2019 Hyundai Kona Electric.

Hyundai made some bold claims when it introduced the subcompact Kona Electric SUV at the 2018 New York Auto Show.

How bold? How about a 250-mile, all-electric range on a single charge. Hyundai is clearly taking aim at the Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla Model 3 with those specifications, although it’s doubtful Model 3 buyers will be clamoring for the tamer-looking Kona EV.

Hyundai reworked the non-electric Kona’s platform in order to maximize cargo room. The EV has the same 19.2 cubic feet of rear cargo room, which is the same as the gasoline-powered Kona, even though it carries a battery pack. 

2019 Hyundai Kona EV

What it competes with: Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf, Volkswagen eGolf, Ford Focus Electric, Tesla Model 3

What it looks like: The Kona EV doesn’t deviate too much from the regular Kona, except for the odd grill, which looks like perforated duct tape.

Powertrains: 201-hp (150 kWh) electric motor, 64 kWh lithium-ion battery

On-sale date: End of 2018, initially in California and then in zero-emission Western and Eastern regions of the U.S. 

Outside

The EV looks like a typical subcompact SUV, and is obviously very similar to the conventional Kona. Because it’s an electric car that doesn’t need the same cooling as a combustion engine, the Kona has a very prominent grille, which Hyundai calls a “design element.” Drivers won’t have to worry about parking on the wrong side of the charging cord, because the charging port is in the center of the grille. 

Inside

The interior looks very much like the standard Kona. We rented two press versions of the Kona and found the front seats to be roomy enough, but some of the trim was skimpy. The rear seat was very snug, even for the subcompact SUV class. None of that has changed with the EV.

An 8-inch touch screen is available, which is how the driver accesses the navigation and audio systems. Fortunately, Hyundai included knobs for audio volume and tuning. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability are bundled with the screen.

Unlike the conventional versions of the Kona, the driver will put the Kona EV in Park, Drive, Neutral, or Reverse using buttons, not a traditional gear selector.

The cargo area is also similar to the conventional Kona, and the rear seats fold down to provide a flat load floor. There is no indication that the battery has compromised the (limited) rear-seat and cargo room.

2019 Hyundai Kona EV interior.

What Drives It

A 150-kWh (201-hp) electric motor, paired with a 64-kWh lithium-ion battery, provides the Kona with its front-wheel-drive power. In addition to the 250-mile claimed range, Hyundai provided an estimated miles-per-gallon equivalent figure of 117 MPGe.

The EV has Level 2 onboard charging, and with this capability, the Kona EV can be fully charged in just over 9 ½ hours. The Kona also has standard DC fast-charging capability, which can bring the Kona EV to an 80 percent charge in 54 minutes, Hyundai says. 

Safety & Driver-Assist Systems

The Kona Electric has a wide variety of standard safety features, including forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and lane-keeping assist. In addition, the Driver Attention Warning system will keep an attentive eye on a number of driver-related characteristics in an effort to determine whether the driver is fatigued or driving carelessly by monitoring the driver’s steering inputs.

The blind-spot warning system works in conjunction with radar systems to monitor the sides of the Kona EV, and rear cross-traffic warning will look for vehicles that may have entered the Kona’s path of rearward travel, such as when a driver is backing out of a parking spot.  

CR’s Take

The EV’s projected 250-mile range puts it among the leaders of the small-EV class, currently occupied by the Bolt and Model 3. Add in the Kona’s conventional, subcompact SUV styling, and its appeal should increase.

However, the EV does have the same drawbacks as the conventional Kona, such as the basic interior trim and snug rear seat. And it won’t appeal to some buyers who want or need the additional traction of all-wheel drive. 

2019 Hyundai Kona EV rear.


Check out CR's complete 
coverage of the 2018 New York Auto Show.