New 2019 Hyundai Kona Price and Review
There’s a great argument to be made by sticking with the SEL. After all, it comes with all the essential features for an electric vehicle and has an agreeable price. But we think it’s worth considering paying more to get the top-level Ultimate. The Ultimate’s extra features — such as ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel and upgraded audio — bolster the premium vibe you get from the car’s polished road manners.
Most news stories about electric vehicles center around Tesla, but savvy shoppers would do well to pay attention to Hyundai. The South Korean automaker has quietly developed one of the most compelling electric vehicles to come out this year: the all-new 2019 Kona Electric. Hyundai has given the Kona Electric plenty of range and satisfying performance, even improving over the standard Kona in some ways.
The main draw is the EPA-estimated 258 miles of driving range on a full charge. That’s more distance than you’ll get from any other similarly priced EV, and our real-world testing has verified that the Kona can deliver. It’s true that Tesla’s Model 3 can go even farther, but only when equipped with its big and expensive long-range battery pack. From our experience, the Kona’s range is more than enough for the typical driver.
Aside from its electric powertrain, the Kona Electric is a lot like the gasoline-powered Kona, offering snappy acceleration, secure handling and a decent amount of cargo-carrying utility. There’s also strong value for money here, at least among electric cars. The Kona Electric comes standard with plenty of technology and advanced safety features. We’d even argue the Electric’s styling is less polarizing than the regular model. About the only thing you miss out on, compared to the regular Kona, is the option of all-wheel drive.
Cross-shopped against the Chevrolet Bolt and the Nissan Leaf, the Kona Electric is impressive. In fact, the Kona Electric is our pick for the best electric vehicle of 2019 for the Edmunds Editors’ Choice Awards.
2019 Hyundai Kona Electric configurations
The 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric comes in three trim levels: SEL, Limited and Ultimate. All have a 64-kWh battery pack that powers a 150-kW electric motor (201 horsepower, 290 pound-feet of torque) driving the front wheels. Standard equipment is generous on the SEL, and moving up to the Limited or the Ultimate gains you a few extra luxury and tech-oriented features.
The SEL starts off with 17-inch wheels, proximity entry and push-button start, a DC fast-charging port, automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, and 60/40-split folding rear seats. Tech features include a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Hyundai’s Blue Link communications system, two USB ports, and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio.
Standard safety features for the SEL include forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and drowsy driver warning system.
On the Limited, you also get LED headlights with automatic high beams, a sunroof, leather upholstery, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, auto-dimming rearview mirror, auto up-down for the front power windows, and wireless charging for personal devices.
Finally, the Ultimate loads you up with automatic wipers, parking sensors, stop-and-go functionality for the adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection for the forward collision warning system, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, a head-up display, an 8-inch touchscreen with integrated navigation, and an eight-speaker Infinity sound system.
Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric (electric | direct drive | FWD).
8.0The Kona Electric feels more like an electric hot hatch than the crossover SUV it’s marketed as. Whatever you call it, this vehicle accelerates swiftly and gobbles up curvy mountain roads. It’d be nice if the steering was a bit more talkative and the regenerative braking worked down to 0 mph, but these are quibbles.
8.5The Kona Electric has a strong (201 hp) and torquey (290 lb-ft) electric motor. It gets going in a hurry, merges onto freeways easily and has no trouble on steep grades. We measured a spirited 0-60 mph acceleration time of 6.6 seconds at our test track.
8.0Routine braking feels secure and stable, and the pedal is nicely firm and reassuring in daily use. At the limit the brakes work well enough to execute a 60-mph panic stop in 123 feet, a good result for an EV on fuel-saver tires.
7.5The steering is direct, precise and consistent. But it does lack the sort of feedback that gives the driver a true sense of how hard the tires are working when cornering. In town, the steering’s effort level is about right, but it can feel a bit too light when cornering at higher speed.
9.0Hyundai calls the Kona Electric an SUV, but it comes across more like a hot hatch such as the VW GTI. It changes direction readily and feels stable in all sorts of corners. The multilink rear suspension remains steady and composed even when you drive over midcorner bumps. There’s just a lot to like here.
8.0Electric drive makes the Kona Electric super smooth and easy to drive. The regenerative braking system has three selectable ranges, but even the most aggressive of them ebbs away at 5 mph and isn’t able to bring the vehicle to a complete stop. True one-pedal driving isn’t an option.
8.5The regular Kona is comfortable, and the Kona Electric is even more so. Its electric propulsion system eliminates all engine noise and vibration, of course, but its multilink suspension and low battery mass also deliver more sophisticated ride quality. On top of that, it has standard dual-zone climate control and nicer seats.
8.0The Electric’s front seats are comfortable and supportive. They seem to be a little nicer than the ones in the regular Kona. In back, the seat bottom is a bit flat, but the seatback angle is comfortable.
8.5The Kona Electric rides with a poise that’s not usually found in this class of car. The low-slung battery mass helps settle the motions, but the Kona Electric’s well-tuned multilink rear suspension also deserves credit. Cars such as the Chevy Bolt, which uses a less sophisticated rear suspension, don’t ride nearly as well.
Noise & vibration
8.5The Kona EV’s motor is silent at all speeds, and wind and road noise is not evident when cruising the highway. As of 2019, all electric vehicles must emit a low-speed pedestrian alert sound, and you can hear the Kona’s inside the car until it fades at about 18 mph. Some of our editors liked the spacey sound, but others hated it.
8.5We like the performance and layout of the Kona Electric’s standard dual-zone automatic climate control system. It’s powerful, and the controls are obvious and easy to operate. Seat heating comes standard, and you get seat ventilation on the Ultimate trim. The latter isn’t commonly offered on rival EVs.
8.0This is a nice place to be. The Kona Electric offers a comfortable driving position, plenty of room, and nice-looking controls that are easy to master. But roominess isn’t as good for taller folks sitting in the back seat.
Ease of use
9.0Don’t assume the Kona Electric is like a regular Kona inside because it is not. The center console of the Electric is more prominent, and the controls are laid out a little differently. They are still attractive and easy to figure, however. Similar functions are grouped together, and learning how to operate the infotainment interface is intuitive.
Getting in/getting out
8.0Up front, it is quite easy to slide in and out because the seats are neither too high nor too low. The door openings are generous. The doors themselves aren’t overly long, which helps in tight spots. As for the rear, foot- and kneeroom are a bit tight.
8.0The driving position is at an ideal height, and it’s an easy reach to the steering wheel, pedals and instruments. Taller drivers might wish for the telescopic wheel to pull back another half-inch or so, but this is not a deal-breaker by any means.
7.5There’s plenty of head- and legroom up front, and the cabin feels airy despite a center console that takes up some space. The rear seat isn’t as accommodating. The seat area is wide, and there’s a decent amount of headroom, but legroom is tight if the driver’s seat is set back much beyond the middle of its sliding range.
8.0It’s easy to see out the front and sides because the windshield pillars are narrow. The rear roof pillar isn’t a bother because small windows behind the rear doors alleviate what might otherwise be a big blind spot.
8.0The Kona Electric is built to a higher standard than a regular Kona, and that difference shows up most on the inside. The panels fit together well, the materials are nice-looking, and the buttons and knobs feel well-made. Sure, this isn’t built to a luxury standard, but it’s quite pleasing.
7.0The Kona Electric has the space required to bring along a weekend’s worth of luggage. You’ll find decent cabin storage for your personal items as well. But the rear seat’s lack of legroom limits the Kona’s compatibility with many car seats.
8.0The Kona Electric employs an improved center console design compared to the gas-powered Kona. It has a pair of cupholders, a hidden phone charge pad, an open shelf for a handbag underneath, and a deeper console box under the center armrest. There are nice-size door pockets with bottle holders, too.
7.5The Kona’s cargo area behind the rear seats is not the biggest we’ve seen, but it bests the Bolt’s capacity. It’s also usefully shaped. Luggage laid lengthwise fits easily behind the rear seats. And with the configurable cargo floor set in its lowest position, those same carry-on suitcases can stand upright without obstructing the driver’s view out the back. The 60/40-split seatbacks fold down to create a flat and spacious load floor.
Child safety seat accommodation
6.0The rear anchors are easy to access, and the door opening is big enough not to cause any problems. The big issue is the lack of rear cabin space. Bulky rear-facing infant seats won’t fit without sliding a front seat up significantly.
8.5The Kona Electric has a long list of standard tech features, including adaptive cruise control (ACC). You can’t get ACC on a gasoline Kona or a Bolt, for that matter. The infotainment system is easy to use, and audio quality is impressive. But the Kona Electric would benefit from another USB port or two.
Audio & navigation
9.0The infotainment system’s graphics look dated and boring, but don’t let that fool you. It is a well-designed and easy-to-use system thanks to prominent volume and tuning knobs, numerous shortcut buttons around the screen’s perimeter, and logical virtual buttons on the responsive touchscreen. The Infinity audio system produces impressive sound quality.
8.0Devices pair easily via Bluetooth, if that’s your thing. If not, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. It is ridiculously easy to bring your phone into this environment and get it up and running. The only downside is that the Kona comes with just one USB port.
9.5The base SE comes standard with just about everything, even adaptive cruise control. Every Kona Electric has forward collision warning with emergency braking, lane keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert with automatic braking, and a driver attention monitor. The top Ultimate trim has a more sophisticated adaptive cruise system that works in stop-and-go traffic.
8.0Voice recognition seems to work well if you stick to common words and phrases. It has on-screen prompts, and you can link steps together once you learn the flow. If you’d rather use your paired smartphone’s Siri or Google Voice interface, simply hold down the button longer.
- All-new electric version of the Kona
- Based on the first Kona generation introduced for 2018
- Long driving range of 258 miles
- Quick acceleration and sharp handling make it fun to drive
- Comfortable and quiet cabin
- Plenty of standard tech features
- Tight rear legroom
- Availability limited to just a few states