By Bob Cowan
This is a car I’ve been dying to check out. I was very impressed with my test drive in a 2018 Kona (see review) last fall and was pretty excited when I found out this fun little crossover was getting electrified for 2019. We need to see more fossil fuel free options in showrooms and more affordable choices. Even with its recent price drop a standard interior Tesla Model 3 is close to $50k. The federal government recently announced “purchase incentives” of up to $5000 for electric or hydrogen fuel vehicles that are $45,000 or less. That rules out many EV’s including the one I’m testing here unfortunately as it starts at $45,599. I was hoping that this Hyundai was a more affordable option to the Tesla but they are pretty close in pricing – but they are also close in driving range. The Kona’s price is in line with another competitor, the Chevy Bolt, but with a better range of 415 km making the Kona second only to Tesla.
There is still the main “purchase incentive” of reduced operating costs and with a range like that I found on my short daily commute (30 km round trip) my charging costs would be in the neighborhood of $25 a month charging at night in off peak hours. It’s no surprise the Kona EV was chosen as Utility Vehicle of the Year at the North American International Show. The Kona/Kona EV was in the running for the same honour at the Canadian International Auto Show after being chosen Best New Small Utility Vehicle.
Plug and Play
There’s only one place to start our look at this machine. The plug. That of course makes significant changes to this already great subcompact SUV adding efficiency and performance. Some people think the grill-less bubble on the front makes it ugly but I kinda’ like that statement upfront that this is an EV. I thought the 1.6 litre turbo was decent enough to move the Kona around but the acceleration is night and day with the electric version’s transmission and drive system single speed reduction gear. It will do 0 to 100 km/hr in just over 7 seconds. The gas version will take 3 seconds longer and it feels like a world of difference when you’re behind the wheel. This front wheel drive will actually spin or ‘squawk’ the tires if you really tromp on the pedal. That’s actually not a pleasant attribute on wet or snow covered roads and all wheel drive availability would have been nice. Getting snow tires is particularly important with this vehicle because the low resistance summer tires Hyundai uses to increase range don’t cut it in a Canadian winter. Besides the obvious energy savings however fast acceleration is one of my favourite things with electric vehicles.
You’ll get a charge out of this
The Kona EV can be plugged into a standard household outlet but of course that would take the longest charge time. My test unit was fully charged in about 12 hours but if you get a Kona EV it would be recommended to install a 240V charger that will cut that down to 9 hours or a level 3 50KW fast charger that gets you to max range in just over an hour.
The Kona console as an EV has push buttons for its electronic shift-by-wire transmission with three drive modes, Eco, Normal and Sport. The difference between each is basically the amount of regenerative coasting. You can also adjust the amount of regenerative coasting on the steering wheel paddles. If you pull and hold the left paddle it will bring you to a full stop to really conserve your brakes. There is an Auto Hold button as well to keep it stopped until the light turns green. While the Eco mode maximizes your driving range I found the regenerative braking too harsh. Just slightly letting up your foot on the ‘battery’ pedal would lurch you forward. The Normal and Sport modes were a much better driving experience.
The base Kona EV comes with heated front seats, and lots of safety tech like automatic emergency braking, lane keeping and blind spot warning. It also has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There are two additional trim levels, Preferred and Ultimate which is the one in our test unit. The mid level adds a power-adjustable driver’s seat, premium audio, and adaptive cruise control while the Ultimate package has ventilated leather seats, parking sensors, parking sensors, sunroof and navigation with a bigger 8 inch touch screen and lots more for a $6400 bump from the base price.
This is a very functional small SUV with decent cargo room as well. Just about every manufacturer is jumping into the EV game but at this point of limited choices the Kona is one of the best out there.
2019 Hyundai Kona Electric Ultimate
201-hp electric motor, one-speed direct drive, 64-kWh battery; front-wheel drive
MSRP $51,999 cdn