Facelift on the subcompact crossover

When the new Kona subcompact crossover lands at US dealerships early next year, it will be a long-overdue entrant in one of the industry’s hottest segments. But it will also carry on its little shoulders the task of launching a new design language for Hyundai’s crossovers.

That’s a lot of pressure for an automaker that’s working through a sales slump and needs its new crossovers to be a hit.

The styling — which originated at Hyundai’s Irvine, Calif., design studio — is highlighted in the Kona’s face by narrow LED daytime running lights mounted high near the hood line. Separate headlights are positioned lower down the fascia. The effect is an arrangement similar to the front end of the Nissan Juke or Jeep Cherokee.

Though the look is unconventional, the sales success of the Juke, especially in Europe, and the Cherokee, which has averaged close to 200,000 units a year in the US for the past three years, bodes well for the Kona and subsequent Hyundai nameplates. Dealer reaction to the Kona styling has been largely positive in the US

The Santa Fe Sport, due in 2018 as a 2019 model, will be the next nameplate to get Hyundai’s new look. Spy shots of the crossover show a similar headlight setup to the Kona’s and a similar honeycomb grille.

But after a decade of having a strong design connection among its crossovers, Hyundai is ready to mix things up and seek a more distinctive look for each nameplate.

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