2019 Hyundai Kona EV Review

Last year I reviewed the fun compact crossover Hyundai Kona that was powered by a 1.6L turbocharged gasoline engine. It has proven to be a success, selling almost 15,000 units in Canada in 2018.

This year, Hyundai has brought the much anticipated electrified version of the Kona to Canada. Not only is it the first fully electric SUV to be introduced to North America, but it is also one of the few that can deliver more than 400km of driving range on a single charge.

I have been eagerly waiting to get my hands on the Kona EV ever since its debut in 2017. Thanks to Hyundai Canada, I was finally given that chance. Below is my unbiased review after a week of test drive.

Some exterior upgrades differ the Kona EV from its gasoline drinking sibling, especially at the front. The omission of a gasoline engine means the center grille is no longer needed for air intake. It is now replaced with a stylish dimpled cover, which also covers the front charging port. The ultra slim LED daytime running light remains to be my favorite feature of the car. What are also gone are the lower fog lights. I have always felt the fog lights make the original Kona look too busy. By removing them, the lower air intake can now be bolder and wider. It is equipped with an automatic shutter that closes at higher speed to reduce air resistance.

On the side, the most noticeable difference between the EV and the gasoline version of the Kona are the the wheels. The Kona EV comes with 17" aerodynamic wheels that we often see on electric vehicles. They are designed to reduce drag while maintaining adequate brake cooling. I am not a fan of these type of wheels, and I don't think they actually make that much of a difference in terms of energy consumption. Even with the short wheelbase, the Kona looks portioned and sporty. Big wheel arches and sharp ceases give the side profile a sleek, muscular look.

The rear profile of the Kona EV looks almost identical to the gasoline version, expect for the lower bumper. A black bumper with accordion style folding character lines are now in place of the fake aluminum skit plate. I love the slim LED taillights that mirrors the front day-time running light, but am not a fan of the large combination turn-signal/reverse light design.

Overall, I very much enjoy the exterior of the Kona EV.  Instead of distinguishing itself through a wacky exterior design, the Kona EV is genuinely a good looking car. Compare to its petrol powered sibling, the Kona EV actually looks more composed and less polarizing. It adds a touch of class and a dash of futuristic vibe to the otherwise youthful exterior.

The subdued futuristic aesthetic is also reflected on the inside. Starting with the grey/electric blue two-toned design and the button style gear selector, the interior of the Kona EV is filled with just enough details to remind you that this is not your typical atmosphere polluting SUV. The double-decked center console hosts an array of metallic looking buttons. They are intuitively organized in groups of clusters. Premium materials are generously appointed, while hard plastics are tucked away in the lower part of the cabin.

Our Ultimate Trim tester comes with a 8 way power-adjustable driver seat that is covered in synthetic leather skin. The seating position is quite high and provides an excellent view of the road.  Both front seats are heated and vented. The venting system is one of the best I have experienced. It allows the driver to not rely on the AC unit for those hotter days. The Kona EV shipped to Canada utilizes a heat pump to warm both the cabinet and the battery in cold weather. A heat pump is like a reverse refrigerator, it pulls heat from the colder atmosphere and pumps it into the cabin. It is much more efficient than a resistive heater, which is what the US market gets.

While the font seats are quite comfortable, providing good head and legroom, the rear cabin is slightly cramped. This is no different from the standard Kona EV due to the car's compact nature. The carved front seatbacks provide some relieves to the knees of the rear passengers.

The standard Kona EV comes with a 7.0" touchscreen display. Our Ultimate trim tester comes with an 8.0" infotainment touchscreen, a pop-up heads up display, and a wireless phone charging pad in the front center console. Hyundai has always been good at delivering state of the art infotainment system, and the Kona EV takes it a notch above. The tablet style display is sharp and bright. It is complimented by a software interface that is well organized and responsive. I love the fact that there are two columns of physical switch-gears beside the touchscreen for quick and ease access. Android auto and Apple CarPlay are standard for both trims.

The instrument panel deserves some praise. It consists of a customization 7.0" TFT LCD central display and two digital side bars. The left side bar shows the state of the power system in a very
simple and intuitive way. The right side bar shows the battery's state of charge. The central display can be configured to show an array of vehicle, trip, or infotainment information. It also changes its appearance depending on the drive mode selected. All these displays work flawlessly together to deliver a stress-free driving experience.

Standard Kona EV comes with a six-speaker audio system, but our Ultimate tester comes with the eight-speaker Infinity premium audio system that delivers fuller bass, and an overall richer sound.

Safety and Driver Assistance
All Kona EVs comes with Hyundai Smart Sense suite of Safety features. They include:

•  Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection
•  Driver attention warning
•  Lane keep assist
•  Blind spot detection
•  Rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist

I find the emergency breaking system to be too sensitive, and I couldn't find a place to adjust the sensitivity.

The 2019 Kona EV is powered by a 150kW electric motor that draws its power from a 64.0 kWh Lithium-ion polymer battery. All that power is then delivered to the front wheels through a single gear transmission. One thing I expect from an EV is the instant torque the electric motors provide from still, but the Kona EV still manages to surprise me. Switch to Sport mode and turn off traction control, the Kona EV will lay a patch on the gravel every single time. It takes the car 7.1 seconds to go from 0-100km/hr, which is faster than its turbocharged ICE sibling.

The car has four drive modes: Sport, Normal, Eco, and Eco +. The Eco + is reserved for when things gets desperate and you must save every kWh of battery to make it to your destination. I left it in Normal during most of my test drive, and it provides more than enough thrill, especially zipping around the city. Between 0-60km/hr, few cars can accelerate as fast as an EV. You can imagine the look of other drivers when the humble Kona EV beats a much more expensive sport car off the line.

The Kona EV is one of the few compact SUVs that come with multi-link rear suspensions. As a result, the car performs beautifully in corners. The battery is mounted at the bottom of the car to lower the center of gravity. The added weight also makes the car feel more substantial, and helps to absorb road disturbances.

The steering is firm and precise. The wheel-mounted paddles are not for gear selection, but to adjust the amount of regenerative braking the EV executes. It goes from no regenerative braking, meaning the car behaves like a gasoline car, and coasts when you left off the accelerator, to almost one pedal drive, meaning the car comes to a complete stop without having to use the brake pedal. I say almost, because you will have to keep depressing the wheel-mounted paddle to perform a complete stop. I keep switching between no regenerative braking to full regenerative braking because I find myself liking the former on highways and in the parking lot, and the later in city traffic.

The 64.0 kWh battery provides 415km of range on a single charge. It is quite an liberating feeling to drive the Kona EV, especially if you have range anxiety. While most of us only drive less than 50km a day, the bigger battery becomes important when the weather gets cold. The cold temperature can reduce the driving range by up to 40%, and the Kona EV will still have 250km of range in that situation. A larger battery also degrades slower, and extends the time between visits to charging stations.

The massive battery is charged through the SAE type combo charger port in the front. With your standard household outlet of 120V AC, it takes 48 hours to charge the battery from empty to 100%. Using a level 2 charger at 240V AC, that time is significantly reduced to 9.5 hours. With a level 3 50kw DC fast charger, it only takes 75 minutes to charge the battery from 0 to 80%, a more capable 100km fast charger shaves another 20 minutes off that time.

Cargo Space & Storage
The Kona EV boasts the same cargo volume as its ICE sibling with 543 L of storage space behind the rear seats. That is more than its closest competitor, the Chevy Bolt. With the 60/40 rear seats folded flat, that space is increased to 1297 L, less than the Bolt. There is a storage tray under the cargo floor, and a few deep pockets beneath the storage tray to store the tire repair kit and the charging cable.

Around the cabin, there are plenty of storage options for smaller items. The center console has a lower shelf and the console box beneath the armrest is decently sized. The door pockets are on the smaller side, but deep enough for water bottles. There are small storage trays by the side armrests and two additional cup holders in the rear folding armrest.

The 2019 Hyundai Kona EV is arguably one of the most exciting addition to the EV landscape. It is one of the only few EVs that you won't experience range anxiety in, and it comes in the popular crossover form factor. You can argue that the Chevrolet Bolt, or the Nissan Leaf Plus deliver something similar, but the Kona EV takes everything to the next level. It is more fun to drive, better looking, and has a longer range. I wish the cargo volume and the rear cabin space can be bigger, but it is still very practical as is.

I have no doubt that the Kona EV will enjoy some level of success in Canada, and if they can manage to shave a few thousand dollars off the price (perhaps with a 300km range battery and a slightly smaller motor), it might be just the crossover to persuade the masses to transition from gasoline to electric.

Test Vehicle
2019 Hyundai Kona EV Ultimate
$53,804 as tested, including freight and PDI (without Federal and Provincial incentives)
Ceramic Blue


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