2019 Hyundai Kona Electric

Style

The Kona is an attractive yet sedate crossover EV. It’s roughly the size of the Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, and Mazda CX-3. Car segments are beginning to blend—with the Kona (marketed as a small SUV but measuring only a half-foot longer than the Chevy Bolt). It’s nearly identical in size to the upcoming electric Jaguar I-Pace and a few inches shorter than the Kia Niro (which is available as a plug-in hybrid.)

The gas version of the Kona is a highly-rated small but relatively tall crossover. Hyundai characterizes the Kona as youthful, futuristic, and eco-oriented—pointing to its “low and wide stance, short wheel overhangs, and sporty contours.”

The EV version of the Kona has the same generous 19.2 cubic feet of rear cargo room as its gas-powered sibling. Its outward appearance is nearly identical, except for a somewhat odd hash-marked front fascia, which houses the charging inlet. Hyundai says the flush design improves aerodynamics. The narrow split LED lighting units on the front fascia add a sleek design element.

Reviewers say the Kona platform offers a spacious front cabin, tight rear seating, and modest interior appointments. The 2019 Kona Electric dashboard uses a floating touchscreen for entertainment and vehicle information. A center-console push-button gear selector replaces the gas version’s conventional shifter.

Electric-vehicle shoppers might consider the Kona a roomier alternative to the Bolt. Unlike the gas version of the Kona, the all-electric model is not available with all-wheel-drive.

Color choices include Phantom Black, Galactic Grey, Chalk White, Ceramic Blue, and Pulse Red.

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric

Performance

The Kona will have the same zippy driving character of many other small EVs. Its 201-horsepower electric motor, driving the front wheels, matches the Chevy Bolt’s 200-hp motor—and beats the Nissan LEAF and BMW i3 with 147 and 170 horses respectively. All of them scoot from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in around seven seconds.

The Kona EV’s top speed is governed to 104 miles per hour. It’s strictly a front-wheel drive vehicle.

Reviewers say that the Kona EV’s powertrain provides a quick response to stepping on the accelerator pedal, especially when set to Sport mode. There are also Normal and Eco modes. The electric model is more potent than the internal-combustion Kona. Also, adjustments to car’s suspension system (to better accommodate the large battery pack) provide better stability and ride comfort. Standard 17-inch alloy wheels with 215/55R17 tires provide good handling on uneven roads—not always found on EVs (like the i3) that use narrow, eco-friendly tires.

Efficiency/Range

Hyundai can claim bragging rights for the Kona EV’s 258 miles of range—beating the Bolt’s 238 miles. Regardless, in real-world driving, those extra 20 miles of range will seldom be used. Once you get past about 225 miles, the benefit of more miles is only relevant for the occasional long-distance road trip.

Hyundai estimates the Kona EV’s energy efficiency at 117 MPGe. That’s right in line with the Bolt’s 119 MPGe and the LEAF’s 112-MPGe rating. Lighter, smaller vehicles like the Hyundai Ioniq EV, BMW i3, and Tesla Model 3 are more efficient—but we don’t see much value in obscure MPGe efficiency numbers. What’s essential is driving range—and at a whopping 250 miles, the Kona EV puts an end to so-called range anxiety.

Take note that Hyundai is offering a less powerful, lower-range version of the Kona EV—only in Europe. That version, not available in the U.S., is expected to provide about 130 to 140 miles of range via its 39 kilowatt-hour battery pack.

Charging

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric

The Kona EV uses standard charging rates. A full re-supply from empty to full will take about 10 hours using a 240-volt Level 2 charger. The Kona’s Quick Charger, rated at 70 kilowatts, is tampered down to 50 kW at nearly every public charger available in the United States. That means a long 75-minute pit stop to bring the Kona EV from almost empty to about 200 miles (or 80-percent state-of-charge).

Price and Options

The Kona’s price has not yet been announced, but we suspect that it will be priced to match (or slightly beat) the Bolt. That means an entry-level price just below $40,000, climbing to the mid-$40,000s after likely upgrades. (A federal tax credit of $7,500, plus local incentives, will make the sticker more palatable.)

There are three trim levels: SEL (base), Limited, and Ultimate. The long list of standard features includes a forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and lane-keeping assist. The front seats have three levels of heating, and there’s an available heated steering wheel.

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric

The Kona Electric’s standard 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and offers HD and satellite radio as well as BlueLink data connectivity. With the step to Limited, you get full leather upholstery and wireless inductive charging for personal electronics. The Ultimate trim brings an 8.0-inch screen that adds navigation and traffic data, as well as ventilated front seats, a flip-up head-up display, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. You can also upgrade to an eight-speaker Infinity audio system.

"I think we're going to get a lot of people who know that they want an EV, and they're cross-shopping looking at other EVs because they now have an option for a crossover utility vehicle that hasn't been on the market," said Brian Smith, Hyundai Motor America COO, in an interview with Automotive News. "I also believe we'll get plenty of people because of the maximum range. Many people will be able to say I can go two or three days without having to charge."

Hyundai says the electric Kona will go on sale in the fourth quarter of 2018, with initial distribution in California. That will be followed in mid-2019 with distribution to Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Rumors suggest that annual production—at a global level—will be fewer than 30,000 units, indicating that availability will remain tight. “We’re still assessing volume,” Smith told Ward’s Auto. “We’ll start small.”

Adding the 258-mile Kona to the Hyundai showroom casts some doubt on the long-term appeal of the smaller and lower-range 124-mile Ioniq Electric. The plug-in hybrid version of the Ioniq could remain a viable choice, although it competes with the more compelling Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid.

Hyundai Kona Electric specifications

Availability: 2019
Base MSRP: TBD
Est. tax credit: $7500
Technology: Electric Vehicle
Body type: SUV
Seats: 5
EPA Range: 258 miles pure electric
Battery size: 64 kWh
Charging rate: 7.0 kW

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