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Hyundai and Kia to expand electrified options for subcompact crossovers: Sources

Hyundai Motor Group is serious about electrification and its three brands recently accelerated their plans. Although their end goal is to go all-in on battery-electric vehicles, the Korean giant is executing the transition gradually. It won’t simply get rid of every other vehicle in favor of BEVs; hybrids and plug-in hybrids will play a key role in helping people transition. Case and point the second-generation Hyundai Kona. Due out in the next two to three years, our sources tell us that the entry-level, subcompact crossover will expand the availability of electrified powertrains to more consumers.

The current-generation Hyundai Kona is available as a BEV in most markets including North America. In Europe, Hyundai also offers a hybrid variant sharing the same powertrain as the Kia Niro. For its next iteration, which wears the project code SX2, the crossover will grow in size and move to the K3 platform first used by the Elantra and recently found its way into the Niro. Like the N3 and M3 platforms used in larger vehicles across the three brands, the K3 architecture can accommodate hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery-electric powertrains. That means any of the vehicles on these three platforms can easily be electrified.

The move to the new architecture brings the Kona closer to the Niro. Before, they only shared powertrain components. For the next generation, both vehicles are now mechanically similar. Although some markets will retain the pure internal combustion variant, regions with more strict emissions regulations will likely get the hybrid powertrain standard. That will be the same 1.6-liter four-cylinder coupled to an electric motor, a lithium-ion battery, and a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Like the Niro and Elantra Hybrid, this is an updated unit with a second-generation gearbox and more improvements to help it operate more efficiently. The combined output should remain at 139 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque.

Thanks to the recent specification announcement on the 2023 Kia Niro, we have a sense of what the electrified Kona models will have. Alongside the hybrid, the Kona Electric will return as the entry point to Hyundai’s BEV lineup and will likely remain FWD only. Like the 2023 Niro EV, the electric motor will be detuned slightly. It’ll keep its 201 hp output but torque ratings will go down to 188 lb-ft, a reduction of 103 lb-ft. That’s will likely enable the Kona Electric to grip better and not squeal the tires endlessly; however, the trade-off will be straight-line speed because the torque deficit could result in slower acceleration times.

In addition to the standard hybrid and battery-electric variants, a plug-in hybrid will finally join the Kona lineup. This gives you the ability to travel in all-electric mode for short distances with the range of the regular Kona Hybrid. It’ll use the same updates system found in the 2023 Niro PHEV. That means the same 1.6-liter four-pot and six-speed dual-clutch automatic but with a more powerful electric motor and an 11.1-kWh battery. Its combined output should be 182 hp.

Both the standard hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrain have the potential to replace the old engine lineup, which consists of a 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a turbocharged 1.6-liter. Their outputs are in the same ballpark or slightly higher in the case of the PHEV. With Hyundai Motor Group’s ability to practice good price discipline, these could strengthen the value and substance of the second-generation Kona, especially when you consider its larger size. Additionally, sharing components with the Niro and other compact cars and crossovers under the Hyundai Motor Group umbrella should also help keep costs down.

This news is right in line with what we’ve heard from our well-placed sources. As Hyundai Motor Group electrifies its lineup. We learned from a recent interview with Kia that hybrids and plug-in hybrids will be offered to help consumers transition. What we didn’t know until now is that both Hyundai and Kia intend to spread these powertrains to the entire lineup but with a specific focus on crossovers. Big sellers like the Tucson, Santa Fe, and Sorento are already offered with two types of hybrids systems while the Sportage and second-generation Niro will follow suit later this year.

The second-generation Hyundai Kona, due out as a 2024 model, is next in line and we suspect that offering more electrified powertrains will only make this crossover more attractive. This isn’t the end though. Kia is poised to introduce a refreshed Soul and Seltos this year, and those are expected to get electrified powertrains too. The Soul is already offered in an all-electric variant in Europe and Canada, and a hybrid is only a logical step toward giving the boxy icon an efficient propulsion system with minimal compromise. As for the Seltos, it’s long been rumored to get a hybrid version and this could be the moment we see it.

Written by Stefan Ogbac
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