Mountain Wheels: Electrified Hyundai Kona offers an easier EV experience
My 2021 round of electrified vehicles — the most I’ve ever driven — concluded with a week in the small, but practical, Hyundai Kona Electric. We’ll also take a short look at the new Hyundai Elantra for the last review of the year.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve detailed the ups and downs I’ve personally experienced with full EVs (the Volkswagen id.4 Pro) and partially electrified vehicles (the Jeep Wrangler 4xe). My time with the subcompact Kona SUV suggested it might also have some practicality for mountain use, provided you are able to charge it at home and understand its limitations.
Both the gasoline and all-electric versions of the Kona were considerably updated for 2022 since the vehicle is Hyundai’s first fully electrified SUV in the U.S. market.
Looks have been retooled considerably, and the vehicle is also 1.6 inches longer to give it less of a “too small” feel, which I’ve experienced with the size-smaller Venue SUV. You can also get the new N Line variation of the Kona that has sportier looks and sexier wheels.
As for the Electric model, the Limited version (priced at $44,240 before federal EV tax credits) is probably exactly the right size and weight for a contemporary EV. Its 64 kWh lithium-ion battery feeds a 150 kW electric motor, creating 201 horsepower and 291 pound-feet of torque — all pretty impactful in a vehicle tipping the scales at 3,836 pounds.
That equates to a fully-charged, nonmountain-climbing range of 258 miles. If you hit the one non-Tesla, public Level 3 charger locally, or one in the Front Range, it’s capable of getting an electric charge from 10% to 80% in 47 minutes.
Hyundai owners have a free, multiyear charging arrangement with Electrify America. My press fleet vehicle did not and, as I discovered, it cost about $10 to get just a 27% charge during one of my half-hour stops at a charging station in Westminster. Yes, the electricity is not free. Good to know.
Charging time is just over nine hours at Level 2 charging stations and 33 hours if you simply plug it into a wall socket. One mountain-friendly feature is a battery warmer system that helps prevent the discharge associated with cold, making it easier to charge if you don’t live in Phoenix or Miami. I have yet to encounter that on other EVs.
The Kona Electric was indeed considerably more efficient than the larger Volkswagen during a week of drives, with electric mpg ratings of 132 in the city and 108 on the highway.
Kona Electric also has some other pleasantries, such as the fact that turning on the heated seats does not instantly reduce its range by 50%. Using the heating system will knock down range, but not as excessively as I found in some of the competition.
There are also practicalities like a range map showing distances you might be able to travel in the Front Range and excellent directions to the nearest charging stations. Controls are also pretty much identical to a gas-engine model, with a real starter button and lots of “the vehicle is indeed on” indicators. Yet, transmission controls are set up like Scrabble tiles and are a little unusual. The charge lid is also located on the Tesla-inspired aerodynamic front of the car, allowing for easier access.
It’s certainly sporty and very quick with all that instantaneous torque while driving — if you aren’t concerned about retaining range. You have regeneration paddles on the wheel which, during a long downhill drive, will certainly help rebuild some of the charge you’ll lose going up hills. Braking otherwise felt very normal, as did most of Kona’s operations.
For a more traditional experience, but still indicative of Hyundai’s super-contemporary style, the gas-engined Elantra certainly demonstrates all of the Korean carmaker’s design aspirations. With a denim-appointed interior, refreshingly exciting looks and pretty easily achievable 40-45 mpg, the $26,600 limited edition I drove was also imminently practical.
Aesthetics are absolutely at the forefront, with a hyper-sculpted face, sharp angles on the body and an almost fastback-styled wedge on the trunk lid, all of which looks like a new-school rendition of 1970s Pininfarina design. Inside, there’s a wild asymmetrical color pattern that only emphasizes the car’s design versus form experiment.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.