Behind the Wheel

2020 Hyundai Kona Electric Review: It doesn't try too hard and exceeds expectations

The Hyundai Kona Electric is a proper EV that doesn't try too hard.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

When you ask most "regular" people about electric cars, they'll inevitably mention Tesla. And with good reason; Elon Musk (currently the world's wealthiest person) has done more for the electric vehicle (EV) movement than anyone and Tesla cars are what comes to mind for just about everyone when the topic of EVs comes up.

Of course, electric cars still make up just a fraction of total sales even if Tesla produced a half-million cars worldwide in 2020. But most carmakers are making battery electric vehicles (BEVs) that don't take any traditional fuel at all these days, including my review car this week: the Hyundai Kona Electric.

Hyundai is absolutely killing it these days, making well-built cars that are handsome inside and out and with a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty on all their vehicles — on top of a 5-year/60,000 bumper-to-bumper warranty. That's way more than you get from Honda or Toyota, which is a big deal for a budget-conscious buyer.

2020 Hyundai Kona Electric The Kona Electric can charge on-the-go, or via a home outlet.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

2020 Hyundai Kona Electric

I reviewed the regular Hyundai Kona last year and loved it — it's the Korean carmaker's remarkably well-equipped subcompact crossover and it also comes in an electric version which is totally different in powertrain and yet the basically the same everywhere else.

The Kona Electric swaps the 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder for a 201-horsepower all-electric powertrain with a 64-kilowatt hour battery pack that's good for an EPA-estimated range of 258 miles. The EPA-range on EVs tends to be a pretty fair guess in my experience, and it was with the Kona, too.

If you get one (as with any electric car), you'll want to get what's called a Level 2 charging station in your garage from a company like ChargePoint or Clipper Creek. It takes way too long to charge off a regular 110-volt home power outlet and it's not good for safety to do that DIY either, so call your electrician. You should be able to get one installed for under $1,000 depending on local permitting requirements and your home.

The Kona Electric's plug is in the front of the SUV.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

But once you do, that Level 2 home charger should be able to fill the Kona Electric up from empty in about nine hours — in other words, charge it at night and you'll always be ready to go.

It also has a high-speed DC Fast Charging system on board with an SAE Combo port that would let you charge up really quickly if you're on a road trip. Like everything, there are some format wars in electric vehicles too and if you buy one, you'll start to become familiar with them. Still, there are plentiful apps to help you locate chargers and a properly equipped DC fast charger should fill the battery up to 80 percent in 30 minutes or so.

Even better, the fast charging networks are growing incredibly rapidly and it's not nearly as difficult to charge on the go as it used to be. Many are located on major interstate routes, including all over North Carolina.

EV tech aside, the Kona is remarkably like a regular vehicle. It doesn't look weird (aside from the solid front end because of the lack of a radiator - that's where the charging port is), and it's just like a normal car on the inside. It's literally the regular gas-powered Kona, but with an electric motor swapped in.

This is a nice thing, actually. Many EVs look weird or operate weirdly or don't have an on/off switch or because they want to showcase how futuristic they are. That's all well and good, but many people just want a car where they can get in, start, and drive without having to think too much about it.

The Kona Electric is nearly the exact same inside as its gasoline-powered counterpart.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

The biggest thing you need to know about the Kona Electric to drive it is that there's a paddle on the left side of the steering wheel to adjust the regenerative brake level. Electric cars can recharge the battery under braking (it's why they're so efficient), and you can use that paddle on the wheel to change how much the car slows itself down when you let off the accelerator. If you put it on its most intense level, you can effectively drive with one foot — getting on the accelerator to go or taking your foot off of it to slow down to a stop.

It becomes second nature pretty quickly, but if you want it to act like a more "traditional" car, it'll do that too — which is particularly nice if you're loaning the car to someone not so familiar with EVs.

As a day-to-day car, the Kona Electric is near-perfect, aside from the as-tested price of $46,430. It is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax incentive and it can use many states' HOV lanes regardless of the number of occupants. A similarly equipped gas-powered version can be had for less than $30,000.

But if you want a car that's billed as better for the environment, or just want to impress your friends with something they probably haven't seen before, the Hyundai Kona Electric is well worth a look.

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The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder arrives on dealer lots this summer.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder doesn't have to be capable of rock crawling or deep water fording. What it has to do is service the needs of families in their daily life and give them the opportunity to competently go off-roading on rocky trails should they desire. The new, fifth-generation models does just that and adds in enough nifty features to make it among the most compelling choices for three-row SUV buyers.

The 2022 Pathfinder is thoroughly modern though not the boxy off-roader it once was. The SUV's styling harkens back to that time with a tilted, darkened C-pillar and a return to a more muscular body style. That styling makes straightforward visibility good but for shorter drivers seeing what is immediately in front of the grille is a challenge that necessitates using surround view camera technology (available only in upper trim levels) when navigating challenging terrain.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can easily handle the roads less traveled.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 that offers up 291 horsepower and torque - plenty to do the job without complaint. The SUV's nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the continuously variable transmission (CVT) from the previous generation and delivers smooth shifts. Though low-end torque isn't as robust as I like it to be, once up over 35 mph, the Pathfinder's powertrain delivers smooth, powerful sailing.

The redesigned architecture and components underpinning the Pathfinder make it stable on the road and don't allow it to wallow on winding roads. Even off-road, the suspension provides the right blend of stability while the drive dynamics allowing the driver to feel engaged with their surroundings whether on freshly paved roads, city streets, or muddy trails.

Nissan has given the Pathfinder a 6,000-pound towing capacity and even when maxed out the engine's functionality is strong as ever. The transmission can get held up in a gear mid-range when performing this function, however, with 5,000-6,000 rpms registering on the tachometer but a quick release of the gas pedal recalibrates the offering bringing it down to a more traditional 2,000 rpm range.

The eight-seater Pathfinder clearly has the Toyota Highlander in its sights, with good reason. It's the top-selling three-row SUV in the country. Nissan boasts that three adults can fit across the rear bench seat of the Pathfinder and, as long as they're average size or smaller, the marketing talking point holds up. There is gobs more room back there than there is in the Highlander.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Nissan has given the Pathfinder ample cargo space.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Getting in and out of the third row is easy thanks to one-touch buttons on the outboard side of the second-row chairs that move the SUV's captain's seats forward creating enough room to get through to the back. Smartly, Nissan's engineers have put duplicates of these buttons on the back side of the same seats allowing third-row passengers to simply press the button to move the seat up.

The third row can also be accessed via a split between the captain's chairs as well, a space traditionally occupied by a center stowage bin/cup holders/arm rest. Owners can quickly remove the center console by opening a panel on the front and pulling the release mechanism. The one-handed operation takes seconds and the console can be easily stored in the under-floor trunk space behind the third row seat for ease.

Speaking of cargo space... The Pathfinder is one of the most spacious midsize SUVs on the market today for both passengers and cargo. There is a substantial amount of room behind the third-row seat and the under-floor storage area is nearly twice the size of the one in the Highlander. Plus, it has a feature that allows the area cover to be automatically propped up when pushed up by a user. This is especially help when carrying groceries or plants home and keeps them from being crushed.

The first- and second-row seats are suitably comfortable, even for extended periods of time and standard trig-zone climate control makes finding the right in-cabin mix easy. Bottle holders in the pockets of the front doors are exceptionally large, fitting even bulky water bottles.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder's front row seats are comfortable.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

In front of the driver is a standard tachometer, speedometer, and 7.0-inch driver information display. Buyers can upgrade to a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster and head-up display but they're not reason enough to upgrade to the top-tier Pathfinder Platinum on their own.

Nissan packs the new Pathfinder with a host of desirable features that make living with the Pathfinder easier including one-touch auto up/down windows, a wireless phone charger, grocery hooks in the rear cargo area, USB ports in all three rows, second-row sunshades, rear door keyless entry, wireless Apple CarPlay, and a motion-activated lift gate.

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is priced to start at $33,410 for the two-wheel drive S base model and $35,310 for the four-wheel drive S base model. The model tops out around $50,000 with destination and delivery included, which seems fair when comparing the Pathfinder to other vehicles in the market.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 pounds.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

If you're thinking of purchasing a Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot, or Highlander, do yourself a favor and schedule a test drive of the new Pathfinder when it arrives at a dealer lot near you. You may just be surprised how seamlessly it fits into your daily life compared to the competition.

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The 2022 Acura TLX has the technology enabled.

Photo courtesy of Acura

Toyota and Lexus announced that the WarnerMedia RIDE app would be coming to their models earlier this year. Now, Honda and Acura will be offering the same.

On certain Wi-Fi enabled Honda and Acura vehicles, AT&T unlimited in-car Wi-Fi users will have access to the WarnerMedia RIDE app. The app allows users to connect multiple devices in their vehicles to browse, stream and share premium content from the WarnerMedia library while on the road.

Honda and Acura vehicle owners have been able to use their on-board modem as a hot spot for connecting up to seven devices since 2017. Models compatible for the new tech include the Acura RDX (2019-present), Acura TLX (2021), and Acura MDX (2022) across all trim levels. Honda vehicles with the tech include Accord (2018-present, Touring), Odyssey (2018-present; Touring, Elite), Insight (2019-present, Touring)., Passport (2019-present; Touring, Elite)., and Pilot (2019-present; Touring, Elite, Black Edition).

The WarnerMedia RIDE App allows passengers to access 1,000+ hours of live and on-demand entertainment. The app includes hit TV shows and movies from top brands such as Cartoon Network, CNN, HBO Max, TBS, TNT and TruTV, spanning animation, entertainment, news, sports and more.

WarnerMedia RIDE app The WarnerMedia RIDE app allows users to choose their own avatar.Photo courtesy of Acura

Users can set up profiles and personalize their user exerpience with an avatar from the WarnerMedia library. Profiles also ensure age-appropriate content with options for adults to restrict access to their profiles with an access code.

"Wireless connectivity and connected car services continue to be key features for customers and our long-standing relationship with AT&T continues to be one way we deliver exciting new content to Honda and Acura owners," said Art St. Cyr, vice president of North American Auto Strategy for American Honda. "Honda will continue working to enhance the in-car experience, including the capabilities of the AT&T network and access to top content with WarnerMedia RIDE."

"We're always looking for new and innovative ways to elevate the connected car experience for our customers. With WarnerMedia RIDE, we are delivering a connected experience that's perfect for journeys," said Joe Mosele, vice president, Mobility & Internet of Things, AT&T. "Our collaboration is keeping Honda and Acura owners connected wherever they travel with hours of news and entertainment for the whole family."

WarnerMedia RIDE is available now in the App Store and on Google Play for all U.S. unlimited data plan subscribers. WarnerMedia RIDE is included at no additional cost for existing and new unlimited subscribers.

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