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 new ClickShop interface allows customers to shop for and purchase a vehicle online.

Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors North America

If you like a Mitsubishi but don't like your local Mitsubishi dealership, there's good news. Today Mitsubishi Motors North America has launched a 24-hour digital showroom on mitsubishicars.com that allows customers to start, pause, restart, and complete the car buying process from the comfort and convenience of their home.

Called ClickShop, the process is designed to make the buying process as click, click, car." It rolls together the ability to browse real-time inventory; build a custom deal, with pre-populated, applicable incentives, including payment, trade, and taxes; submit their credit application and book an in-person or virtual appointment. Customers are also not required to submit their contact information to unlock deals.

"Mitsubishi Motors has so much to be proud of in 2021," said Mark Chaffin, Mitsubishi Motors North America Chief Operating Officer. "We are delivering a bold, capable and stylish lineup of vehicles that will result in one of the freshest showrooms in the industry, and we are delivering a fast, fair and fun car-buying experience to our customers. Tools like ClickShop allow us to deliver on what really matters to the modern customer by using data in a thoughtful, strategic way."

Still wondering how it works? Mitsubishi has a handy video you can watch the explains the process.

Between now and the end of the second quarter of 2021, Mitsubishi Motors will launch three revised vehicles and one all-new, ground-up redesign.

"We want people to feel good about buying a car, after all it is one of the most expensive purchases people will make in their lifetime," said Richard Herod III, White Bear Mitsubishi (White Bear Lake, Minn.) Dealer Principal. "This means we have to meet them where they are, be respectful of their time and sensitive to their budget, and we must be transparent. ClickShop allows us to show up for and support our customers, even before they walk in the door."

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Project Trinity is a new sedan Volkswagen is set to bring to market in five years.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Talk about a long tease. Volkswagen has released an image of the vehicle dubbed Project Trinity, an all-electric sedan that's not expected to hit the market until 2026.

The project takes its name from three new design these: a newly developed electronics platform with state-of-the-art software, the simplification of the supply structure, and fully networked and intelligent production at the main plant in Wolfsburg.

"Trinity is a sort of crystallization point for our Accelerate strategy, a lighthouse project, our software dream car," says Ralf Brandstätter, CEO of the Volkswagen brand.

The car is designed to fast forward automobile intelligence. It will set new standards for range, charging speed, and digitalization, according to the automaker. In regards to charging speed, Volkswagen anticipates that vehicle charging will be coming as fast as a petrol refuel.

Additionally, Trinity will reach production with Level 2+ advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) technology. However, VW says that the car will be able to drive "highly automated according to Level 4" standards.

The gap between Level 2 and Level 4 ADAS standards is large. According to NVIDIA, Level 2+ adds surround perception and articial intelligence as a layer onto the typical Level 2 experience. This added technology allows the vehicle to perform some automated maneuvers, such as lane changes, while the driver is still in control of the vehicle. Driver monitoring is also a part of Level 2+ tech.

"We are using our economies of scale to make autonomous driving available to many people and to build a learning neural network. In this way, we are creating the conditions for the continuous exchange of data from our vehicle fleet—for example, on the traffic situation, on obstacles or on accidents," says Ralf Brandstätter. Trinity thus gives people time and saves them stress. After a long highway trip, you arrive at your destination relaxed. Because you have been driven by a chauffeur to your vacation or to your home after work. "Trinity therefore becomes a kind of 'time machine' for our customers," says Ralf Brandstätter.

Volkswagen intends to build future vehicles with fewer variants, standardizing hardware in the process. In a release, the company said, "The cars will then have virtually everything on board and customers will be able to activate desired functions "on demand" at any time via the digital ecosystem in the car. This will significantly reduce complexity in production."

"In the future, the individual configuration of the vehicle will no longer be determined by the hardware at the time of purchase. Instead, customers will be able to add functions on demand at any time via the digital ecosystem in the car," said Brandstätter.

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