2019 Hyundai Kona Electric: What's It Like To Live With?

Edmunds' experts are driving one for a year to find out

Hyundai Kona Electric 2019
Miles DrivenAverage Electricity Consumption (kWh/100 mi)

Latest Highlights (updated 06/09/20)

  • Comparison to a gas-powered Kona ("What else should I know?" section)
  • Observations regarding long-distance seat comfort (comfort section)
  • Notes about our car's Infinity sound system (technology section)
  • Comparing electrical efficiency in the city versus the highway (efficiency section)

What We Bought And Why

byBrent Romans, senior editor of written content

Our test vehicle: 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric Ultimate
Base Kona Electric MSRP: $37,995 (inc. destination)
MSRP as tested: $46,130

Hi! I'm Brent Romans, senior editor of written content, and I'm curating the content about Edmunds' 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric. Are you thinking about buying or leasing one? With the help of my editorial co-workers I hope to give you a deeper understanding of what it's like to actually own a Kona Electric. Let me know if you want us to comment on something specifically. Check down at the very bottom of the "What else should I know?" section for my contact info.

We'll be going more in-depth than we do in our regular review of the Kona Electric. We can do that because we'll be driving one for a full year. Our car is a Pulse Red Kona Electric Ultimate, which Hyundai graciously loaned us to test. The Ultimate trim level is, well, the ultimate one and comes with the most standard features. But every Kona Electric provides 258 miles of driving range.

I'll be updating our page with new question topics every few weeks.

Kona Electric: How's the efficiency and range so far?

The EPA estimates you can drive 258 miles before needing to recharge. Like a lot of EV owners, we tend to plug in and recharge way before we get near an empty battery. But for what it's worth, we have matched the EPA's number; one of our drivers made it 259 miles on a charge. At the end of that drive, our Kona's the distance remaining indicator showed 22 miles, so we could have gone farther.

As for efficiency, the EPA estimates the Kona Electric will use 28 kWh of electricity per 100 miles driven. We're doing better than that, averaging 25.9 kWh/100 miles. You have to remember that, in the case of this style of efficiency measurement, the lower the kilowatt-hour consumption, the better.

I'm pretty happy with that 25.9 kWh/100 miles figure. For comparison purposes, the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt we tested for more than 30,000 miles ended up at 25.8 kWh/100 miles driven.

Average lifetime consumption (kWh/100 miles): 25.9
EPA consumption rating (kWh/100 miles): 28 combined (26 City/31 Highway)
Best fill consumption (kWh/100 miles): 19.1
Best range (miles): 259.2
Current odometer: 7,787 miles

What's with this kWh/100 miles? The window sticker shows MPGe.
That's true. The sticker prominently shows the MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) figure. The EPA converts energy usage into MPGe to help people better relate to electric vehicles. However, we prefer the kWh/100 miles method because it's a more direct way of tracking energy usage (if you're recharging, you're using electricity, not gallons of gas).

Thinking in terms of energy units per mile rather than miles per energy unit can also help you with understanding comparative differences between cars. I'd point you over to an old article we have, The Truth About Fuel Consumption, to learn more.

How does Edmunds charge its Kona Electric?
We have a dedicated Level 2 charger (240 volts) at our office. It's also metered, so we can track how much electricity we use. Each day we pass around a signout sheet that allows different drivers to take the Kona home for the night. Whoever drives the Kona into work in the morning plugs it in. The next driver to leave will unplug and repeat the process. We also use public DC fast chargers when away from the office. Some of us also have chargers at our homes. We keep track of all of our charging data.

How long does it take to recharge?
It depends on how full the battery is to begin with and what we're plugging into. At the Edmunds office Level 2 (240-volt) charger, our Kona Electric typically adds about 24 miles of range per hour of charging. From an ownership standpoint, you're pretty much guaranteed to have a full charge by plugging your Kona Electric in to a Level 2 charger overnight.

What about DC fast charging?
We also use DC fast chargers on occasion. We rarely stay connected long enough on a fast-charger station to fully recharge because the charge rate starts to slow down after the battery is more than 80% full. But as a rough estimate, we're typically able to gain about 2.5 miles for every minute we're connected to a 50-kw charging station. That means after 30 minutes of DC fast charging, we've gained about 75 miles worth of range.

How efficient is it in the city versus out on the highway?
There is a noticeable difference between the two. Our Kona Electric uses less electricity per given mile when driving around town. This is backwards from regular gasoline cars, which are more fuel efficient on the highway. It takes some getting used to. Most EVs are like this, however. It has to do with the intrinsic design of electric motors and single-speed direct drive transmissions.

How big of a difference? Well, the Kona Electric doesn't track its energy usage in kWh/100 miles. Instead, it shows miles driven per kWh. I don't like this for the exact reason I just wrote above (about miles per energy unit being an inferior way to track usage). It also doesn't include the inherent electrical losses that occur when recharging.

But for what it's worth, I typically see around 5 miles per kWh for city driving and 3.5 miles per kWh on the open highway with speeds around 70 mph. Convert this out and you get 20 kWh/100 miles in the city and 28 kWh/100 miles on the highway.

Does it lose range if you park it for a long time?
Here's what Senior Reviews Editor Mark Takahashi has to day about that: "I've had our Kona Electric for a few weeks in a row during the coronavirus quarantine lockdown. It's brought about a slight amount of anxiety and some circulating questions. How much range is it losing just by being parked? What if I need to get somewhere? How stable is the charging infrastructure?

I wouldn't say these aren't questions that keep me up at night (that's what Mountain Dew is for) but I've thought about them nonetheless.

The good news: our Kona starts right up after being parked for many days at a time, and its range seems unaffected."

Kona Electric: Has it been reliable?

So far our 2019 Kona Electric has been reliable and durable. Granted, we haven't even driven it 10,000 miles yet. But other than one electronic glitch, it's been great.

What kind of glitch did it have?
Nothing serious. Back when Kona Electric had 4,415 miles, I parked at a DC fast charger station near my house and charged for about 30 minutes. After I disconnected, I got in and started the car. But I noticed that when I did that the Kona's gauge cluster display was blank and only showed a graphic that the driver's door was open (which is wasn't). I tried opening and closing the door a few times as well as turning the car fully on and off. No luck.

Because the screen was frozen I couldn't see how much range I had or my speed. The only thing on display was the odometer. Finally I decided to just start driving. Thankfully, the car still worked!

Nothing changed on the drive home, and the odometer was frozen at 4,415 miles. Once I got home I tried opening the Kona EV's other doors and the hatch while keeping the driver's door closed. This seems to have worked because when I turned on the car again the screen was back to normal. The odometer also showed the correct mileage I had accumulated.

This glitch hasn't happened since, thankfully.

Kona Electric: Is it fun to drive?

Here's one thing I didn't really expect about our Kona Electric: It's sporty if you want it to be. This aspect isn't apparent in normal driving (i.e., when you're driving conservatively to maximize efficiency). But if you mash the accelerator, the Kona zips forward and chirps its front tires because there's so much low-end power.

How quick is it?
Quick! Mash the accelerator pedal (it's not a "gas" pedal, remember) and the Kona Electric surges forward in rapid style. We've tested the Kona Electric at our private test facility and recorded a 0-60 mph sprint of just 6.6 seconds — that's quicker than just about every other similarly priced EV (such as the Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf) by a second or more. It's also quicker than your typical mainstream gasoline-powered small sedan or hatchback, such as a Honda Civic or Hyundai Elantra.

Cool. OK, what about handling?
Glad you asked. Our Kona Electric is fun to drive around turns, too. The eco-oriented tires don't offer a lot of grip, but the car feels balanced and fairly hunkered down on the road. The Electric does weigh about 700 pounds more than a regular Kona, but I bet if you took the sportier 18-inch wheels and tires off a regular gas-powered Kona Limited, the Electric would feel pretty sporty.

What if you're not driving crazy-pants style?
Well, here's what Ron Montoya, our senior consumer advice editor, has to say about driving around in the Kona Electric's Eco mode: "I decided to drive our Kona Electric in Eco mode over a weekend. And you know what? It was totally fine. Acceleration was slightly diminished, but it never felt underpowered to me. The driver display switches to a page that shows how much range the vehicle is getting back from the regenerative braking. It was a nice way to encourage a more efficient driving style."

Build Your KONA Electric

Kona Electric: How practical has it been?

We're learning that the Kona Electric isn't the best vehicle for frequently hauling a lot of stuff in the cargo area.

Why is that?
Well, here's what Manager of Feature Content Carlos Lago had to say about the Kona's trunk back around Thanksgiving 2019: "I had planned to use the Kona as the family holiday hauler, but its cargo space forced us to change plans. While nearly 20 cubic feet of trunk space looks good on paper, most of that space is vertical. The somewhat short loading area simply wasn't enough for the kitchen concoctions my wife and mom had prepared for our journey."

Carlos also added this: "On a related note, we made a Costco run after the holiday. Just for the usual December supplies, like a tree. While we didn't get a lot of stuff, the cargo area filled quickly, and the last thing I want to do is play Tetris with my groceries. This whole experience made me less keen on the Kona as a family city car. But at least the tree fit no problem."

What about less ambitious tasks than a giant Costco run?
You should be good. For a typical family-size grocery run, for instance, you'll be able to fit perhaps five to six reusable grocery bags. The cargo cover is also nice to have when you want to keep your haul hidden from view. You can also easily remove it if you need a little more vertical space.

Kona Electric: How are the technology features working?

So far, so good! Our Kona is certainly loaded up with them. It's the top-level Ultimate trim, which comes with just about everything that Hyundai offers.

Some highlights include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Hyundai's Blue Link communications system, a full complement of advanced driver safety aids (such as forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking), a head-up display, an 8-inch touchscreen with integrated navigation, and an eight-speaker Infinity sound system. Notably, the Limited trim comes with a more advanced version of the car's adaptive cruise control that has stop-and-go functionality.

What do you guys think of that adaptive cruise system?
Reviews Editor Ryan ZumMallen had this to say about it: "On most days, my commute includes battling intense Los Angeles freeway gridlock. Our Kona is the perfect companion. It works seamlessly with the electric motor to take all of the stress out of an otherwise hair-pulling experience. The Kona recognizes and reacts to both gaps and slowdowns appropriately, never getting too jumpy or abrupt. If the car is stopped for more than a few seconds, a quick tap on the steering wheel control gets it going again. My blood pressure is better for it."

Rex Tokeshi-Torres, our vehicle testing technician, was also complimentary. He said: "The cruise control's follow distance in the Kona EV is pretty conservative. When setting a following distance of one car length, it tends to give you about a car and a half. Still, that's not bad. Overall, our Kona's adaptive cruise system works well."

How's the sound system?
Our test car is the Ultimate trim and it has the upgraded eight-speaker Infinity sound system. It's a nice-sounding system that is pretty accurate and produces strong bass. I've enjoyed listening to both audio books and music on it from my iPhone through the regular music interface and Apple CarPlay. I haven't experienced any connection issues with connecting my iPhone, either.

Kona Electric : How comfortable has it been?

So far we've had pretty favortable comments regarding the Kona's comfort. Specific observations follow.

Are the front seats comfortable for long drives?
The seats are pretty comfy. Granted, everybody is different, so your results might vary. (I'm slim: 5-foot 10-inches tall and about 150 pounds.) But I've driven our Kona from Los Angeles to Fresno, California and back a few times now. It's about 235 miles, or a 4-5 hour drive, each way, and I've been comfortable.

I haven't tried driving our Kona Electric that far without stopping to recharge, so I'm stopping in the middle to take a break and stretch. But even so that's about 2 hours straight.

Kona Electric: What's the interior like?

So far it seems most of our drivers like our Kona Electric's interior. Interestingly, the look of it is a little different than the interior of the gasoline-powered Kona. The center console design, specifically, is unique to the Kona Electric.

Is the design useful or too future-techy?
The former. Here's what Reviews Editor Travis Langness had to say about that: "I really like the Kona's cockpit. The controls are simple, the layout is easy to learn, and there's nothing confusing about the buttons on the steering wheel. Hyundai did a nice job of providing just enough physical buttons without making the dashboard and console look overly busy. This is a remarkably easy car to just get in and drive."

Similar comments also came from Reviews Editor Ryan ZumMallen. He said: "There's nothing fancy about the Kona interior. But that's what I like about it. Hyundai didn't try to reinvent the dash or introduce quirky materials and cute graphics. Everything is comfortable, accessible and sturdy. It feels like a fully realized and well-executed interior that's actually worth the money."

What about the back seat? Is it roomy?
Ehh, not really. That's one of the downsides of the Kona Electric. Our senior manager of vehicle testing operations, Mike Schmidt, took his family of four on a long weekend trip. Here's what he said about fitting his two small children: "Our Kona Electric wasn't quite up to the task of hauling two child booster seats and gear for the four of us. There's not much rear legroom. Fortunately, my kids are young and have little legs."

Bummer. What about installing child safety seats?
Mike had some thoughts about that, too. He said: "The lower LATCH anchors in the Kona are nicely tucked away between the seatback and cushion. It looks clean. In practice, however, the leather upholstery is so tight and firm that it requires significant effort to move it and access the anchor points. I've spent a lot of time in this car and can say with confidence that this is my single least favorite feature. I hope the cloth seat option is better in this regard."

Kona Electric: What else should I know?

We'll be using this section to keep track of stuff that doesn't fit into our other section buckets. First up: a comparison between our Kona Electric test car and a gas-powered Kona Ultimate.

How does the Electric compare to a regular gas-powered Kona?
To learn how our long-term car stacks up to a regular Kona, I spent two weeks driving a front-wheel-drive Kona Ultimate with the turbocharged 1.6-liter engine. Here are a few thoughts.

Performance: The Kona Electric is quicker when you're first accelerating from a stop. Goose the accelerator pedal and it squirts forward with no fuss. The gas Kona, in contrast, needs a few beats before its engine revs up and gives you maximum power. Plus, there's the lost time of the transmission shifting, which you don't have in the Electric. The gas Kona is a little better at passing on the highway (once you're past 60 mph or so), but otherwise I prefer the Electric.

The gas-powered Kona has wider and gripper tires, and that makes it more fun to drive around turns. Dive into a turn and the Kona Electric efficiency-oriented tires start squealing before the gas car's. I like the look of the regular Kona wheels, too. Tires and wheels aside, the handling of the two cars is similar. They're both fun to drive. If I bought a Kona Electric, I'd put on some nicer wheels and gripper tires and accept whatever reduction in efficiency they'd cause. Winner: Tie, or Kona Electric if you can put better tires on it.

Comfort: Not a huge difference here. The front seats feel the same. The Kona Electric is quieter and smoother to drive, however. Winner: Kona Electric

Utility: There's no difference in cargo space for the two cars. Winner: Tie

Technology: Hyundai offers a few more high-end features in the Kona Electric that you can't get in the regular car. Specifically, I'm thinking of the larger 10-inch touchscreen and the ventilated front seats. Winner: Kona Electric

Range and Refueling: While the Kona Electric has one of the longest ranges in its class (258 miles), it's still an EV. The EPA-estimated range of the gas-powered Kona I drove was 396 miles. And, of course, filling up on gas takes just a few minutes compared to hours with the Kona Electric. Winner: Gas-powered Kona

Value: Oof. I don't know how to pick a winner here. Based on MSRPs, a 2020 Kona Electric Ultimate costs $17,450 more than a regular Kona Ultimate. Even if you factor in the federal tax credit and other potential rebates, it's still a giant difference. What about leasing? As I type this in early June 2020, Hyundai is offering leases starting at $209 a month for a regular Kona versus $329 for the Electric.

Purely on the numbers, the regular Kona is the better deal. But what if you factor in your conscience and how much you want to reduce your carbon footprint?

OK, good to know. What else?
Well, our Kona Electric makes a lot electronic beeps.

Electronic beeps? What about them?
There's too many of them. After a while they can get on your nerves. There's an electronic startup tune when you press the car's start button. Then there's a beeping tone if you haven't put your seat belt on yet. Select reverse to back out of your parking spot and the Kona Electric starts making a beeping backup sound, just like a commercial vehicle does, to help warn pedestrians.

That's it? Doesn't sound too bad.
But wait, there's more! Start driving forward and from 0 to 15 mph it makes an electronic sound that can be heard outside the car. This is also to help warn pedestrians. One of our drivers said it reminds him of "a sound effect of a hovering space saucer from a cheesy 1960s science fiction movie."

Does it work?
Well, we haven't run over any pedestrians yet. So far, so good. Some of our drivers kind of like the sound, while others find it annoying.

I was hoping for a flying car sound from The Jetsons.
That would be great, wouldn't it? There are even more sounds, though. When you're done driving, there's electronic bing when you place the Kona Electric into park and then another electronic multi-note tune when you shut the car off. This car is constantly making electronic noise.

Got it. What else should I know?
That's all for now. If you've got a question about our Kona Electric you want us to discuss, contact me (Brent Romans) via email. First letter, last name and then @edmunds.com. Thanks!