Kona/Encino gives Hyundai another B-SUV to supplement the ix25/Creta

Kona/Encino gives Hyundai another B-SUV to supplement the ix25/Creta

The second of two features which looks at the current and future models of Hyundai Motor Company is a focus on the brand's SUVs, minivans/MPVs, electrified passenger vehicles and a sole future pick-up. This follows the recent in-depth analysis of HMC's cars


The Starex, the largest of Hyundai's MPVs, has multiple other names. This big front-wheel drive minivan premiered as the TQ at the Seoul motor show in April 2007 and it looks like having what will perhaps be a 13-year lifecycle. An LCV version for Europe, the H300, premiered at the European Road Transport Show in Amsterdam six months later (though the TQ, H-1, i800 and Satellite names are or have been used in some markets, as well as Hui Yi in China). All these versions of the same vehicle are the replacement for the Mitsubishi-derived Starex/H-1 minivan and commercial vans.

Eight, nine, 11 or 12-seater minivan variants (Grand Starex) compete with the Kia VQ (Grand Carnival). These went on sale in the home market in September 2007.

The Australian importer announced the iMax name for the passenger version of the Starex in February 2008.

The most recent news for this big van was the arrival of a facelifted Grand Starex for the South Korean market in January 2018. The front- and all-wheel drive successor is expected in 2020. It should use the same architecture as the newly-announced Santa Fe. This dates to 2014 and the introduction of the current Kia Sedona/Carnival.


Formerly relatively weak when it came to crossovers and SUVs, no-one now accuse Hyundai of now being so. One of its latest models is the B segment Kona.

This 4,165mm long SUV is mainly for South Korea, China, Hyundai Motor Europe, Hyundai Motor America and Hyundai Motor India. It is similarly sized to the existing ix25 and Creta (see below). The styling, however, is quite different and is as radical as that of the Nissan Juke. In the PRC, the name is Encino. Sales started there only a short time ago.

Hyundai Motor revealed the Kona to the media at an event in South Korea on 13 June 2017. Production had already started and the vehicle went on sale in the home market later that month. Euisun Chung said at the launch event that the firm anticipated selling 26,000 units of the Kona in South Korea during 2017 and an average of 45,000 per year from 2018. The US importer is being given just 40,000 cars in CY2018.

In North America, the Kona is new for the 2018 model year, going on sale there only this month. Exports to Europe commenced in August 2017, with the sales target being 41,000 cars in a full year.

The Kona introduced a Compact SUV platform, according to Hyundai. This architecture also supports electrified variants (see below). The Kona itself should be facelifted in 2021 and replaced in 2024.

OS is the development code for what might come to sold as the Carlino. This small SUV for India was previewed by the HND-14 Carlino, a design study which had its world premiere at the New Delhi auto expo in February 2016.

As per the concept, the production model should be just under four metres in length so as to offer buyers a tax advantage. The Carlino would be positioned below the Creta. It should be revealed during the third quarter and be in production at HMIL's Chennai 2 plant by year-end. 'QXI' is said to be another code used for this model, while NU might be a related variant for China. 

The ix25 had its worldwide debut at the Chengdu motor show in August 2014. It was first hinted at by the HCD12 Curb (Crossover-Urban) concept which was displayed at the Detroit auto show in January 2011. A pre-production model, the ix25 concept, premiered at the Beijing motor show in April 2014.

Hyundai added production of the Creta, a renamed ix25, at its Indian subsidiary from mid-2015. Production was lifted to 13,000 cars a month in March 2016. This was due to demand from local buyers and those in certain export markets. HMIL ships the Creta to markets in Africa, the Middle East and some countries in the Americas.

China's ix25 went on sale there in October 2014. It is available China with the choice of 1.6- and 2.0-litre petrol engines, while India's Creta offers the choice of 1.6-litre petrol and 1.4- and 1.6-litre diesels. Hyundai added production of the Creta at its St Petersburg plant in August 2016.

The company announced at November 2016's Sao Paulo motor show that the Creta would go into production at its Piracicaba plant from 2017. The company also surprised many when it revealed a pick-up concept version at the show. This was called the Creta STC (Sport Truck Concept). Piracicaba supplies the Creta to Mexico, the only market in North America where the model is retailed.

The Beijing Hyundai joint venture revealed a facelifted ix25 at the Chengdu motor show in August 2017. Both this model and the Creta should continue in production until 2021 at which time they should be replaced by one model which uses a more up to date architecture. There is an alternate scenario, however, which some insiders have spoken of: that the Creta will remain in production in Brazil and India until 2023 or 2024 after a facelift in 2020.

One size up from these B segment SUVs and below the D segment Santa Fe is the Tucson. The HL series model, which is the third generation, is 4,475mm long. It had its global debut at the Geneva motor show in March 2015. Unlike the previous model, the ix35 name is not used in any market. The current Tucson model went on sale first in South Korea three months after its premiere in Switzerland.

Hyundai builds the Tucson at two locations in South Korea. The previous model was manufactured in the OEM's home market only at one of its Ulsan plants. A different Ulsan plant (the same one which makes the Elantra) had 50,000 units of its annual capacity allocated to the Tucson. Production by the Beijing Hyundai joint venture commenced in July 2015.

One of HMIL's Chennai plants added CKD assembly of the Tucson during the second half of 2016.

The current Tucson was new in North America for that region's 2016 model year. There were only minor changes for the 2017 model year and the same applied for the 2018 model year. There should be a facelift for the 2019 model year.

Hyundai announced at November 2016's Sao Paulo motor show that its light commercial local partner, CAOA, would begin assembling the Tucson at its Anapolis plant from 2017.

The fifth generation Tucson due out in 2021 will be slightly larger due to this request from Hyundai Motor USA.

The fourth generation Santa Fe was revealed in South Korea in February, a few weeks ahead of its public debut at the Geneva motor show. Production is due to start from May at three main locations: Ulsan (South Korea); West Point, Georgia (a Kia Motors America plant); and Beijing #3.

This 4,770m long SUV uses the UM platform that was introduced by the Kia Sedona/Carnival in 2014. The styling is similar to the Kona, especially at the front.

One major change in North America is the arrival of a diesel engine, although it won't in dealerships until 2019. This is a Federalised version of Hyundai Motor Group's 2.2-litre four-cylinder unit. In this region, a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol or a non-turbo 2.4-litre engine - both with four cylinders - are the other choices. There will be two other engines for some countries: a 2.0-litre diesel and a 3.5-litre petrol V6.

In North America, the outgoing Santa Fe Sport becomes the Santa Fe, while the seven-seater variants become the Santa Fe XL. The TM series Santa Fe and Santa Fe XL will be new for the 2019 model year.

There should be a facelift for this model in the last quarter of 2021. The fifth generation range should appear in 2024.

Some insiders have suggested that the MaxCruz and/or Veracruz model names might be revived for another SUV, which Hyundai is developing. This model will have eight seats and be a rival for the Honda Pilot and others in that size class. It is not yet known if this big SUV will be made in the USA or South Korea. Its release date might be either during the latter part of 2018, although it might not be on sale until 2019.


A forthcoming crossover/pick-up mashup was previewed by the Santa Cruz. This prototype was revealed at the Detroit auto show in January 2015. The production version will be a rival for the Honda Ridgeline and is also expected to be offered in the US with a diesel engine. The model is likely to use the same front- and all-wheel drive platform as the Santa Fe.

Originally expected to be released in 2018, the Santa Cruz is now said to be due to enter production in 2020, or possibly later.

Some sources had believed that Kia would have its own version of the Santa Cruz from 2021 or 2022 but this is yet to be confirmed. Instead, it is now believed that Kia will instead have a ladder frame chassis pick-up to compete with the Ford Ranger.

Given how successful body-on-frame pick-ups are in Australia, the local importer's COO Scott Grant told the media in May 2017 that he wants to see such a construction for the future model. It remains unclear whether or not the 5m long model will have a frame or, like the Ridgeline, a unibody architecture. It may well be that HMG eventually launches one of each, as FCA does by selling both the Fullback and Toro.

The Santa Cruz will likely be manufactured either in the USA or perhaps at a yet to be announced plant in Thailand.

Electrified models

The Ioniq is Hyundai's attempt to take on the various models sold by Toyota under the Prius model name umbrella as well as the Nissan Leaf. This five-door hatchback was announced via a media release in December 2015 before being revealed to the media in South Korea in January 2016. Its European and North America premieres were at the Geneva and New York motor shows in March 2016.

Hyundai says the Ioniq uses a dedicated platform, and this architecture is also the basis for the Niro, which unlike the Ioniq, is a crossover. There is a choice of up to three powertrains, depending on the market:

  • EV (electric vehicle, lithium ion cells)
  • HEV (hybrid petrol electric)
  • PHEV (plug-in petrol-electric hybrid)

The HEV was the first to go on sale. It is powered by a dedicated 1.6 GDI four-cylinder Kappa engine and a 32kW electric motor, which is fed by a Lithium-Ion polymer battery. The two powertrains have combined maximum output of 103.6kW (141PS) and 265Nm of torque. A specially developed six-speed dual-clutch transmission (6DCT) is standard.

The EV was revealed at an event in South Korea in March 2016. Hyundai claims a maximum range of 180km on a single charge. The lithium-ion polymer battery has a storage capacity of 27 kilowatt-hours. Peak power is 88kW and maximum torque is quoted as 295Nm. The Ioniq EV takes four hours and 25 minutes for a full recharged. Fast charging, which is an 80% capacity recharge, takes 25 minutes. A version with a range of 300km is under development and will be released in 2018, Hyundai announced in November 2016.

Hyundai Motor America stated in January 2016 that it would begin selling the Ioniq HEV in August (2016), to be followed on month later by the EV. These plans subsequently changed, and the cars did not go on sale until February 2017. The PHEV became available in the US and Canada from September 2017 for the 2018 model year.

All Ioniq production takes place in South Korea at HMC's Ulsan 3 plant.

An Ioniq AD concept was revealed at the LA auto show in November 2016. This autonomous drive prototype was memorable for having its LiDAR mounted in the front bumper rather than on the roof. The company has not yet announced any firm plans to put the AD into production.

A facelift for the Ioniq range should happen in the third quarter of 2019. The second generation models are expected from mid-2022.

While the Ioniq takes care of demand in the B segment for electrified hatchbacks, when it comes to an electric SUV, Hyundai now offers the Kona EV. This model was revealed to the media at an event in South Korea in February with its motor show premiere taking place earlier this month in Geneva.

There are two powertrains for the Kona EV with claimed maximum ranges of 300km or 470km. The respective battery packs are 39.2kWh and 64kWh.

Production at Ulsan will commence in May. Hyundai Motor India, meanwhile, told the local media in January that the Kona Electric would be locally assembled from 2019.

In the C segment, Hyundai is expected to add an i30 PHEV and an i30 EV in many European countries from 2019. These cars will be manufactured at HME's Nošovice factory in the Czech Republic. The same powertrains will become available in the similarly sized Ceed also during 2019. The Ceed PHEV and EV will be built at the nearby Žilina plant in the northwest of Slovakia.

Hyundai offers two petrol-electric sedans in the D/Mid-size segment. These are the Sonata Hybrid and Sonata PHEV. The former is manufactured at Asan and Beijing #2, while the plug-in hybrid is built only in South Korea.

The second generation Hybrid, which is now only a year away from being replaced, is mainly for the US, Canadian, South Korean and Chinese markets.

The current car was revealed to the media at an event in South Korea in December 2014 and went on sale locally soon afterwards. The Sonata Hybrid's motor show debut was at the NAIAS in January 2015. The car was new for North America's 2016 model year. For the 2017 model year, there was a new infotainment system and for the 2018 model year, a facelift. The facelifted Sonata Hybrid first appeared in the South Korean market in May 2017.

The Sonata Hybrid is powered by a Nu 2.0-liter GDI mated to a 38kW electric motor. The engine delivers maximum power and torque of 156ps and 19.3 kg.m, up 4 percent and 5.5 percent respectively, compared to the previous model. The 38W electric motor also delivers 8.6 percent improved maximum power, with maximum torque of 20.9 kg.m (205Nm).

The Beijing Hyundai joint venture plant began assembling the Sonata Hybrid in May 2016. This was the first time that the partners had produced a petrol-electric car.

As for the Sonata plug-in Hybrid, it too had its world premiere at the Detroit auto show in January 2015. The PHEV can travel up to 22 miles on electric power and can recharge in two and a half hours with a Level 2 charger. The car went on sale in South Korea in July 2015.

The car's 9.8 kWh lithium polymer battery pack is roughly five times larger than the Sonata Hybrid's battery. The standard transmission is a six-speed automatic with Hyundai's Transmission-Mounted Electrical Device (TMED), a 50 kW electric motor, in place of a torque converter. The 50kW motor is 32 per cent more powerful than the motor used in the Sonata Hybrid and allows EV operation at higher speeds.

A 2.0-litre Nu four-cylinder GDI engine coupled with the electric motor allows the Sonata Plug-in Hybrid to operate just like the Sonata Hybrid once the onboard battery charge is depleted. The PHEV's Nu engine produces 154 horsepower and 140 lb. ft. of torque and the total system output is 202 horsepower at 6,000 rpm.

The Sonata Plug-in Hybrid is available in California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. The car was new for North America's 2016 model year. While there were no changes for the 2017 model year, the 2018 Sonata Plug-In Hybrid had a facelift.

At the recent Geneva motor show, Hyundai told the media that a Santa Fe Hybrid and a Santa Fe PHEV were on the way but did not say when they would become available in Europe or other markets. Each will likely be released during the final quarter of 2018.

The Grandeur Hybrid, a petrol-electric version of the big sedan which is sold mainly in South Korea, was a world premiere at the 2017 Seoul motor show. Hyundai said when revealing the car that it hoped to sell 10,000 units per annum in the domestic market.

The Hybrid is powered by the combination of HMG's 2.4 MPi Theta II Atkinson cycle four-cylinder petrol engine and a 35kW (46hp) electric motor. This is the same powertrain as the similarly sized Kia K7 Hybrid.

Hyundai gave the Grandeur and Grandeur Hybrid early facelifts in the Korean market, the updated cars going on sale there in October 2017. There should be another facelift in 2020. The next generation model is due in late 2022 and should again be manufactured as the Asan plant.

A replacement for the Tucscon ix FCEV/ix35 Fuel Cell was revealed at CES in January. The Nexo, which is an SUV, went on sale in South Korea a few days ago.

A preview of this model was seen for the first time at the next Geneva motor show in March 2014. This, the HED-9 Intrado concept, was said by its maker to have been built around a "super-lightweight structure made from a mixture of advanced materials and joined using a revolutionary technique that has the potential to change the way cars are constructed in the future". The concept also featured a so-called 'next-generation' hydrogen fuel cell drivetrain that was claimed to be both smaller and lighter than that powering the assembly-line-produced Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell.

The new model's fuel cell is smaller and requires less platinum in the catalyst. Meanwhile, the battery is larger and the electric motor is smaller and lighter but has a higher output. Hyundai told the South Korean media in August 2016 that its next fuel cell model would be priced from 60 million won or roughly 50% less than a Tucson Fuel Cell. The car's range would rise to 600km: the old one had a range of 415km.

Another concept, the FE Fuel Cell, premiered at the Geneva motor show in March 2017. Hyundai said this prototype had a range of up to 800km.

The Nexo's maximum power of 163PS is 20% more than that of its predecessor. Cold starting is also improved: getting fuel cell vehicles to work efficiently in temperatures below freezing point has been a major challenge for many OEMs. The vehicle can be started even at -30 degrees Celsius (22 degrees Fahrenheit). In addition to boosting the car's capabilities, the enhanced components – such as MEA (membrane electrode assembly) and bipolar plates – also helped to reduce production costs. 

The production model is due to go on sale in export markets later in the year. This includes the USA (California only at first) as well as European nations (Norway, France, Denmark, the UK and Germany). Hyundai stated at CES in January that the 'estimated target' range of the Nexo is 370 miles between refills.

Also in January, Hyundai noted that it is working on Level 4 autonomous drive technology with Aurora, a specialist firm based in Silicon Valley. An Autonomous Nexo prototype is the first model to be used to test the specific systems. Hyundai wants to bring this technology to mass production by 2021.

Successors for the Nexo and its AD variant are due to become available from 2023.

Future model plan reports for other manufacturers can be viewed in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.

Future product program intelligence

More data on vehicle lifetime and future product plans is available in PLDB from QUBE.

The next brand to have its current and future passenger vehicles looked at will be Genesis.

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