The Hyundai Kona first came to market in 2019 as a new compact crossover entry that slots below the popular Tucson. For 2022, it gets a refresh that includes an updated fascias, new LED lighting, safety and more. The standard Kona is available in four trims and three powertrains including the all-new Kona N which is the performance variant that delivers 276 HP. The Kona Electric is available in two trim levels which are both paired to the same 150 kW lithium-ion battery. The electric is available exclusively with front wheel drive while the standard engine version does offer all-wheel drive depending on the trim. Base Konas start at $21,300 for an SE and climb up to a starting price of $28,600, Kona N models start at $34,200, and the Kona Electric models start at $34,000 for the SEL or $42,500 for the Limited. Competition includes other compact EVs such as the Chevrolet Bolt EV, Nissan Leaf, and Kia Niro EV. I spent time in the Kona Electric Limited, so this review will focus on the electric versions. Here's what stood out...
The first iteration of the Kona had contemporary, beachy vibe to it that was lost a little with the revisions to the front fascia. The new look moves the Hyundai emblem up to the top of the fascia and, specifically on the EV version, leaves a very plain looking front bumper that lacks the character of the original. The EV port is located within the front bumper on the drivers' side and is not as seamlessly hidden as it is in other EVs. The split lighting style remains with a thin slit of daytime running LEDs up top and the actual headlights on the bottom. The side profile remains the same with a stretched wheelbase that minimizes overhangs. Around back the Kona remains full of character with updated LED lighting, cladding on the C-pillar, and separated turn/reverse lights that follow the lines of the hatch. Stylish wheel designs complement the Kona. The updated Kona loses some its rugged vibes in favor of a cleaner cute look.
The Kona electric offers a fair amount of pep in acceleration, but doesn't come close to the performance specs of other electric vehicles like the Mustang Mach-E and Volkswagen ID.4 that are comparatively priced (to the Limited model). The Kona Electric delivers 201 horsepower and 291 lb.ft. of torque which is enough for a 0-60 time of 7.6 seconds. By comparison, this is slower than the Chevrolet Bolt which reports a 0-60 time of 6.5 seconds. There are three driving modes known as comfort, eco, and sport which can be switched at the touch of a button. The instant torque gives it the much-needed pep off the line and its engaging around town in urban areas.
At highway speeds the ride was smooth, and it felt planted to the roadway. Road noise was more noticeable in Chicago traffic compared to similarly sized vehicles like the VW Taos and Toyota Corolla Cross. Its compact size makes it easy to handle around corners although the steering tends to be on the softer side. The regenerative braking system is available in multiple levels allowing for nearly one-pedal driving; however, it won't come to a complete stop without hitting the brakes.
When fully charged, it will deliver a range of approximately 258 miles which is a solid number and on par with competitors such as the Bolt EV, Kia Niro EV, and VW ID.4. The Kona delivers over 100 miles more of range than the Nissan Leaf and Mazda MX-30. Charge time was quick as well with the Kona Electric recharging to 80% in around 45 minutes on a DC fast charger. I can be charged on a standard 110-volt household outlet, but it will take a significant amount of time to do so. With a Level 2 charger, it should charge from 10-100% in around 9 hours.
Interior Design / Layout (+)
The overall layout is simple and easy to get used to. At the center of the dash is a reachable 10.25" touchscreen. The screen includes dials for audio/tuning as well as a menu of navigation buttons for quick access. Climate controls are all placed together above a compartment for wireless phone charging. The center console features a bridge design thanks to an electronic push-button gear selector. Below the main console is additional storage space. New ambient lighting illuminates the cup holders and footwells to allow for personalization.
Interior Materials (-)
Most new Hyundais have over-delivered inside with better-than-expected materials loaded with tech, however the Kona felt very 'rental car' inside with hard plastics, especially in the dash. After spending time in the new Elantra and Tucson which offer modern materials, I expected the same from this trendy little crossover. These materials would be more forgivable in a base model, but with a price tag of $44k, the interior quality did not feel up to par.
Drivers will face a 10.25" digital cluster that is seen on other new Hyundai models. The visual graphics will update with the various drive modes. The infotainment system integrates with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on the 10.25" screen but require a cord on higher trim models like the Limited. SEL models will integrate with these systems wirelessly on the 8" touch screen. The Kona does offer wireless charging in a functional location at the top of the center console. Hyundai's system is intuitive and offers additional features such as ambient lighting and sounds of nature for those moments you need to recline the seats back (while parked) and de-stress. Drivers can also activate and control features like climate, radio station, rear window and side mirror heating as well as steering wheel heating through Dynamic Voice Recognition. Built in navigation, an eight-speaker Harmon Kardon premium audio system, cameras, and Hyundai's digital key all add to the overall package.
The Kona is quite roomy inside with comfortable seats both up front and in back. The Limited came with heated and ventilated seats that worked well. The leather seats were supportive with sufficient padding. The driver's chair offers eight-way power adjustability to find an ideal driving position. Head and leg room was impressive up front and will accommodate adults of all sizes. Second row seats will be much tighter for adults with minimal leg room, however, all three of my kids managed alright in the back.
As a compact crossover, expectations should be minimal for cargo. The Kona Electric offers 19.2 cu.ft. behind the second row and 45.8 cu.ft. with the seats folded flat. In comparison to similarly sized models like the Nissan Leaf, the Hyundai has more overall space, but less behind the second row. Compared to the Bolt EV, the Kona delivers more space behind the second row but falls significantly behind the 57 cu.ft. of space the Chevy offers overall. This is a mixed bag in the segment and will require some visits to dealerships to determine what is most important to the buyer.... passenger space or cargo space?
Kona Electric is packed with a range of safety and driver assist features regardless of the trim level. Standard active assist features include blind-spot collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, forward collision-avoidance with pedestrian-detection, lane keep/follow, driver attention warning, safe exit, and rear seat occupant alert. Stepping up to the Limited model will add additional features such as highway driving assist, high beam assist and parking distance warning in reverse. During my time in the car, all these features worked well and were intuitive to control/adjust to personal preferences. Kudos to Hyundai for making all these elements standard.
With an entry price of around $35,245 with destination fee, the Kona Electric is priced appropriately for its size, features, and range. Opting for the SEL only leaves one convenience package option for an additional $3,500 which adds a sunroof, LED interior lights, 8-way power adjustable driver's seat, heated seats, wireless device charging and more. Add in the federal tax credit for $7,500 and it's a solid deal. However, stepping up to the Limited increases the price to $43,745 which is also the starting range for the new IONIQ 5 EV. It's big jump in price that is tough to justify when the biggest upgrade is the highway driving assist.
The Kona Electric offers an affordable entry into the world of electric vehicles with the SEL model. It comes well equipped with a long list of safety features, updated technology, and good range. Power is good for the SEL model's price point, but I would hope for more when shopping in the mid $40k range. The Limited trim fell short of its price point for me. I enjoyed the Kona overall and would recommend opting for SEL. It's a stylish vehicle that would be ideal for an urban environment.
First Impression Summary:
Test Vehicle: 2022 Hyundai Kona Electric Limited
Exterior Color: Pulse Red
Interior Color: Gray
MSRP as tested: $43,840 (With Delivery/Destination)