With its new Kona Electric, Hyundai is ready to take advantage of the expanding interest in electric cars. Closely connected to the company’s gas-powered Kona compact crossover SUV, the full-electric hatchback joins the lineup as a 2019 model.
In addition to its environmentally-friendly credentials, the Kona Electric promises significantly swifter acceleration. Despite their similarity in basic design, the Kona Electric comes across more like a hatchback than a true crossover model, in terms of practicality and everyday use.
Three well-equipped trim levels are offered: SEL, Limited, and Ultimate.
Beneath the hood, a 201-horsepower (150-kw) electric motor takes the place of a gasoline-powered engine, generating 290 pound-feet of torque. Available only with front-wheel drive, the Kona Electric has a range of 258 miles when fully charged, according to the EPA. A full charge can take as few as eight hours.
Safety data is not yet available. Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has crash-tested it. The gas-powered Kona earned a Top Safety Pick+ designation from the IIHS, but the size and heft of the electric car’s battery will lead to different resultsâ€”better, more than likely.
Every Kona Electric is equipped with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, and a driver-attention monitor.
Prices do not include $1,045 destination charge.
SEL ($36,450), the base model, comes with cloth upholstery, heated front seats, keyless start, and 17-inch alloy wheels. A 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Active-safety features include blind-spot monitors, automatic emergency braking, and lane-keeping assist.
Limited ($41,150) adds a power-adjustable driver’s seat, wireless smartphone charging, upgraded LED headlights, high-beam assist, a sunroof, and leather seating surfaces.
Ultimate ($44,650) includes stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, a head-up display, rear parking sensors, a heated steering wheel, and 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation.
Flaunting what Hyundai calls its “geometric body form,” the Kona Electric differs in appearance from the gas-engine Kona crossover. Overall their designs are similar, but the details differ noticeably.
Compared to other high-efficiency vehicles, the Kona Electric exudes substantial visual appeal. Aerodynamic blanking in the front end makes the Kona Electric look slightly more like a wagon. Deeply sculpted bodysides help conceal the EV’s 70.9-inch width, which exceeds that of many competitive models. Hyundai’s floating-roof profile is less dramatic on the Kona Electric than on its stablemate.
It’s strictly business within the Kona Electric cabin. A 7.0-inch touchscreen (8.0-inch available) handily dominates the dashboard. Only a few details separate the battery-powered Kona from its gas-engine cousin. Most notably, the Kona Electric has a pushbutton selector at the center console, rather than the conventional shift lever in the gas-engine model.
Passenger space is nearly identical in both versions of the Kona crossover. Though sufficient for four adults, some Kona Electric riders are likely to feel a bit cramped.
At the rear is plenty of room for luggage. Batteries don’t reduce available cargo space, which is ample at 19.2 cubic feet behind the rear seats.
Outward vision is generally good. Like all crossover vehicles, however, the Kona Electric’s blind spots can be a challenge to full visibility. Fortunately, blind-spot monitors are standard.
Of the two types of Konas produced by Hyundai, the Electric edition is the more exhilarating. Efficiency is its main attraction, as expected â€“ but followed closely by the gratifying way in which its power reaches the pavement.
In a word, the Kona Electric is fun to drive, compared to the less-stimulating, gasoline-powered Kona crossover. Ride comfort differs, because the Kona Electric benefits from a more sophisticated suspension.
Like other electric cars, takeoff from a standing start is nearly instantaneous â€“ almost thrilling. With 290 pound-feet of torque on tap, the Kona Electric is quite capable of spinning its front tires. Acceleration in around-town driving is impressively energetic as well as unruffled.
Without question, the EV’s powertrain is substantially smoother than that of the gasoline-engine Kona â€“ especially the turbo editions, which have a less decisive dual-clutch transmission.
The Kona Electric’s efficiency is tough to beat. Rated by the EPA to travel 258 miles before recharging is needed, it gets a rating of 120 MPGe Combined (132 City/108 Highway). For its judicious use of available energy, the Kona Electric ranks highly among competitive battery-powered models.
A fully-depleted battery can be charged to 80 percent of capacity in 54 minutes, using a Level 3 (100-kw) fast-charger. Not many of those quick-charge systems are available as yet. Most homes can be fitted with a Level 2 charger, which takes nearly 10 hours to recharge the Kona’s battery to 80 percent.
Even as they enter the mainstream, electric cars aren’t for everyone. Still, the 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric seems likely to elevate interest even among drivers who wouldn’t have considered “going electric” a year or two ago. With its admirable 258-mile range, the EV is a practical vehicle for a variety of tasks.
Driving impressions by Aaron Cole, TheCarConnection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.