Kona is shorter than both Toyota C-HR and Mazda CX-3, but Hyundai claims it has more cabin space than either.
The South Korean automaker also said it would launch an electric version of the Kona small SUV next year and a new large SUV by 2020 in a bid to catch up with rivals in the booming SUV segment.
This has meant that for nearly two years Hyundai New Zealand has been without an offering in that market segment containing the small SUVs - the segment where all the sales growth is now being achieved.
"Hyundai Motor tried to create a value unique to the Kona that encompasses optimal technology and passion (based) on thorough market research, rather than rushing into the market", said Chung Eui-sun, vice chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, at the world premiere event held at the Hyundai Motor Studio in Goyang city in Gyeonggi province.
The subcompact SUV market snowballed by almost 10 times from 2010 to 2016, Hyundai said, citing data from IHS Automotive.
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The Korean manufacturer likes to name its crossover and SUV models after travel destinations - we already have Santa Fe and Tucson - so the Kona is named after a coastal district on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Hyundai will further expand its SUV line-up with two new models and an electric version of the newly launched Kona. The Gamma 1.6T-GDI diesel engine boasts 177PS and is mated to seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (7DCT). Kia will join Hyundai in launching its subcompact SUV, Stonic, starting next month.
There should also be a 1.6 litre diesel later on 2018, but that probably depends on the ongoing diesel fallout. It is expected to grow 19 percent on-year to 5.54 million units this year, according to market research firm IHS Markit.
Sales of Kona would be crucial to help counter Hyundai's eroding auto sales this year in the US and China, where a backlash against South Korea's deployment of a USA anti-missile system hurt Korean businesses.
Hyundai and Kia in January said they aimed to increase global sales by 5 per cent this year, but their combined sales fell 7 per cent over January to May, hit by slowing Chinese and US sales. Hyundai New Zealand is aiming to launch the vehicle during the fourth quarter of this year, but this will depend on worldwide demand.
When asked about overseas acquisitions, Chung said Hyundai now had no plans to buy other carmakers.
"We aim to set new standards for the compact SUV segment, with appealing design, cutting-edge connectivity and class leading safety features".