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With the supermini SUV segment booming, it's now quicker to say who doesn't yet offer one than who does: Toyota, Subaru and Mitsubishi (and the latter's got one in the pipeline with a full EV option). But Hyundai's new Kona will also offer an EV version with a useful 242-mile range by mid-2018. In doing so, it could be the first small SUV EV on the UK market. Until then, the most discernible unique selling point for the rest of the Kona line-up might just be the exterior body-colour-matching seatbelts on its Premium SE trim and upwards.
The Kona features a fussy exterior design in some areas. Rear indicators inexplicably nestle within extended wheel arch cladding - perhaps understandable in a market trailblazed by the lairy Nissan Juke - and front lower and upper intakes are blank behind, so they don't actually let any air through. With about 18 small SUVs from other brands for buyers choose from, maybe Hyundai felt the point was to stand out. But subjectively, other car makers do so more coherently. Either way, it wants to sell up to 12,000 Konas a year, with 30% earmarked for fleets in 2018, rising to 40% afterwards.
Inside, the cabin is more conventional - until you get to the top two Premium SE or GT trims, when the aforementioned contrast-colour seatbelts, exposed stitching and various accents lift the spirits considerably, especially in Acid Yellow. Room up front is fine, but a little compromised in the rear. Passengers taller than 6ft will struggle and the 'seats-up' 334-litre boot space is small for its class.
The Kona won't come with diesel options on launch day on 2 November. However, two diesels will arrive - a 115 and 136hp 1.6 - alongside that full EV in mid-2018. Meanwhile, customers can choose from a 120hp 1.0 2WD six-speed manual from £16,195 (52.3-54.3mpg and 117-125g/km CO2, depending on wheel size). Or there's a £24,995, top spec Premium GT trim-only 177hp 1.6 4WD with seven-speed DCT auto (42.2mpg and 153g/km). The 1.6-litre engine is decent enough, although it doesn't appear to be as fast as its official 7.9-second 0-62mph suggests and is a bit raucous when revved hard. A 'driving mode' button offers Sport, Eco and Comfort modes but it's still not exciting to drive.
More fun, better value and by far the expected bestseller, for now, will be the three-cylinder 1.0-litre model. Weighing up to 263kg less than its 1.6 4×4 sibling, it feels nippy, behaves well through corners and handles bumpy, stone-riddled tracks with ease.
The Kona's UK spec has a laudable amount of standard safety kit, including driver-attention alert, lane-keeping assist, hill-start assist and downhill brake control. But arguably the most useful new safety item of all - autonomous emergency braking (AEB) - is only standard on the 1.6 Premium GT. Choose any 1.0-litre trim and it's a £235 option. Back on the plus side, previously big-car features like heads-up display appear from Premium SE upwards, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard from mid-range SE.
Ultimately, there's a lot of choice on the Kona, but not a particularly compelling reason to choose it above the many others already in the market. Not to say the Kona is any worse - it's not - just that it doesn't seem to add much. However, the full EV version should change all that and, in an exciting and potentially trailblazing way.