2019 Hyundai Kona Electric

6.2
2019 Hyundai Kona Electric

The Basics:

Electric cars are now real-time. Practical, useful, but also importantly, available, emissions-free vehicles have moved past early adopters and onto dealer lots.

The 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric is an exceptional electric hatchback that should get more attention than it does.

The 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric is a mainstream hatchback and a big step forward, with a small step back.

We rate the Kona Electric at 6.6 with an asterisk: dealers across the country won’t stock it, and some that we’ve talked to can’t be bothered to order it. We think that’s a mistake for Hyundai, who have a winner, but perhaps not for everyone. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Kona Electric covers most of the same ground as the Kona crossover, which we cover here.

We’ll hit the highlights here: As the name indicates, the Kona Electric swaps in batteries and a 201-horsepower electric motor in place of the Kona’s gas-powered engine. Unlike the Kona, the electric version is front-wheel drive only. The EPA rates the Kona Electric’s battery at 258 miles, which we found was a reliable estimate, and it smoothly accelerates around town.

The Kona Electric offers space for four adults—albeit a little cramped—with plenty of space for cargo.

Active safety gear is standard and so are good features: heated front seats, keyless ignition, 17-inch wheels, two USB chargers, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth compatibility. Hyundai’s 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty is included.

Hyundai has said that the Kona Electric will be available in California and other coastal states with strict emissions rules but said dealers would be able to order it nationwide. Our experience last year indicated otherwise, many of the dealers we talked to were either unaware of the car altogether or indicated that it would be a long wait until the car would be available in their respective states.

The broad strokes of the Kona and Kona Electric are roughly similar, but the details are different enough to be noticed.

Fortunately, we think the Kona Electric looks good among efficiency-focused vehicles. Unfortunately, we still think it’s a little ungainly taken alone. It’s a 4 with a point lost for its exterior. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The effect of the aerodynamic blanking in the front and rear makes the Kona Electric look slightly more wagon-esque and lower to the ground. The deeply sculpted body sides help hide the somewhat-wide 70.9 inches between the wheels, more than many rivals.

Hyundai’s floating roof is tamed on the Kona Electric, the only choices are body-colored roofs, not the wild contrasting look found on the Kona.

Inside, the Kona Electric is all business inside with a standard 7.0-inch touchscreen (or optional 8.0-inch touchscreen) dominating attention on the dashboard. The Kona Electric skips marketing frippery—no sustainably sourced cupholders or vegan radio control knobs to be found.

 

The 2019 Kona Electric’s draw is efficiency, although the way it makes power is entertaining.

The Kona and Kona Electric are wholly separate in their powertrains, which means our score for the Kona won’t carry over here. The Kona Electric gets a 5 for performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Although it’s not directly related to performance, the Kona Electric’s “crossover” credentials are suspect. It’s closer to a hatchback in practicality and use.

The electric motor makes 201 horsepower and drives the front wheels only for up to 258 miles on a single charge.

Like other electric cars, the 2019 Kona Electric’s take-off is thrilling and nearly instant—it can spin up its front tires with 290 pound-feet of torque without an issue.

Goosing it from stoplight to stoplight may get old for some—not for us.

Beyond sophomoric antics, the Kona Electric’s powertrain is smoother compared to the Kona, which suffers from an indecisive automatic transmission on its turbo-4 model.

The Kona Electric also gets a more sophisticated suspension compared to the Kona, which uses a rear twist beam to hit a lower price.

The 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric is nearly identical to the Kona crossover that we cover separately.

Batteries don’t eat into the Kona Electric’s available cargo space, compared to the crossover. They’re both 19.2 cubic feet. We give the Kona Electric a point above average for its space and land at a 6. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Just a few details separate the Kona Electric from the Kona, notably the center console where the Kona’s shifter was replaced with a pushbutton gear selector.

The 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric hasn’t yet been tested by federal or independent safety officials. That’s not likely to change, but if it does we’ll update this space. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Kona Electric is related to the Kona crossover, which is a Top Safety Pick+, although its weight and construction set it apart far enough that they may not crash the same.

Every Kona Electric is equipped with standard automatic emergency braking, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, and a driver-attention monitor.

Outward vision in the crossover is generally good, although, like all crossovers, its blind spots can be a challenge.

The 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric is sold in three trims, SEL, Limited, and Ultimate, which are all well-equipped. The base SEL model costs $37,495, including destination but before applicable state and federal incentives.

Base versions include cloth upholstery, active safety features (covered above), heated front seats, keyless ignition, 17-inch wheels, two USB chargers, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth compatibility. Hyundai’s 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty is included.

Those are good standard features, especially the touchscreen—two points above average there. The warranty is exceptional, too, which is another point. We land at an 8 with an asterisk: the Kona Electric isn’t widely available, and it’s unclear if it ever will be, although Hyundai says it can be ordered by any dealer. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Limited and Ultimate trims bundle in more comfort items. Limited versions offer a power-adjustable driver’s seat, premium audio, upgraded headlights, and leather upholstery for $4,700 above the base price. Ultimate trims add stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, and navigation for $3,500 more than Limiteds.

We wouldn’t stray far from the base model, considering the price gaps.

Sure, there’s the irony that a car named after a volcanic Hawaiian island would ace our green scale for emitting nothing from its tailpipe. It adds to the Kona’s charm.

The 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric is rated by the EPA to travel 258 miles on a single charge. That’s perfect, by our book. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What’s more: the Kona Electric efficiently uses the electricity it has. It ranks highly among electric cars for its judicious use of juice.

According to Hyundai, the Kona will charge a fully depleted battery up to 80 percent in 54 minutes on a Level 3 100-kw fast-charger found in some metro areas. A Level 2 charger, typically installed in most homes, will take almost 10 hours to charge.

Most battery charging times are quoted up to 80 percent for the Kona and its rivals; modern electric batteries charge similarly and require longer to charge the last 20 percent. Few owners will fully deplete their electric car batteries, either.

Buying Tips:

Hyundai hasn’t yet reached its maximum federal incentives on electric cars, unlike Tesla and GM, which both must halve their incentives in 2019 until they reach zero.

Other Choices:

  • 2019 Hyundai Ioniq
  • 2019 Honda Clarity
  • 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV
  • 2019 Tesla Model 3
  • 2019 Kia Niro

Reason Why:

Among electric cars, the Tesla Model 3 is the thought-leader. Now more affordable and available, the Model 3 will be a beacon for buyers swayed by the culture of Tesla. It has thrilling performance, but buying one still feels like a roll of the dice. For everyone else, the Bolt EV, Kia Niro EV, Hyundai Ioniq, and Honda Clarity are (in theory) available nationwide and offer electrified transportation without baggage. The Bolt EV offers a similar range, but its styling is a little stilted and not for everyone. The Kia Niro EV will be available in the U.S. soon and should offer similar range and practicality as the Kona Electric. The Ioniq is most widely available as a hybrid, and it has a low price tag. The Clarity has the shortest all-electric range of the bunch—perhaps the most awkward styling too.

The Bottom Line:

The 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric is an exceptional electric hatchback that should get more attention than it does.

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