees, can manage a little light off-roading, but who would want to?

There are sliver highlights set in the grey plastic “sacrifice” panels on the lower body.

These panels can be refitted at a cost less than repainting body should scratching occur during enthusiastic weekending.

Interior:

The cabin is a visual feast.

It has a classic Korean flavour, combined with a young, “always connected”, millennial approach to 21st century motoring.

Our Acid Green car came with matching interior cues around vents, controls, and seating. Even the seat belts are replete with colour-matched theme.

I love it.

Design always makes more sense when the person who designed it is on-hand. The intricacies and minutiae become a coherent story, and this story has a happy ending.

Ergonomically, the cabin is near perfect.

I’m potty about controls that are easy to use, and, hallelujah, the USB port is accessible without having to fold yourself like a martial artist.

Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is standard, and is millennial must-have.

The Hyundai people are so chuffed about their system, they’ve been confident enough to leave out the all-important Satnav. Google Ma