Fortunately, range anxiety is becoming less of an issue now that there are several electric vehicles capable of driving more than 200 miles without having to stop and recharge. The 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric is one of those cars that promises a clear path to zero emissions driving, supposedly without leaving you stranded at the side of the road. But can it really achieve its EPA-estimated range of 258 miles in the real world?
To find out, I took the brand new Kona Electric into the urban jungle of California, where I could find its true range. Not only that, but I discover some tidbits of useful information about what this car’s like to live with every day.
By the numbers
According to official EPA figures, the all-electric version of the Hyundai Kona has a range of 258 miles. Its 64 kWh battery powers a 150 kW electric motor, solely powering the front wheels. That combination amounts to an impressive 201 horsepower and 291 pound-feet of torque. The onboard 7.2 kW charger enables this electric crossover to recharge its lithium-ion battery pack in approximately 9-1/2 hours when connected to a Level 2 (L2) charger. If you don’t have that much idle time, connect it to a 45 kW DC fast charger (L3), and you get back up to 80 percent capacity in around 1 hour.
The Kona fits into the subcompact crossover category — comparable in size to Subaru Crosstrek, Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V and its cousin the Kia Niro EV. Passenger volume measures 94.1 cubic feet, which is nearly identical to the Chevy Bolt. Even though the Bolt has more headroom, seating inside the Kona feels roomier compared to the tight quarters of Chevy’s small EV. Fold the rear seats and the cargo area expands from a diminutive 19.2 cubic feet to 45.8 — a lot more space in comparison to the Nissan LEAF’s 30 cubic feet.
Five things to love about the Hyundai Kona Electric
During my time with the 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric, I logged more than 250 miles on a single charge. Even at that point, I still had 15 percent battery capacity remaining. According to the car’s trip computer, there was potentially another 40 miles of range left in the battery pack. While not quite on the same level as its conventional competition, it was still an impressive result.
Ultimately, the driver has three modes to choose: Normal, Eco, and Sport. The trick to squeezing more range is to use Eco mode most of the time. This drive mode makes the system’s regenerative braking more aggressive when lifting off the accelerator, thereby returning a significant amount of juice to the batteries. Two paddles behind the steering wheel allow you to adjust for less or more aggressive regenerative braking.
Lest you think Eco mode makes the all-electric crossover wimpy, 291 pound-feet of torque on tap means there are copious amounts of power in normal driving conditions.
Here were the results when I conducted the range test:
|Remaining Charge||Odometer (mi)||Distance |
|Est. Range (mi)|
|100%||3,866||0 – Start||258|
|15%||4,118||252 – Finish||40|
My time with the zero-emission SUV involved a fair amount of driving at freeway speeds and on city streets. A quick check after every trip showed it was easy to achieve 4 mi/kWh. On drives where traffic was heavy, and speeds were slow, it was not uncommon to score 5.2 – 5.6 mi/kWh. When I tested the Bolt and LEAF Plus, efficiency generally ranged from 3.6 to 4.4 mi/kWh.
3) Smart cruise control
One of my favorite premium features, adaptive cruise control, gets even better with full stop and automatic restart. Hyundai’s Smart Cruise Control with automatic stop and go is an intelligent take on conventional cruise control that slows down and returns to its preset speed to automatically maintain a proper distance to the car in front of you. The Kona EV will come to a full stop if necessary and re-accelerate back to the set speed as traffic begins moving again. If paused for longer than three seconds, the driver must awaken the system by either pushing the cruise control’s resume speed button or by tapping the accelerator pedal.
In light or heavy traffic, using Smart Cruise Control does a lot to reduce driver stress. The system is enhanced for pre-collision warnings, which alert the driver that braking or evasive steering is needed.
4) Infinity premium sound system
For whom listening preferences go beyond NPR and sports radio, the Infinity stereo system is an audio pleasure that can be enjoyed every time you hop behind the wheel. Highs are well-defined and have a smooth roll off, the mid-range sings beautifully, the woofers deliver impactful lows, and the subwoofer adds tremendous support over the whole spectrum. Offered as standard equipment in the Limited and Ultimate trims, the 315-watt Infinity premium audio system with Clari-Fi is delightful, and it also helps mask the notable wind noise hitting the front windshield.
5) Snappy acceleration
Hyundai claims the Kona Electric can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds when switched to Sport mode. Our unofficial tests did a little better – clocking a 7.45-second dash – in the best of three timed runs.
Bonus: Extra cubby space below the center console
Even though the center console bin is large enough to fit my DSLR camera equipped with a telephoto lens, it’s always nice to have some extra places to store loose items. Because the 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric uses an electronic controller to engage its single-speed transmission, there is a convenient tray underneath that works out nicely for holding your sunglasses, pens that follow you home, and paper receipts that you’ll never-ever need in this lifetime.
Things I can’t stand about the 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric
Number one on my list is the extra force needed to close the rear cargo hatch. In my book, the weight of the hatch door should be enough for it to close and securely latch. Sadly, that’s not the case with this Kona. I lost count of the number of times I had to jump out and re-close the rear hatch after settling myself into the driver’s seat and fastening my seatbelt. That’s annoying.
The hard plastic cabin materials remind you that this is no luxury SUV. Hyundai’s build quality is outstanding, but the overall effect feels cheapened by the look and feel of the hard plastic bits. Another feature that screams cost-cutting is the flip-up combiner HUD screen. It would be nice to see the numbers projected directly onto the windshield.
Next on the list is the Kona Electric’s active audible pedestrian warning noise at speeds below 19 mph. Moving forward starting with the 2019 model year, the clean, green and not-so-quiet EV conforms to NHTSA’s regulation by emitting a distinctive electronic whine. Thankfully, the sound intended to warn pedestrians at low speeds is inaudible from inside the cabin after 16 mph.
With a light foot and the right conditions, the Kona Electric’s range is legit and can easily exceed its EPA-rated 258 miles. That’s better than the Bolt and the LEAF Plus. Handling isn’t as buttoned down as the Bolt, but it does alright for a lifted hatchback that weighs in at 3,870 pounds. If you’re willing to pony up for the Ultimate trim, Hyundai will send you home with a generous package of driver-assist and creature comfort features that eclipse the Bolt and LEAF Plus.
The cabin is comfortable, but insulation does a poor job of keeping road noise at bay. Interior design is mostly on the plus side as long as the hard plastics don’t offend you. Keep in mind the Kona is smaller than the Tucson and is closer to a high-riding hatchback than a small SUV.
As with any new car purchase, do your homework on state and federal tax incentives, warranty coverage, and the level of service after you drive off from the dealership.
The Kona Electric is only available in front-wheel drive, but the combustion engine variants do come in AWD versions. Here is an off-road review of the Hyundai Kona and its attempt to scramble up Gold Mine Hill.
Specifications: 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric Ultimate
|Price as tested:||$45,830 (incl. destination)|
|Battery Pack:||64 kWh li-ion|
|Range (EPA):||258 miles|
|0-60 mph:||7.6 sec (Hyundai est.)|
|Drivetrain layout:||Front-wheel drive|
|Front suspension:||Independent MacPherson strut w/ coil springs|
|Rear suspension:||Independent multi-link|
|Tires:||Nexen N Priz AH8 P215/55R17 all-season|
|Length x Width x Height:||164.6 x 70.9 x 61.2 in.|
|Ground clearance:||6.2 in.|
|Coefficient of drag (Cd):||0.29|
|Passenger volume:||94.1 ft3|
|Cargo volume (seats up):||19.2 ft3|
|Cargo volume (seats folded):||45.8 ft3|
|Weight (SEL/Unlimited/Ultimate):||3715 / 3770 / 3836 lbs.|
|Charging time:||1 hr > 80% on 45 kW DC fast charger|