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    Same Platforms, Different Looks

    By Philip Ruth–

    Platforms. In drag, they’re the high heels that put performers on two gigantic pedestals. In cars, they’re the foundation from which multiple models can spawn. In both cases, they form the basis for something attractive and compelling—and potentially fabulous.

    Common bones in vehicles are nothing new. Scratch the surface of an Acura MDX and you’ll find a Honda Pilot; a Buick Encore is a few tickles away from the Chevrolet Trax. The difference now is that manufacturers are employing single platforms for just about everything in the lineup. This makes it easier and cheaper to build variations, and it helps carmakers to pounce on new markets as they emerge.

    A prime example rests with this month’s subjects: Hyundai’s Kona and Veloster. The Kona is a small crossover, with a pipsqueak-SUV look. The Veloster is a sporty coupe with a quirky three-door setup. Both of them were preceded by the Elantra, Hyundai’s mainstream compact sedan. As you can see, there’s quite a range of personalities from one starting point.  

    The hard points of width and track—the distance between the wheels from one side to the other—are identical or very similar between all three. Length is more easily changed, and both the Kona and Veloster have solid parkable credentials with measurements less than 170 inches. The Elantra’s trunk swells it to just over 181 inches. Height is also low-hanging fruit in body mods, and the SUV-like Kona peers over the others by six inches or so.

    It’s appropriate that the Kona rises above the others in height, because in terms of Hyundai’s future, the Kona is one of the company’s shining stars. Early sales returns have been strong, and soon in early 2019, an all-electric version with a Chevy Bolt-slaying, 258-mile range will pique buyers’ interests, particularly if gas prices continue their gradual climb. Crossovers and electrics are where the trends are heading, and the Kona is dead-center on that horizon.

    The Veloster is old-school by comparison, a coupe version of a family sedan, like the defunct Toyota Celica and Honda Prelude. Its niche role is defined by its sales, which track at less than 20 percent of the Kona’s. The Veloster is only about an inch less tall than the Elantra, so the passenger envelope isn’t all that different. Like the others, the Veloster feels broadly roomy inside, but there’s enough squatness in the greenhouse to impart a coupe’s intimacy.

    Over the road, the tested Veloster Turbo Ultimate with 201 horses under the hood should have made a clear name for itself. It can feel speedy, but the transmission’s slack initial response felt slow to engage. The manual transmission alternative is an easy fix for that.

    There’s no manual offered on the Kona, and the most horsepower it gets is 175. So, performance is a lower priority, and it’s about what you’d expect. The driving isn’t the appeal of the Kona, or at least it isn’t until the electric version debuts. That’s when this platform will really get interesting.

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant ( www.gaycarguy.com ). Check out his automotive staging service at www.carstaging.com