By on October 24, 2019

Earlier this week, Mazda hauled the covers off its MX-30, an EV with more than a hint of RX-8 and MX-5. The company’s decision to imbue the trucklet with clamshell doors and a jacked-up posture cements two things in your author’s foggy mind: first, EVs are here for good; second, most of them will be shaped like pseudo-offroaders.

Which got me thinking about the Hyundai Kona. Available in many trims (including a base model we’ve profiled here before), it is also offered in EV form, bearing less grille than the original Infiniti Q. With three trim levels in the order books for this Korean electron eater, is the cheapest one a customer’s best bet?

We’ll start by observing that the Kona Electric is not cheap in any form, with this entry-level SEL hoovering a stiff $36,950 from one’s bank account. It takes green to be green, apparently. From there, it’s a $4,000 walk to the mid-level Limited and a further $3,500 to upgrade to the snazzy Ultimate model.

The SEL is hardly a stripper, packing safety nannies like forward collision avoidance assist and lane keeping. Blind spot warning dross is expected at these prices and is indeed included. A too-funny driver attention warning system is simply a picture of a coffee cup with lines under it, for those who are wondering.

Powering all Kona Electrics, regardless of trim, is an electric motor zapping out 201 horsepower. That is indeed a lithium-ion battery hove under the chassis (some manufacturers put lead-acids in their entry-level EVs) with a system capacity of 64 kWh. A jumbo 100kW Level III quick charger should replenish 80 percent of its juice in about an hour. Note the Kona is front-wheel drive and does not (yet) deploy a rear motor to power the wheels back there. Maybe in the next iteration, if rumblings are correct.

Kona Electric definitely moves the “rolling science project” meter but does not peg it like the old Nissan Leaf. Its grille-less fascia looks markedly different than a gas-powered Kona, featuring an odd checkerplate pattern that reminds your author of the mudflaps on his father’s 1978 Chevrolet Blazer.

Eagle-eyed EV spotters will know you’re rocking a base Kona Electric thanks to its white roof and mirrors, not to mention the projector headlamps and 17-inch alloys. These styling decisions aren’t enough to spoil the vibe but there’s little chance you’ll lose this thing in the mall parking lot. Besides, you’re parked at those free recharging stations by the door, anyway, right?

Given the price spread and dubious value of features added by moving up the food chain (leather seats, moonroof, slightly larger infotainment), there’s little doubt the SEL represents the best Kona Electric value. Is it the best small EV value overall, though? Your author will find out next week when he tests it against a handful of its competitors.

[Images: Hyundai]

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments and feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown with American options and priced in American Dollars. Your dealer may sell for less.

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17 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric SEL...”

  • avatar

    Hyundai’s EVs have been well reviewed but they don’t seem very interested in selling them. They are all geographically restricted to only the CARB states (I’m not sure if you can special order if you live in a nonCARB state) and right now a mere 56 new Kona EVs are shown for sale in the entire country (7 are SELs).

    Either Hyundai is losing a bunch of money on each one they sell or battery supply is very hard to come by. Or both.

    • 0 avatar

      They seem to have good inventory for the hybrid and PHEV models, so you’re probably right that battery supply is the choke point for Hyundai/Kia.

    • 0 avatar

      Everybody loses money on electrics except the very high end makes. People give Nissan and GM crap about not trying very hard to sell their Leaf and Bolt, but fact is, they lose money on each sale, why would they try hard to sell them then?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Correct on both points. I drove 5 hours to a neighboring CARB state to get my Ioniq EV. It’s been a great car.

      Despite H/K’s promises of an EV cornucopia, in fact they’re very hard to get. I’m sure they make much more money on CUVs/SUVs, and they’re not serious about building volume by planning for battery production accordingly. I question whether any mfr can build their promised EVs when they don’t explain how they’re going to source all those batteries.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s more about worldwide availability of the batteries, and allocation. Each market is allocated a certain number of units per year. In the UK (Where I live), Hyundai sold out of their 2019 Kona Electric allocation in March this year, so if you ordered one in April, you’d get it Jan 2020 at the earliest… Car manufacturers don’t make their own batteries, and they’ll often under-estimate demand to ensure they’re not left with unsold batteries. They’ll have ordered XXX,000 batteries from Samsung when they could have sold twice as many. Next year’s inventory should be better.

  • avatar

    Theory: Pseudo-offroaders are ideal for pseudo-roads.


  • avatar

    We looked at one of the very first one of these to hit dealerships (although we couldn’t drive it)

    The good: Interior is well-laid-out and appears well-assembled, like many newer Hyundai products. On paper it should drive nicely. It looks inoffensive. It’s well-equipped for the price (in the EV market). 100 kW is a good fast charging speed at this price point.

    The bad: Packaging really isn’t very good; there’s no more room inside than a smaller Bolt. It’s hard to buy one. Based on the gas Kona, it doesn’t seem like this is the car that solves Hyundai’s suspension/steering woes.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting to mention the Bolt as Car & Driver did a comparison between it and the Kona EV a few months ago. They liked the Kona better (but the Bolt would probably be cheaper with discounts and nationwide availability).

      But they didn’t think either was ready for primetime just yet due to problems finding charging stations that were either active or not blocked or otherwise occupied by another vehicle. And this was on the West Coast, too.

      EV infrastructure is the reason Tesla is still the EV leader with their plentiful Supercharger network.

      • 0 avatar

        How relevant that is depends very strongly on your usage pattern. We bought our Bolt in May; have about 2500 miles on it; and haven’t yet charged anywhere except home. Our routine daily driving is well within the Bolt’s range, and our second car is a gas (hybrid) car that’s more appropriate for road trips anyway.

        We’ve been putting miles on the two cars at about the same rate, and yet the Bolt is doing 90% of the trips.

  • avatar

    One thing with front ends like this? Trying to keep all those little divots clean, especially after bug splats.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    FWIW, Mercedes-Benz has used a coffee-cup drawing to alert weary drivers, for the last decade or so. I’ve also seen the new Accord and Insight do it.

  • avatar

    Well, if the electric Kona doesn’t do it for you, the Kona N is being tested at the NurburgeronionRing as we speak.

  • avatar

    I was recently in a Kona. It feels like the value brand at the grocery store. Nothing wrong with that, but nothing special either. I remember the door handles being made out of cheap plastic.

  • avatar

    Dealer update: I clicked on a B&B link related to Hyundai incentives and ended up with a Hyundai test drive incentive (free gift card). You had to choose a vehicle – I went with Sonata.
    – No 2.0T’s in stock. Test drove a Limited.
    – The dealer tried hard to sell me a Volkswagen.


    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      By extension, your experience supports Tesla’s claim that captive mfr stores are the best way to sell EVs.

      Traditional car dealers don’t want to sell them for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they won’t return for service. But more importantly, dealers really just want to sell what they have on their lot.

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