The most efficient EV I've tested yet, but it comes at a big cost for a small car.
2022 Hyundai Kona Electric Limited review
Words and photos by Mitchell Weitzman with The Road Beat
What is it?
Hyundai's cute little Kona compact crossover, but now electrified with a real, usable amount of electric juice. However, it is indeed, and by literal definition, a compact vehicle, and is based upon a car that starts well under $25,000. Is it worth its electrically-inflated $43,880 price tag here in Limited form? It might undercut other electric vehicles by price, but perhaps it's too small and compromised for its own good.
There is no denying that this isn't the most efficient EV I have yet to test. The easiest means of measuring EV efficiency is to calculate miles per kilowatt-hour of energy. So far, each of the five other EVs I've sampled all achieve about 2.8-3 miles/kWh. This Kona EV, a smaller car than any of those options, lays down an impressive 3.5 miles/kWh. Like MPG in a gas-powered vehicle, this means you can go further per each unit of stored electricity. Front-wheel drive helps here, too, as it makes for less mechanical drag compared to all-wheel drive.
This Kona EV, being the Limited (range-topper in Hyundai-speak), is well-equipped with all the features anyone could want in a new vehicle. Safety items, LED lights, entertainment, and leather-trimmed seats elevate the modest and cheap Kona into a vehicle that sacrifices nothing in terms of shear equipment onboard. Also of note is a great warranty from Hyundai, including a 5-year/60,000 mile basic warranty and then a 10-year/100,000 mile warranties on both the powertrain and battery.
The Kona EV drives mostly fine with ample power from its 201 horsepower motor. Acceleration and response is instant and lively enough, with 0-60 MPH needing 6.5 seconds. It's not an entirely fun vehicle, the potent and wild Kona N decimates this Electric variant when the going gets twisty, but that doesn't prevent the Kona EV from steering and handling with a refined eagerness. The Kona, even in its base form, has always been a fine-driving and well-sorted vehicle with its surprisingly agile and lively chassis, and the EV version makes good use of that. Again, don't expect to go barn-storming in the canyons - you'd be best off with a real hot hatch like a Kona N, Veloster N, or a Golf GTI for that to name a few.
Not all is rosy with the Kona EV, with the biggest detractors coming from the price and quality of what you're getting. Despite leather seats, the rest of the interior is indubitably that of a cheap compact, with hard plastics splattered about and just doesn't look or feel like a near $44,000 vehicle. That's an awful lot of coin for a car that is relatively tiny (that back seat is, er, not a place you'd want to spend a long journey in) - This much money can get you a nice Hyundai Palisade, an SUV with 3 rows of seats! The Kona EV does start at a considerably more appealing $38,000, but this does have the goodies that you will want.
Despite being efficient, the 64 kWh battery is on the small side, equating to a 224 mile range when doing basic math. While certainly usable, this is not a range exactly worth bragging about. 75 kWh and a real-world 260 miles would open a lot more possibilities here. We also have to mention the inconvenience of charging to prospective buyers and lessees. Unless you have an actual charging station installed at home to the tune of roughly $1,000-$2,000, the included 3-prong plug replenishes juice at an alarmingly slow rate of only 2 miles of range per hour when I tried it. Also, best be certain to check your energy rates (you might jump to a higher tier with continual charging usage) to see if it agrees with your wallet. With gasoline at $6.00/gallon again in California as of September 2022, it is at least easier to justify a switch to electric compared to a year ago when gasoline was half that.
I also mentioned that the front-wheel drive layout lends a hand in creating frugality, but what the Kona EV doesn't escape from is torque steer. With instant power going to only the front wheels, nailing the throttle from a stop results in wheelspin and a steering wheel that tugs (albeit gently) your hands. It's an unfortunate reality, but the natural drawbacks of front-wheel drive are present and exacerbated here by the perky powertrain, something that is unnoticeable in the slow, entry gas-powered Konas.
Here's where it really hurts when reaching a verdict for the Kona: the gas-powered Kona Limited, essentially the exact same car but with a 195-horsepower turbo gasoline engine, costs literally $10,000 less. And I'm sorry, but there is no way in heck this is worth the additional dough for an equivalent model. Even with the options here, it comes across as a vehicle that should cost maybe $35,000 at the absolute most. This goes to show the expense still associated with electric batteries and motors for mainstream cars. And, for the price of this example, I'd much rather spend a tiny tiny bit more for an entry-level Ioniq 5 EV from Hyundai.
Luckily, you should still be able to get the $7,500 federal tax credit on one of these, which will effectively nearly lower the price to that reasonable $35,000 mark just about - But other EVs can qualify for that, too, not totally helping its cause. If this cost the same as the gas version equivalent post tax credit, or were less even, then this would be a really compelling and truly affordable EV. Otherwise, the Kona Electric Limited frankly costs too much for what you get, and most would be better off stepping up to an Ioniq 5 or stepping down to a modest Kona Electric. If you even want an EV, that is.
2022 Hyundai Kona Electric Limited
Price as-tested: $43,880
Pros: Highly efficient; drives surprisingly well
Cons: It costs how much?? Snug rear seats and cargo
Verdict: A definite win, but the price is too much for something this small