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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Frightening security

Boston Dynamics' robot to patrol Kia factory

The robot is being tested as a security patrol unit.

Hyundai

Breaking into an auto manufacturing facility was already a very bad idea, but new security tech being tested by Hyundai Motor Group makes it downright terrifying as well. In addition to cameras, sensors, and armed security guards, would-be burglars at a Kia plant in South Korea now have to face off with a semi-autonomous robot dog.

The Boston Dynamics quadruped robot, named Spot, is being tested as a safer and more effective way of providing security patrols to the plant. The dog is one of several robots designed and tested by the firm, which has long terrified the internet with its physically capable electronic beings.

Boston Dynamics Spot Robot The robot uses various sensors to detect danger and intruders.Hyundai

If you haven't seen it, the Boston Dynamics robot dog is frightening enough on its own, so it's an excellent choice to provide factory security. The robot uses an integrated thermal camera and 3D LiDAR to detect people around it, and can monitor high-temperature situations and fire hazards. It can be controlled remotely through a secure webpage, which allows personnel to see what's going on in the factory without putting themselves in danger.

The robot is capable of navigating tight spaces and can identify issues not visible to the human eye. It's also able to semi-autonomously navigate its environment, and has been developed with task management and deep learning-based vision technology. Boston Dynamics says that its tech can be expanded to other types of robot platforms.



The robot dog is currently in the pilot stage at Kia's plant in South Korea. It will be used to support late-night security patrols and increase safety for workers. Hyundai Motor Group will assess the robot's effectiveness and suitability for the job before expanding its use in other industrial sites.

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New electric luxury vehicles

Three new Mercedes-Benz EVs we can't wait to see

Mercedes showed off its electric future at the 2021 IAA Mobility show in Germany.

Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz is going electric, and though it only recently announced its firm plans to do so, it already seems that the German automaker is moving quickly toward that goal. At the 2021 IAA Mobility show in Munich, Mercedes showed off some of its upcoming electrified products. We've seen the EQS, a flagship electric sedan, but three newcomers made an appearance at the show.


Mercedes-Benz EQB EQB will be Mercedes' electric family SUV.Mercedes-Benz


EQB

EQB is the brand's family-sized SUV, offering seating for up to seven people. A long wheelbase of 111.3 inches and adjustable second-row seating allows more interior space for people and gear. Mercedes says the EQB will offer two powertrain configurations: The EQB 300 4MATIC will get 225 horsepower and the EQB 350 4MATIC will sport 288 horsepower. A front-wheel drive configuration will go on sale later and a long-range model will follow.


Mercedes-Benz Concept EQG The EQG will eventually become the brand's electric off-roader.Mercedes-Benz


EQG

Concept EQG is a preview of the eventual electrification of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, its boxy, upper-crust off-roader. This concept is far closer to a design exercise than something we'll actually see in production, but it's an interesting demonstration, nonetheless. With 22-inch wheels, wild exterior lighting touches, and what the automaker says will be legendary off-road abilities, the EQG will be an exciting vehicle when it does make an appearance.


Mercedes-Benz EQE EQE will follow the EQS as a smaller, sportier electric sedan in 2022.Mercedes-Benz


EQE

EQE is the second car to use Mercedes' EVA2 electric architecture, following the EQS sedan. The car is currently scheduled for a staggered release in mid-2022 and will feature a more compact and sportier design than its predecessor. Mercedes says that the car will be available with either 19- or 21-inch wheels, and notes that its size is comparable to the current CLS coupe-sedan. The car offers an impressive range of up to 410 miles on a single charge from its 90kWh battery and special charging capabilities through the Mercedes me Charge network.

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