The brand new Hyundai Kona compact crossover gets an electric motor variant for 2019. It may well be the affordable EV to buy, especially with the comparable Tesla Model 3 not readily available. The important numbers are to know about the Kona EV are 258 miles and $30,000 after incentives, both figures more or less. It carries four reasonably well and its 164.6-inch length lets the Kona park on crowded urban streets. In a smallish field of serious battery electric vehicles, the Kona EV competes seriously with both the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the base Tesla Model 3. The big Teslas are in a different price and size category.
You should consider the Kona EV as a second car along with a combustion engine car, or as the only car where you plan weekend trips carefully or rent a traditional car for the weekend. Unlike Tesla, Hyundai still remains safely under the sales cap of 200,000 units that makes EV buyers eligible for $7,500 federal credits. The Kona EV will sell initially in California, then expand to the northeastern states that follow California clean-air rules.
Kona EV on the Road
Kona EV’s console shifter.
The 2019 Kona EV is the same car as the internal combustion engine (ICE) 2018 Hyundai Kona we tested and loved over the summer. But instead of a 147- or 175-hp gasoline engine with all-wheel-drive available, there’s a 201-hp / 150-kW motor and a 64-kWh battery slice below the passenger compartment, front-drive only. Adaptive cruise control comes standard; it was not offered on the ICE Kona.
The Kona EV is peppy to drive, especially from a standstill, and seems quicker than the 7 to 8 seconds Hyundai says it takes to reach 60 mph. There’s enough torque at 290 pound-feet that you can chirp the tries briefly or make traction control kick in. The Kona Electric has Normal, Eco, and Eco+ plus driving modes, the latter for hypermilers and people running very low on electrons. For deceleration, use the left steering wheel paddle to cycle through four levels of regenerative braking plus (when holding the paddle) a fifth mode, at 0.25g, a rate most people would consider to be gentle deceleration. Hyundai’s one-pedal deceleration combines generator resistance (primarily) plus friction braking to slow the vehicle. Other cars have even more dramatic deceleration where coming off-throttle leads to an immediate and serious slowdown.
The ride is good on smooth roads. It gets choppy on rougher surfaces, a combination of the extra weight of the lithium-ion polymer battery slice and the short 102.4-inch wheelbase. We estimate the Kona Electric weighs 3,700 to 3,800 pounds versus 3,000-3,111 pounds for a comparable front-drive ICE Kona. The big battery slice also lowers the center of gravity about 4 inches.
The battery has a liquid cooling/heating circuit to boost efficiency, enough so that Hyundai offers a lifetime warranty on the battery to the original owner. Every Kona EV gets a 7.2-kW onboard charger plus support for offsite DC fast charging and the SAE Combo Charging System, the most common non-Tesla system.
The Kona EV has good room for the front-seat passengers and passable room for two or three in back. The Chevrolet Bolt has 3 inches more rear legroom. The cockpit is nicely designed but without some of the high-end touches you’d find on an Audi or Genesis. It’s essentially the same as the Kona ICE version.
2019 Hyundai Kona EV gets the best range of any compact or subcompact vehicle priced under $40,000, at 258 miles (EPA rating). The long-range Tesla Model 3 does better, but it lists at $49,000-$55,000. A version of the 2019 Nissan Leaf is expected to have battery capacity similar to the Kona EV (64 kWh) and a range that’s close.
The Kona EV is the only compact or subcompact vehicle with a range of more than 250 miles and a base price under $40,000. The closest competitor in terms of size and price is the Chevrolet Bolt EV, which is the same length, a slighter smaller battery (60 versus 64 kWh), and three more inches of rear legroom, although the upper half of the car curves in more than the Kona does.
The Bolt EV lists for $37,000 before rebates and credits. The Kona EV is likely to list in the same range, say $35,000-$37,000, for the base trim SE, rising to $40,000 or a bit over for the Ultimate, with the Limited priced in-between. The base Tesla Model 3 would be a worthy competitor except that it’s hard to acquire. Tesla is busy pushing out the Model 3 Long Range at around $50,000 for rear-drive. Reservation-holders for the base model Tesla are mostly waiting.
Hyundai rates recharge times at about 9 hours 35 minutes using a Level II 240-volt adapter at home and the 7.2 kW standard onboard charger. On 120 volts, a full charge would be on the order of a full day. In a Quick Charge public charging facility, a fill-up would be about 75 minutes at a Level III 50 kW charge rate, 54 minutes at a Level III 100 kW rate. Basically, if you bring your Kona EV home in the evening almost empty, it’ll be fully charged next morning.
Kona EV uses a collimator, a reflective plastic pop up, that projects important info into the driver’s line of sight. It’s a good way to produce an affordable head-up display.
Excellent Safety Features
Infinity upgrade audio.
Hyundai has a comprehensive safety suite, Hyundai Safety Sense, the comes standard. HSS is a variable package, with more or fewer features depending on which car it’s on. The package includes:
Adaptive cruise control (“Smart Cruise Control” in Hyundai terminology), stop-and-go ACC on Ultimate.Blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert with brakingLane keep assistForward collision avoidanceDriver drowsiness warningLED headlamps on Limited and Ultimate, LED tail lamps on all trimsParking sonar on the Ultimate
All trims get Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and two USB jacks (front console). The Limited and Ultimate get Qi wireless charging. The base audio system has six speakers, plus satellite and HD radio. The Limited and Ultimate get a 315-watt, eight-speaker premium audio system with Harman Clari-Fi to improve low-bit-rate audio files. The Ultimate also gets onboard navigation in the 8-inch dashtop LCD. All cars get telematics in the form of a Blue Link connected car system to remotely access the car, query it on the state of charge or where in the mall parking lot it’s parked, and set up delayed charging.
Kona EV rear legroom measures 33.4 inches, which is quite reasonable for a subcompact crossover. It’s 3 inches less than Chevrolet Bolt. Give the back seat a test sit to see how it feels.
Is Kona EV the One to Buy?
It’s still a small world among makers of electric vehicles that are continuing to upgrade their products and push for models that stretch the range past 200 miles and move toward 300. In this small world, the leading contenders are the Hyundai Kona EV, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, and the Tesla 3 base model if you can shake one loose. The Kona and Bolt are quite similar in range and capacities. Chevrolet has two decades of experience making telematics (OnStar) work well and more rear legroom. The Kona EV is newer, with longer range, and the battery has a forever warranty for the first buyer. By the time the Kona ships in January 2019, Chevrolet (GM) may have reached the 200,000-sales cap after which the federal tax credit, up to $7,500, is halved after two quarters, and goes away two quarters after that. By January, Tesla’s max credit will be $3,750.
If you’ll be shopping now and making the buying decision at the start of the new year, the Kona EV needs to be at or near the top of your buying list. It has a lot to offer. With 250-plus miles of range, many commuters will only need to charge batteries once a week. Tesla Model 3 has sizzle and a bigger LCD. But the Kona EV is very real, very good, and you can buy it in January.
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