Do you remember what Hyundai was like just 15 years ago? They made cheap cars that no one really wanted to buy. Now though it’s a different time for Hyundai. They’re winning awards and leading the charge (pun intended) with Electric & Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The latest electric vehicle from the Korean brand is the all-new 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric.
Motor – A 150 kW (201hp) electric motor powers the front wheels. Like all other electric motors, the peak torque figure of 290 lb-ft is immediately reached as soon as you put your foot down on the accelerator pedal. The Kona Electric’s motor is a bit more powerful than that of the Chevy Bolt and if you’re not careful, you can get the wheels spinning coming out of a slow corner. Top speed is limited though to 167 km/h but that is more than enough for 99.9% of Kona EV buyers. In the real world, it’s 0-100 km/h & 60-100 km/h that matters most and electric vehicles are kings of that realm.
Battery & Charging – A 64 kWh Lithium-ion polymer battery powers the Kona EV and can provide an EPA estimated 415 km of range. But that range can change depending on the climate and how much regenerative braking you use. When I fully charged my demo Kona EV, the on-board computer calculated that with a full charge, it could go up to 515km.
Charging can be done from a 120V outlet, a 240V charging station, or a level 3 DC fast charging station. From a regular 120V wall outlet, it could take upwards of a full day or more to fully charge. From a 240V level 2 charger, it can be done in just under 10 hours and a level 3, 100kW DC fast charger will have it done in just under 2 hours.
Braking – There are 3 different levels of regenerative braking on the Hyundai Kona EV. They are adjusted by the paddles on the steering wheel. However if you pull on the left paddle, it will go into maximum braking and bring the car to a stop. So technically you can call it “one pedal” driving as you don’t need to use the brake pedal. Emergency automatic braking is standard on both trims of the 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric.
Handling – With multi-link rear suspension, the Hyundai Kona has quite a lot of grip for being an eco-friendly car. It won’t beat the Jaguar I-Pace around a corner but it’s not a stereotypical dull EV either. Put it into Sport mode and you can feel torque steer when depressing the accelerator pedal to the floor. I was very surprised by how much fun I had behind the steering wheel of the Kona EV.
Ride Comfort – Thanks in part to the rear suspension, the Kona EV rides very well over bumps. The suspension manages to be soft but not floaty when hitting a pothole or bump in the road. The seats though are not particularly soft but they do a decent enough job of providing comfort for longer journeys.
Interior Space – There is just enough room for taller adults in the front seats but the same can’t be said for the back. Leg and head room are at a premium and only smaller individuals will have enough space. Trunk space is not the biggest when compared to gasoline powered rivals but it is good when compared to other electric vehicles.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – The Hyundai Kona EV is a quiet vehicle in most conditions. Yes, on a highway it does get a bit more noisy but it’s not too bad. What I particularly like are the subtle noises coming from the electric motor when accelerating and slowing down. It makes the stereotypical electric car noises that you heard in those “futuristic” movies from the 1990’s like “Demolition Man” or “Judge Dredd”.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – Opt for this Ultimate trim, and you get pretty much every feature that Hyundai offers on any of their vehicles. One particular feature that enjoyed using is the adaptive cruise control. On normal gasoline powered vehicles, the transmission usually has to downshift once a slow vehicle moves out of your way. This makes the drive feel disruptive but in an electric vehicle with no transmission, it’s just gradual acceleration to the set speed.
Exterior Design – The Kona Electric looks pretty much like the regular Kona with the exception of the grille and tailpipe. Of course because it’s an electric vehicle, it doesn’t have a tailpipe so the bumper is just one continuous piece. The front grille is not really a grille but rather just one piece of the bumper that is designed to improve aerodynamics. There is one small opening at the very bottom for the small radiator for the battery cooling system and A/C condenser but apart from that, the styling was made to improve aerodynamics.
Interior Design – The design of the interior is very similar to that of not only the gasoline powered Hyundai Kona, but also of the hydrogen fuel cell Nexo. The same driver instrument cluster and 8” touchscreen are in the regular Kona but the gear selector and buttons below it are reminiscent of the switch gear in the Hyundai Nexo. Overall it looks like a modern Hyundai product but with a hint of futuristic design like the Nexo.
In all I was pleasantly surprised by the 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric. It had much better range than advertised, it drove very well, and at a starting price of $45,000 CAD, it is reasonably priced for an electric vehicle. This is easily the best electric vehicle on the market as of right now.