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Five Essential Design Details of the 2018 Hyundai Kona

Designers Luc Donckerwolke and Sangyup Lee weigh in

SEOUL, Korea — Hyundai just kicked off the launch of its new subcompact crossover, the Kona, at the Hyundai Motorstudio outside of Seoul. Being one of the last automakers to broach the subcompact crossover segment, the company is claiming that instead of hastily entering the market, the Kona is the product of extra consideration to make sure things were done right. Speaking to journalists, design execs Luc Donckerwolke and Sangyup Lee dug into some of the particulars of the Kona's new out-there styling that were part of that long gestation.

1. Distinct lines. From the pronounced lines over the front wheels to the rising character line in profile, it's clear the trio of Sangyup Lee, Luc Donckerwolke, and Peter Schreyer were going for something rather different with the Kona. Designers also point to the "shark fin" D-pillar element, which Hyundai claims enhances the wedge-like shape of the car.

2. Some elements will not migrate to other Hyundai models. Styling is particularly important as a reason for purchase for subcompact crossover shoppers, so Hyundai designers made a point for the Kona to stand out. The crossover's "armor" body cladding around the front end, rear end, and rocker sills is the best example of this strategy, but Lee is quick to point out that such specific elements will remain Kona-specific.

3. Stacked headlights will become an SUV motif. Hyundai design is aiming for each of its new models to have its own styling particularities, so don't expect to see a larger, scaled clone of the Kona's look on future models. "It's important that our vehicles not cannibalize each other when it comes to design," said Donckerwolke. However we can expect this headlight design to become a common sight on Hyundai crossovers, in which the slim eyelid-like daytime running lamps are positioned above a separate housing for the LED headlights.

4. Load functionality. From the beginning of the development there was a focus on maximizing rear-seat cargo space and storage capacity. There is a focus on appealing to urban drivers who need intelligent space-efficiency, and so specific elements like the intercooler and transmission placement up front, as well as the multilink rear suspension (for AWD models) and exhaust systems, were specifically engineered to maximize capacity. The cargo opening is low and usefully wide, which will be helpful for loading and unloading suitcases.

5. Center stack is a sign of things to come. The redesigned center stack, an evolution of what Hyundai already uses in the i30 hatchback in Europe and Asia, will soon start appearing in future models. Instead of the chunky hexagon shape from current models like the Sonata, which surrounds climate control and infotainment functions, Donckerwolke explains that Hyundai wanted to lighten the effect of the center stack instead. "We decided to insulate the [display] on top because we don't want to be too dashboard-heavy," he said at the Kona debut. "There's functional simplicity to its shape, and overall it is part of a move toward more horizontal dashboard orchestration, rather than vertical."