2019 Hyundai Kona EV Review: Fantastic EV for the real world

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Within a 35-minute timeframe, I faced the worst of the EV-owner experiences. Also, the new Hyundai Kona EV is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

The new 2019 Hyundai Kona EV is lava at the moment. There’s always hype around a new electric vehicle but the Kona’s hype is different. It differs because the Kona is affordable (as EVs go at the moment), has real-world range, is attractive and there are great incentives involved. It’s so hot that inventories are nil.

I’ve wanted to drive one since the moment it broke cover.

“If you want the Kona EV, you’ll have to take it Thursday, otherwise it could be many weeks before you get another crack at it.” These were the words uttered to me when an opportunity to take the Kona EV press unit arose. Demand is also high on the press-fleet unit because everyone wants to know more about it.


Road trip in a compact EV? You betcha!

2019 Hyundai Kona EV | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

I did what needed to be done and I jumped on the chance to review a Kona EV. As my time was short with the 64 kWh battery, 415 km range EV, the fam and I decided to take it on a road trip.

We loaded up the Kona with the stroller, diaper bags, various other bags (more kids’ stuff), the car seats, the kids and the adults. I removed the rear luggage compartment cover in order to fit the stroller vertically and despite my up-close-and-personal driving position, my son’s feet rubbed my seatback. To get the real visuals, check out my video. To say we were snug on board would be putting it mildly.

Point is that we all got in and headed out. Indicated range at home was of 435 km, a very comforting and impressive number to be sure. On the highway, I discovered the Kona’s powerful and responsive 150 kW permanent magnet synchronous electric motor, or what is the equivalent of 201-horsepower and 290 lb.-ft. of torque. I’m not one to spare horsepower so I wasn’t going to do anything differently with electrons.


You want to drive the Hyundai Kona EV too

2019 Hyundai Kona EV | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

I was spellbound by the power. Even at speeds of about 75 km/h, a sharp stab to the throttle resulted in the front lifting and a good dose of torque steer. Passing left-lane hogs was generally effortless as scurrying by from 100 km/h to 120 km/h would happen quickly.

The ride quality is surprisingly good. Once more at speed, the Hyundai Kona EV remains flat, stable and surefooted. Steering feel and response are better than in the recently tested Hyundai Veloster N and the brakes, when needed, are perfectly adapted to the vehicle.

The Kona EV has four brake regeneration modes. They are activated via steering-wheel mounted paddles. There’s a “0” mode that enables coasting while the other three go from light to aggressive regen braking. No matter the driving situation, I found using the paddles (and lifting slightly off the throttle) to be the most intuitive, smart and easy thing to do. As a note, the Kona EV also has four drives modes (Eco+, Eco, Normal, Sport). In town, Eco was always on and for the road trip, I relied on Normal for more accelerative power.

We arrived at grandpa’s with 240 km to spare. The distance travelled hovered around 165 km – remember what I said about electrons. Although range dropped considerably, the battery still held 64% of its charge. While we could have completed the return trip on the remaining charge, we opted to plug the Kona into a nearby 400V outlet.


The EV struggle is very real

2019 Hyundai Kona EV | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

The struggle begins here. As we arrived and the charging station, we noticed a Dodge Journey pulling in and parking in the well-outlined green-painted area, just ahead of the large blue terminal. When we asked the driver how she planned to charge her Journey, ”Karen” replied that this was a handicapped spot and that her 92-year-old mother had difficulty walking. After a brief debate, my spouse offered to walk “Karen’s” mom to the door and wait.

Lucky for us, the 1st generation Nissan LEAF parked in the other space was at a near 45-degree angle making it difficult to get the kids out. We finally plugged ourselves into the Level 3 DC fast charger. With common courtesy in mind, we entered the mall, shopped for 15 minutes and returned to the car to verify the state of charge. I did not download the Bluelink app… Figuring another 15 minutes would bring us up to an 80-82% charge, we returned to our shopping.

To be frank, we took 17 minutes to return to the Kona. As we walked up to it, we discovered we’d been unplugged by another 1st generation Nissan LEAF driver. I was upset. No, I was furious. The stupid-grin-faced guy who greeted me said he’d done me a favor as batteries overheat the moment the charge reaches 80%. He also mentioned he’d read many blogs on the subject. I retorted with my doing him a favor and recommended he not touch someone else’s car in the future. Had I known about the charging connector Auto/Lock button…

The stupid-grin-faced guy was completely wrong, but he may have saved me $0,05 by unplugging the Kona. Beyond 80%, batteries are no longer capable of accepting such a rapid charge. I was still fuming…

And so, my takeaway is that the 2019 Hyundai Kona EV is a superb offering in the segment. Charging stations are numerous enough, especially Level 2, to allow users to enjoy their EVs with relative ease. The real issue is said users, or people in general – fundamentally, people are always the issue. Stories of Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs being plugged in for hours for a parking spot are far too common-place. As a user, please apply common courtesy. Do unto others, and all that…


Pick your Kona – there’s no wrong answer

2019 Hyundai Kona EV | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Base price for the 2019 Hyundai Kona EV Preferred is $44,999. The tested $51,999 Ultimate adds leather seats which are cooled up front, an 8-inch display screen, an Infiniti audio system and more. In Québec, both are eligible for the full $13,000 in incentives ($5,000 federal and $8,000 provincial.)


2019 Hyundai Kona EV Photo Gallery

2019 Hyundai Kona EV | Photo: Matt St-Pierre
2019 Hyundai Kona EV | Photo: Matt St-Pierre
2019 Hyundai Kona EV | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

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