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

Edmunds' experts drove one for a year to find out

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

Overall Discoveries

  • A fun-to-drive EV
  • Had enough range for both everyday driving and long distances
  • Short on cargo space and rear passenger legroom
  • No significant issues or failures

What we got and why

byBrent Romans, senior editor of written content

Our test vehicle: 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric Ultimate
Base Kona Electric MSRP: $37,995 (including destination)
MSRP as tested: $46,130 (not including any potential tax credits or incentives)
Estimated trade-in value after one year: $30,281

Are you thinking about buying or leasing a Hyundai Kona Electric? Hi! I'm Brent Romans, senior editor of written content, and I curated the content about Edmunds' 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric. 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. How can I do that? We actually drove and tested one for a full year. Our car was a 2019 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. Exclusive highlights include ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel and an enhanced version of the traffic-adaptive cruise control system.

This page goes more in-depth than our regular review of the Kona Electric. Check out the other sections to learn more about our experiences.

Kona Electric: How was the efficiency and range?

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 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 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 did 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): 305.6
Current odometer: 9,156 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 did 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 added 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 used 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'd typically able to gain about 2.5 miles of range for every minute we were connected to a 50-kw charging station.

The Kona Electric is capable of a more powerful charger of up to 100 kw. We tried using a 100-kw Electrify America station a couple of times but were left underwhelmed. The charger could potentially provide a peak power in the low 70-kw range, but the rest of the time the charge power didn't seem to be much better than what we would have gotten with a 50-kw charger. The 100-kw chargers cost more, too.

How efficient was it in the city versus out on the highway?
There was a noticeable difference between the two. Our Kona Electric used less electricity per given mile when driving around town. This is the opposite of 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, our Kona typically got about 5 miles per kWh for city driving and 3.5 miles per kWh on the open highway (at 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: Was it reliable?

Our 2019 Kona Electric was reliable and durable. Granted, our test was limited to only 9,000 miles or so. Because of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic we weren't able to drive our Kona as much as we had originally planned to. But we never had any serious mechanical or electrical issues.

Did it have any glitches?
Just one. 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 (it 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.

Where there any recalls?
Not during the time we tested our car. However, Hyundai did issue two recalls shortly after our test finished. The first one was Recall Number 20V630000 and pertained to the Kona Electric's battery. The issue? "The lithium-ion battery may short circuit after it is fully charged." The second was Recall Number 20V748000 and pertained to the car's brakes. The issue? "The integrated electronic brake system may detect an abnormal sensor signal and, as a result, may significantly reduce braking performance."

Kona Electric: What was it like 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 was it?
Quick! We tested our 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 was 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, had 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."

Sounds good. What else stands out to you?
The Kona Electric's steering wheel-mounted regenerative braking paddles are pretty cool. Here's Reviews Editor Travis Langness: "I like this design more than other EVs that have their regenerative braking adjustments buried in a touchscreen menu. The Kona Electric has three regenerative braking levels available. I found them particularly useful on a recent drive I did from from Big Bear, which is a town in the local San Bernardino Mountains, to Los Angeles. On the way back down in the mountains I used the paddles to quickly adjust regen to suit the grade of the road. That helped keep my speed in check and maximize the Kona Electric's efficiency since I didn't have to use the friction brakes to reduce speed."

Kona Electric: How practical was it?

Erm, will you accept "mostly practical"? Certainly, 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 well did the technology features work?

Great! Our Kona was certainly loaded up with them. It was 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."

Was the touchscreen easy to use?
Yes. The physical shortcut buttons surrounding the screen (radio, media, etc.) are useful for quickly bringing up the functions you need. The onscreen menus are easy to understand, too. There are also some special displays specific for the Kona Electric, such as battery use and a visual display of the car's remaining range on a navigation system map.

However, the screen's visual appeal is a bit lacking. Here's Reviews Editor Travis Langness: "The mediocre resolution of the Kona Electric's infotainment screen makes the car seem a bit less premium than it should. When the backup camera and home screen graphics aren't sharp, it kind of puts a wet blanket on the experience. Don't get me wrong here. The infotainment system works well and I've never experienced any glitches. I'd just prefer a better-looking screen in a tech-forward car like this."

How was the sound system?
Our Ultimate trim car had the upgraded eight-speaker Infinity sound system. It's a nice-sounding system that is pretty accurate and produces strong bass. I enjoyed listening to both audio books and music on it from my iPhone through the regular music interface and Apple CarPlay. I never experienced any connection issues either.

Kona Electric: How comfortable was it?

We had pretty favorable comments regarding the Kona's comfort. Specific observations follow.

Were the front seats comfortable for long drives?
We thought they were 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 drove our Kona from Los Angeles to Fresno, California, and back a few times during our test. It's about 235 miles, or a four- to five-hour drive, each way, and I was comfortable every time.

How was the ride quality?
Not bad for a little car. It could get a little choppy on Los Angeles' freeways. But in general our Kona Electric had an agreeable ride, especially considering how sporty its handling was.

Kona Electric: What was 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?
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?
Erm, well, there is the issue of the Kona Electric's styling.

What about it?
Most of us at the office thought it was aesthetically challenged. Here's Reviews Editor Travis Langness on the subject: "I'd really like it if Hyundai took the technology underneath its Kona Electric and applied it to something with more appealing looks. Two sets of taillights, a strangely unappealing 'floating roof' design and a grille-free front end that looks like it smooshed its nose — none of this is appealing to me. I wish Hyundai would put this powertrain into an EV version of the Veloster, or shrink the styling from a Tucson and call it the 'Tucson Sport EV.'"

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Edmunds.
True. But do you really think this is beautiful?

It's not bad! But OK, anything else you don't like?
Well, our Kona Electric made a lot electronic beeps.

Electronic beeps? What about them?
There were too many of them. After a while they got on my 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. 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.

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."

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.

Kona Electric: Final thoughts

Over the course of our yearlong test, our 2019 Kona Electric did everything I'd expect out of an EV. Its estimated 258 miles of range ended up being plenty. We had enough range to run through multiple days of commuting and errards without recharging. It also allowed for some long-distance driving.

Our Kona Electric was also fun to drive thanks to its quick acceleration and nimble handling. That's important. A Tesla Model 3 is fun, sure, but it's also typically more expensive. Just about everything else in the Kona Electric's class, from a Chevrolet Bolt to a Nissan Leaf, trades away some fun in the name of greater practicality.

Granted, practicality was the biggest issue we had with our car. The lack of rear seat legroom and cargo space occasionally posed problems. But our Kona Electric had enough space that we got along just fine 95% of the time.

I'm less confident talking about reliability. We didn't have any significant issues with our test car, but our COVID-19-shortened test gave us only about half the distance we normally aim to get with one of our vehicles. The good news is that Hyundai's got a great warranty should you be worried. It includes a five-year limited warranty, a 10-year powertrain warranty and, at least on our 2019 model, a lifetime battery warranty.

Overall, I was very pleased having a 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric in our long-term test fleet. It's definitely an EV to check out, and I'd even consider buying one myself.