Toby Hagon’s 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric Review With Price, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Ownership, Safety, Verdict And Score. 

In a nutshell: The Kona Electric utilises an existing small SUV body but replaces it with a perky electric motor and a long range battery back that ensures 400km-plus trips between charges. But it’s not cheap…

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric Specifications

Price From $59,990+ORC Warranty 5 year, unlimited kilometre Service Intervals 12 months, 15,000km Safety 5-star ANCAP Drivetrain Electric motor Power 150kW Torque 395Nm Transmission Single speed direct drive Drive Front wheels Dimensions 4180mm (L), 1800mm (W), 1570mm (H), 2600mm (WB) Ground Clearance 158mm Kerb Weight 1685-1743kg Towing Not rated GVM 2180kg Boot Space 332L Spare None Battery Capacity 64kWh Thirst 14.3kWh/100km

Watch our quick spin review of the 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric

It’s been a green few months for Hyundai, which has been rolling out its new eco-friendly models, including the Ioniq, available as a Hybrid, Plug-in hybrid and Electric – something all about giving owners the choice of which drivetrain best suits their requirements.

But Hyundai’s most serious electric machine is the Kona Electric. As the name suggests, it uses the basic body of the Kona small SUV but pairs it with an electric motor and lots of batteries.

2019 Hyundai Kona EV Review

It’s distinguished by a distinctive grille and unique alloy wheels, each chosen as much for aerodynamic efficiency as much as making the car stand out on the road.

Key to the sales pitch is a sizeable 64kWh battery, enough to take you well over 400km between charges. It can also be fast-charged at up to 100kW.

What’s in the range and how much does it cost?

Starting at $59,990 for the Elite, the Kona Electric may be towards the more affordable end of the (small) electric vehicle spectrum but still costs plenty more than a regular Kona.

Blame it on the large 64kWh battery pack that gives it more than 400km of range between charges (the Kona Electric is available with a smaller battery pack overseas, but it’s not available in Australia).

2019 Hyundai Kona EV Review

To try to temper the significant sticker shock Hyundai has filled it with gear, including loads of active safety systems such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning with mild self-steering, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert.

There’s also an 8.0-inch touchscreen with satellite-navigation, leather seats, digital radio tuning and the connectivity of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Other standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, auto headlights and wipers, rear parking sensors to complement the reversing cameras, smart key entry, tyre pressure monitors and an eight-speaker Infinity sound system.

Hyundai Auto Link is also a neat feature that allows you to monitor your car remotely and perform basic functions remotely such as activating the ventilation or locking/unlocking the doors. Auto Link can also keep a log of driving styles and energy usage as well as charging history. It can also give you servicing alerts and be used to geo-monitor the car, warning the owner if it leaves a pre-set area.

2019 Hyundai Kona EV Review

Those wanting more gear can splash out (gulp) $64,490 for the Kona Electric Highlander. As well as all of the above features it gets front parking sensors, a Qi wireless charging pad, head-up display, heated steering wheel and heated and ventilated front seats. You can also choose between a sunroof or a two-tone roof.

What’s the interior and practicality like?

There’s plenty of regular Kona in the interior presentation, right down to the five-seat layout that offers respectable rear space by small SUV standards but falls short of what adults may expect when it comes to leg and head room.

2019 Hyundai Kona EV Review

The boot, too, is compact but useful courtesy of a flat floor and luggage net. Having the charging cables stashed beneath the floor also keeps the load space clean.

2019 Hyundai Kona EV Review

The overall presentation is classic Hyundai, down to the generic grey finishes that are occasionally hard, instilling something of a cheapness in the presentation.

And while there are lashings of silver finishes, there’s no genuine metal to truly lift the ambience, with an obvious plastickiness adding to the sensation the cabin has been built to a price, something less than ideal considering the premium price tag.

2019 Hyundai Kona EV Review

Still, storage is respectable, the deep cavern under the centre console – which is unique to the Kona Electric courtesy of shift buttons instead of a traditional gear selector – making up for the compact centre console. Cupholders and other compartments take care of odds-and-ends storage.

What are the controls and infotainment like?

An 8.0-inch screen is the standout inside the car, controlling major infotainment functions such as navigation, audio and the integrated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s logical to use and includes menu buttons on either side of the screen, including one that can be programmed to a favourite function.

There’s also an Infinity sound system, which doesn’t set any audio benchmarks but at least ups the decibel factor for those into their tunes.

2019 Hyundai Kona EV Review

Having the Qi charger of the Highlander and USB port hidden behind a door is handy for those who want to keep things clean or leave the phone in the car when parked.

2019 Hyundai Kona EV Review

As well as the push button gear selector there are some different buttons elsewhere, including the VESS one near the driver’s right knee. When switched on it emits a mild whirring sound outside the car to account for the lack of engine noise, in turn making it more noticeable to pedestrians. It only operates at low speeds, the tyre noise taking over at higher speeds.

There’s also a small head-up display projects the speedo and speed limit closer to the driver’s line of sight, although like all such systems that use a separate screen (as oppose to the windscreen itself) it’s limited in appeal. If you don’t like it you can recess the screen into the dash and focus on the regular instrument cluster, which includes a partially digital display.

What’s the performance like?

With 150kW and 395Nm the Electric is the most powerful Kona on offer, its outputs more akin to a hot hatch than an environmentally-focused small SUV.

But it’s also dragging around the most kilos, the batteries contributing to the portly kerb weight of up to 1743kg. Not that you notice it when you first push the accelerator, the instantly-available torque making for energetic responses.

2019 Hyundai Kona EV Review

The Kona EV is a car that jumps when instructed, its acceleration perky and fun. It’s claimed to reach 100km/h in 7.6 seconds.

It’s to the point where all that lovely grunt can challenge the front tyres, the only ones that drive the vehicle (it may be an SUV, but it’s only two-wheel drive). From a standstill it’s easy to elicit a chirp as the tyres fight for traction – and even at 30km/h a stab of the accelerator can lead to a short spin of the wheels.

Throw a corner into the equation and there’s even more propensity to wheelspin – and a wet road will amplify things further. But you start to realise the limitations – many of which exist because the tyres aren’t particularly grippy, designed to reduce fuel use – and drive accordingly.

2019 Hyundai Kona EV Review

With a direct drive system to the wheels (there is no transmission) there are also no gear changes to worry about, the electric motor simply building pace, only showing signs of losing enthusiasm above 100km/h.

As well as Normal, you can choose the Eco or Performance driving models. Eco adds more regenerative braking when you lift off the accelerator while Performance sharpens throttle response, something not particularly useful given the already excellent response.

Paddles on the steering wheel that would normally be used for gear changes are instead set aside to adjust the level of regenerative braking when you lift off the accelerator.

2019 Hyundai Kona EV Review

With four settings, the most aggressive is like pressing the brake pedal moderately, to the point where for much city driving you can ignore the brake pedal altogether. Dial it right back and the car just coasts, the brake pedal instead controlling how much kinetic energy is recaptured for storing as electricity in the battery. Speaking of brakes, the Kona Electric is one of the best EVs we’ve sampled for pedal feel.

Instead of that glueyness and inconsistency that inflicts some EVs and hybrids, there’s a more natural movement. They also stop reasonably well.

What’s it like on the road?

Like other Hyundais, Australian engineers worked on the tuning of the Kona Electric’s suspension. In some situations it’s quite nice, in others there’s still room for improvement.

Let’s start with the negatives: at low speeds the ride can be fidgety, an inherent firmness capturing plenty of the imperfections at ground level. That dissipates as speed increases, the faster hit rates seemingly improving compliance and at least providing better control.

2019 Hyundai Kona EV Review

Not that the Kona Electric corners with the same enthusiasm as it gets going. Blame it on the tyres. The Nexen-branded hoops appear to have been selected more for their low rolling resistance (therefore using less battery power) than their grip.

2019 Hyundai Kona EV Review

Push too hard around a corner and it’s not difficult to elicit some squealing. Even at less energetic speeds there’s a noticeable increase in noise and pitch when cornering as the tyres lean on their edges. And they’re never particularly quiet, something more obvious by the lack of noise elsewhere.;

How do you charge it?

The Kona’s battery is quite large, at 64kWh. If it’s flat and you want to recharge it at home you’re looking at almost 27 hours when plugged into a regular powerpoint. Get a home charger and that will lower to about 8 hours, which is perfect for overnight charging. Keep in mind, too, that you’re unlikely to drain the full battery in everyday driving; most people will be able to go days between charges.

2019 Hyundai Kona EV Review

The Kona Electric uses the latest Type 2 plug that electric cars in Australia are gravitating to, so in time there should be no issues finding public chargers to top it up.

It also has the ability for 100kW DC fast charging, something clamed to take it from a flat battery to 80 percent charged in 54 minutes. That obviously assumes you can find a 100kW charger, of which there aren’t many right now (some motoring clubs are installing 50kW chargers, but faster-charging networks are also slowly being rolled out at key locations, typically on major freeways such as the Hume Highway).

The range of the Kona we drove hovered around 420km, falling just shy of the 449km claim. Still, it’s thoroughly useful and makes for one of the longer range EVs.

As for the charging costs, assuming you’re paying around 30 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity it’ll cost $19.20 to perform a full charge. Considering the 400km-plus range that makes it less than half the cost of fuelling a petrol-powered Kona (at around $1.50 a litre for fuel). And, of course, if you can use free public charging or solar at home those costs can be reduced to zero.

Does it have a spare?

There are too many batteries underneath to fit a spare tyre, so the Kona Electric does without. Instead there’s a repair kit for minor punctures as well as tyre pressure monitors for early warning of any issues.

Can you tow with it?

No, the Kona Electric isn’t designed to tow.

What about ownership?

The Kona is covered by the same five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty (which is capped at 160,000km if you use it for commercial purposes) of other Hyundais. The battery – which is the most expensive component of the car – is covered for eight years or 160,000km, providing extra peace of mind.

The Kona Electric is also fairly affordable to service, in part because it doesn’t have as much that needs regular maintenance as a petrol car. Services are due every 12 months or $15,000km and are capped at $165 each.

What safety features does it have?

The Kona Electric shares the same five-star ANCAP safety rating awarded to the regular Kona in 2017. While ANCAP requirements for a five-star rating have increased since then, the Kona gets plenty of the active safety fruit missing on base model Konas.

That includes the SmartSense pack that bundles blind spot warning, lane departure warning with steering assistance, active cruise control and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) that operates up to 170km/h. There’s also rear cross traffic alert, although there’s no auto braking as a result, with a warning instead. Crash protection comes in the form of six airbags.


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About Author

Toby Hagon

From Porsches to LandCruisers, Toby Hagon loves all things cars and has been writing about them for more than 20 years. He loves the passion and people that help create one of the world's most innovative and interesting industries. As well as road testing and chasing news he more recently co-authored a book on Holden. These days he crosses the world covering the industry but still loves taking off on the Big Trip in Australia.

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