If you happen to have dropped by the Hyundai booth at the 2018 Manila International Auto Show, you'd have noticed that Hyundai is one brand to watch out for in the next few years. There were four interesting models, two of which were crossovers and the other two were passenger cars, but each was targeted at a very different clientele.

One was a sporty hatchback with over 200 horsepower, while the other was an efficient and high tech hybrid. One of the crossovers was intended for younger clients who enjoy a very active lifestyle, while the other is meant to deliver a premium ride and comfort for the executive, and his (or her) family.

The problem, however, is that it's tricky to really get a feel for a car at a crowded auto show. So we headed on down to Hyundai's facility in Laguna to get a much closer look at these new models, and see what kind of potential they have in our market.

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First look: Hyundai Kona, Ioniq, Santa Fe, Veloster

Ioniq: The country's most affordable hybrid

Chances are the Ioniq probably didn't make the biggest splash at the show. That's what happens when you put it in the same gravitational field as the Santa Fe and a Kona; a crossover and SUV crazy market will always go for the big ones first.

Regardless of the lack of attention, the Ioniq clearly the most significant of the four: it's Hyundai's first official hybrid that will be sold in the Philippines.

The new tax law is the primary reason that Hyundai finally brought in a hybrid, as the new excise taxes on hybrid cars are half of their conventionally-fueled counterparts. And that's why the pricing of the Ioniq that Hyundai announced at the show is perhaps even more significant: at PhP 1,498,000, the Ioniq is going to be the most affordable hybrid in the Philippines.

There are actually three kinds of Ioniq that are available internationally. One of them is the plug-in hybrid, then a battery electric vehicle, and this “classic” hybrid. Now the BEV (or just EV) version of the Ioniq simply won't work locally (even though it would pay no excise taxes) because we don't have any commercially accessible charging stations. The plug-in version could work given that you can plug it in at home overnight and then use the range extender engine as a means to charge up on the go, but using fuel defeats the purpose of it. And so we get the hybrid model, at least for now.

First look: Hyundai Kona, Ioniq, Santa Fe, Veloster

Walking up to the Ioniq, you can clearly see that this is a different vehicle from the standard Hyundais around. Actually, it's meant to compete against the likes of the Prius from Toyota, and has adopted some rather similar elements in its structure; one that comes to mind is the almost full glass rear liftgate similar to the Prius. 

Hyundai has a styling direction that they call Fluidic Sculpture; that's what they've been using on models like the Tucson, Elantra and Accent, and interpreted it a different way for this Ioniq. Actually they made it a bit more futuristic without being overly “fluidic”, yet the details like the fascia make the Ioniq look like something out of a concept car studio than a factory running series production. Standard for this version are the projector headlamps, the LEDs where the foglamps should be, and the 17-inch alloys.

First look: Hyundai Kona, Ioniq, Santa Fe, Veloster

Under the hood, there's nothing really remarkable. Well, apart from the bright orange tubes that contain the wires for the electric system. As it stands, this Ioniq has a 1.6-liter gasoline engine; with figures at 105 PS and 147 Nm, it's really unremarkable too. But what sets the Ioniq apart is the electric motor that generates 43.5 horsepower and another 170 Newton meters of torque; and mind you, like most automotive electric motors (if not all) it achieves maximum torque from the get go. Also unusual for the Ioniq hybrid is a 6-speed dual clutch, all while its primary competitor uses a CVT.

The key thing about the Ioniq is how it does on the EPA's fuel economy rating scale. As it stands, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has given the Ioniq a rating of 58 mpg, or just about 24.6 kilometers to a liter. We'll try to come up with our own numbers with an actual test drive later on and on local roads, but for now, the Ioniq is promising especially since it has outdone the Prius in the EPA's eyes.

First look: Hyundai Kona, Ioniq, Santa Fe, Veloster

But perhaps the most unusual thing about the Ioniq is its not-so-unusual interior. Hyundai didn't try to overly differentiate the Ioniq by putting in a flashy, high-tech interior. No, Hyundai seemed to want their customers to be able to be familiar with the cabin right away, and so the interior, particularly the layout of the dash, was done in a conventional way.

The approach of Hyundai with the Ioniq hybrid (and its pricing) should resonate well with their customers, giving them a familiar hybrid to step up to within the brand if they want something more eco-conscious.

First look: Hyundai Kona, Ioniq, Santa Fe, Veloster

Veloster: Stepping up on fun

When I drove the previous generation Veloster in early 2017 after Hyundai was finally able to bring it into the market with the improvement in fuel quality, I was surprised. And not really in a good way. While I did find the styling funky and unique, the engine willing and able, and the interior to be well made, the dual clutch gearbox proved to be a big let down.

Now there's a new generation Veloster in town, and it comes in with a lot of promise.

The Veloster name itself is funky; it's a portmanteau of velocity and roadster. And mind you, it's not all about the name.Everywhere you look, the Veloster is different than your average hatchback; actually, it's something called a kammback. On the driver's side is a long coupe-like door, leading you to think that it's just a sporty 3-door hatch, but no. Over on the passenger side are two doors, making this an asymmetrical car. Whether it works depends on who's using and driving it.

First look: Hyundai Kona, Ioniq, Santa Fe, Veloster

By our eye, Hyundai seems to have nailed it in the styling department. The previous Veloster wasn't for everyone; more often than not you either loved it or you didn't. But this new one certainly stepped up the looks with that gaping hexagonal grille/radiator intake and the striking shade of red with black accents like the big wheels, mirrors, and even the roof. This Veloster has the styling of a hot hatch, as it should.

First look: Hyundai Kona, Ioniq, Santa Fe, Veloster

Inside, the Veloster has likewise stepped up to the plate swinging. The interior is predominantly black, but predictably they've used quite a bit of red accents to give a good, sporty contrast. The dash definitely looks more European; German, to be specific. Actually, there are design elements with the dash that remind me more of Hyundai's cousins from Kia; no surprise there given that Kia's design head also heads up Hyundai's design.

First look: Hyundai Kona, Ioniq, Santa Fe, Veloster

The key for the Veloster will be its powertrain; no point having hot hatch pretensions without the ability to back them up. Strangely, the engine is the same: a 1.6-liter turbo intercooler four-cylinder with identical power and torque figures to the outgoing model at 204 PS and 265 Nm. Mind you those are pretty good figures for the small Veloster, but what I found odd is that Hyundai fitted the 7-speed dual clutch automatic just like the previous generation. We'll save our judgment of it until we drive the Veloster in full and see if there are improvements with the behavior of the gearbox.

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First look: Hyundai Kona, Ioniq, Santa Fe, Veloster

Santa Fe: Level up on luxury

Of course, if there was a vehicle here that many are anticipating for our market, it's the all new Santa Fe. 

The Santa Fe actually became a major player in our domestic SUV market, especially. The seven seater crossover was one of the key models that propelled Hyundai from being just another Korean automaker to a consistent top three position for sales volume annually behind Toyota and Mitsubishi. 

When Hyundai Philippines launched it in 2006, few expected the unassuming Santa Fe to deliver, but it did more than that. The model showed owners that Hyundais can truly be stylish, well thought out, and drive very well. Efficiently too with the then-new CRDI range of engines. The second generation Santa Fe continued that trend, albeit with higher pricetags. Yet it continued succeeding, even spawning a Grand version that had better seats, more features, and better comfort.

First look: Hyundai Kona, Ioniq, Santa Fe, Veloster

Now this all-new Santa Fe wants to continue that legacy of success, and already its off to a rolling start as Hyundai wants to level up the impression we get with this crossover. Take that front end for example; there's something unusually luxurious and futuristic about it.

Those lights where the headlamps would be aren't actually headlamps; they're just the DRLs. The main lights are positioned where you'd normally expect the fogs to be; it's a page off the design book of the Nissan Juke. The way the body panels were pressed exude a sense of sophistication; just look at the hood, the door panels, and the wheel arches.

First look: Hyundai Kona, Ioniq, Santa Fe, Veloster

Inside, the Santa Fe is very impressive; and that's no exaggeration. The dash is busy and hard to describe, but it isn't the least bit confusing. The layout is logical and intuitive, despite the concessions to design. I like the feel of the seats with the unusual diamond-like quilted upholstery, and there's plenty of space to go around. 

Surprisingly, this isn't a 7-seater like its predecessors; it's a 5-seater only. Hyundai will save the 7-seater version for the Grand Santa Fe. The representatives from Hyundai clarified that this is not a Philippine-spec model yet; that was evident from the presence of Korean characters on the audio system and what I presume to be the Korean version of OnStar. It's also worthy to note that the Santa Fe, like all the other models here, had a wireless charging system that works for your modern smartphones.

First look: Hyundai Kona, Ioniq, Santa Fe, Veloster

Like the Veloster, Hyundai carried over the Santa Fe's engine: a 2.2-liter twin cam turbodiesel. Power and performance figures are still unclear; there could be some changes in output and torque. But what is certain is that this one comes with a new 8-speed automatic gearbox. We're definitely looking forward to put this new midsize crossover to the test.

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First look: Hyundai Kona, Ioniq, Santa Fe, Veloster

Kona: Euro-inspired pep

Perhaps the one vehicle we're most excited at trying out in full is this: the Kona. 

In the last couple of years, the B-segment crossover has been surging forth like mad. Ford ignited the segment with the EcoSport, and then other players like Nissan, Chevrolet, and Mazda entered with the Juke, Trax, and CX-3, respectively. 

The Kona joins that fight at an interesting time, and brings with its unique approach: they went funky. Like the very successful Juke, there's nothing conventional about the design or the colors; it looks busy. They wanted the Kona to stand out, and they succeeded.

The big hexagonal grill dominates the front, flanked by three “tiers” of lights. Like the Juke, the headlights are located where the fogs would normally be; the DRLs are up high while the foglights are located at the bottom edge of the grille. Unique to the Kona are how the black plastic fender flares extend to form the accent panel for the headlamps; something that's mirrored for the lower lights on the back.

First look: Hyundai Kona, Ioniq, Santa Fe, Veloster

The pillars and roof are actually all blacked out, creating a striking contrast with the bright yellow green body. I dare say that Hyundai wanted to out-Juke Nissan with the Kona, and they pulled it off with something that stands out and is and fun to look at.

A sticking point with the Kona, however, could be in its measurements. At 4165mm long, 1800mm wide, and 1550mm tall, it's not bad, but the ground clearance could be an issue: at 170mm, it might be hard to call it a crossover. Actually, Hyundai had released the i20 Cross sport a few years ago but it didn't take well with the market. Hyundai also looked at marketing the Creta from India, but given the lack of tax breaks from Indian-made cars, it wasn't going to be priced competitively.

First look: Hyundai Kona, Ioniq, Santa Fe, Veloster

Still, the interior of the Kona is quite promising. The layout of the dash is logical but definitely not boring. I like the steering wheel, the controls, the feel of the switches, and how comfortable the seats are. Unlike offerings such as the Rush and BR-V from Toyota and Honda, respectively, the Kona is just a 5-seater; and that's fine. Also of particular interest are the presence of rear A/C vents; that should bode well for local head, particularly during summer.

First look: Hyundai Kona, Ioniq, Santa Fe, Veloster

What we found interesting is the engine: the Kona has a 1.6-liter T-GDi engine under the hood. The engine actually sounds very similar to the one in the Veloster, but it's tuned differently, making just 177 PS and 265 Nm of torque. Still, that will be plenty for the small Kona. 

Pricing is the odd bit about the Kona; Hyundai couldn't give us exact pricing for this crossover, but they do expect it will be marketed between PhP 1.1M to PhP 1.5m. Still, we're reserving our opinion on this new crossover until we really get to put it through its paces.