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2019 Hyundai Kona Electric First Drive – Worthy Competition

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Till lately, anybody wanting a purely electric vehicle able to driving past the confines of a day by day commute was caught shelling out the large bucks. Then Chevrolet launched the Bolt in 2016, proving that 200+ miles of range wasn’t out of the query. With most EV rivals attaining simply over half that, it appeared prefer it is perhaps awhile earlier than we noticed one other mainstream nameplate surpass that achievement.

Eager to at least one-up the People (despite the fact that the Bolt was developed by GM Korea), Hyundai has come ahead with the 2019 Kona Electric. This subcompact crossover replaces its standard 4-cylinder and fuel tank for an electric motor and sixty four-kWh battery pack. The top result is a well-known platform with an unfamiliar powertrain that’s able to 258 all-electric miles, based on the producer. It additionally occurs to be fairly fulfilling to drive. The Kona even hums like an an angel at low speeds, one thing I discovered wildly entertaining as I wheeled it round Los Angeles.

If I needed to be run over by a car, I might love for that noise to be the very last thing I heard earlier than the world went darkish. 

Full Disclosure: Hyundai flew me out to California and put me up within the Sundown Marquis lodge with a view to test each the Kona EV and hydrogen-powered Nexo. Additionally they offered meals at some stage in the drive occasion and hooked me up with some hydrogen-infused water — which tastes like regular water, in case you’re curious.

Throughout our pitstop, I popped the hood to see if I might discover the supply of this magical sound. This was the press equal of shaking a bag of pet food, as each journalist instantly flocked to my teal Kona to take photos of the “engine bay.” Nevertheless it additionally offered a chance to match notes. I discussed that the Bolt’s pedestrian alert feels like a dial-up modem in comparison with the Hyundai, whose warning noise makes you are feeling such as you’re being kidnapped by benevolent aliens. They unanimously agreed.

The Kona EV resembles its gasoline-powered sibling to a big diploma. Nevertheless, the grille has been changed with an apparently textured little bit of plastic that additionally homes the vehicle’s charging port. In Electric guise, Hyundai’s smallest crossover will get slightly bit quirkier with out falling off a cliff. I don’t anticipate everybody to like the styling, however it’s not so wild that the majority will discover it off-placing, both. It’s busy, not asinine.

Issues are a bit extra regular on the within with out getting uninteresting. Hyundai took nice pains to offer the interior a few of the exterior’s character, going as far as to do some trim-to-paint colour matching. Sadly, whereas virtually every part seems to have been pieced collectively meticulously, a lot of the hardware feels as if it gained’t stand as much as routine abuse. The steering wheel is exceptionally disappointing on this regard. Whereas it felt good within the hand, wrapped in a grippy, rubberized pores and skin, it additionally felt as if it’d dissolve into mush after a couple of years of direct daylight. I don’t know if it’s going to, and I’m not sure if it’s as a result of Hyundai’s obsession with soy-based mostly supplies on its inexperienced automobiles or just because it’s not a top quality merchandise, however I’ve to say it.

The cubby within the middle console felt notably flimsy and refused to shut and not using a rigorously deliberate push. Too onerous or mushy and the magnet wouldn’t snag the right element and the light-weight door would spring again open. Whereas extremely obnoxious, you’ll both ultimately get the hold of it or start utilizing the huge cubby situated beneath the “floating” middle console.

Nevertheless, there’ll nonetheless be random reminders that you simply’re sitting in a finances vehicle. Tender contact supplies are situated the place you’d usually place your arms, however, when you stray away from them, you may be stunned when an similar-wanting panel seems to be rock onerous plastic. In a method, it’s type of genius. Hyundai managed to chop prices with out making it instantly apparent. Relying in your private degree of criticality, you possibly can both reward the automaker’s cleverness or condemn it for making an attempt to show a revenue.

No matter your degree of forgiveness, interior consolation continues to be excellent for the phase and it’s fairly quiet inside, which is obligatory for EVs. Cargo area behind the rear seats is minimal however nonetheless manages to outperform most different small electrics — save for the Nissan Leaf — at 19.2 cubic ft (or almost forty six cubes with the seats folded). Whereas you will get adults into the rear, it’s somewhat too tight to deal with anybody legitimately tall for greater than a brief journey. That’s par for the course for automobiles on this class, however the truth that you’re sitting on prime of the battery makes every part a bit bit worse.

Entrance seats are supportive and nicely-bolstered, however far too tight for anybody with an unhealthy physique mass index. I discovered them good for my unambitious body, nevertheless, and the bolstering got here in useful after we began flinging the little crossover across the Hollywood hills.

The Kona scrambles like an egg from a lifeless cease. Perhaps not a type of jumbo-sized hen eggs, however undoubtedly a quail’s egg. Sticking with the hen references, it’ll additionally playfully chirp the tires under 20 mph should you give the throttle a superb mashing. Whereas this may increasingly have one thing to do with Hyundai’s selection in rubber, it’s additionally a testomony to the svelte crossover’s 201-hp electric motor, which additionally generates 290 foot-kilos of instantaneous torque. Regardless of what number of occasions you do it, it stays a really satisfying expertise. So satisfying, in reality, that my co-driver couldn’t resist treating a hilly residential area as our private rally stage. I adopted go well with on the best way again down, leaving the native joggers with extra sad expressions. To be truthful, I don’t consider we ever broke the velocity restrict, however I additionally don’t care about joggers’ emotions — simply their safety.

Regardless of being heavy for its size, the Kona EV carries its heft exceptionally properly because of a low middle of mass. Stability is superb for a entrance-wheel drive vehicle. (For the Kona Electric, Hyundai optioned to make use of a rear multi-hyperlink setup discovered on AWD fuel fashions.) The floorpan rails are additionally closely strengthened with aluminum, which Hyundai says improves general rigidity. The producer hasn’t launched an official curb weight, although Derek Joyce, Senior PR Supervisor for Hyundai’s Product and Superior Powertrains, stated it is going to be within the neighborhood of three,800 kilos. That’s considerably greater than the Chevrolet Bolt, which can also be a deal with at boulevard speeds.

Dealing with is confidence inspiring and inputs are sharp, albeit with out the suggestions wanted to appease probably the most psychological of car lovers. Nevertheless, it’s higher than most EVs I’ve pushed and regular people will really feel like they’re driving an outsized go-kart — particularly in the event that they maximize the regenerative coast settings to the purpose of close to single-pedal driving.

The Kona EV has three driving modes: eco, consolation, and sport. Whereas not solely tepid, eco is the underhand pitch of the three. It principally activates each setting which may assist in recouping energy whereas dulling the throttle response. You can fortunately drive round on this mode all day with out feeling annoyed, although. “Consolation” ditches a few of these settings to optimize normalcy. “Sport” sharpens the throttle and makes an attempt so as to add some fake engine braking by incorporating a bit extra regenerative coasting. There’s a slight delay between the second you’re taking your foot of the “fuel” and the second regen kicks in, nevertheless it’s in any other case agreeable.

There’s additionally an Eco Plus mode that disables energy-hungry equipment, like air con, to maximise range in emergency conditions, or to calm these riddled with range nervousness. Nevertheless, contemplating the Electric’s quite distinctive range, we doubt you’d use it until you end up in actual hassle.

In fact, there isn’t plenty of discernible distinction in dynamics outdoors of throttle response, particularly since you’ll be able to all the time modify the regenerative settings on the fly by tapping the paddles mounted behind the stressing wheel. However Hyundai has achieved a superb job making it really feel like there are. For instance, in eco mode the dashboard turns inexperienced and notifies you of what number of miles you’ve simply restored to the batteries when coasting down a hill. In the meantime, sport mode provides the gauge cluster a hotter colour palate and disincentives hypermiling by hiding these parts.

As a lot as I loved making an attempt to overwhelm the tires till the computer systems stepped in to save lots of them from undue hurt, the Kona EV does lose some pep at greater speeds. Once more, that’s par for the course with automobiles using a single-velocity discount gear. You’ll nonetheless get to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds in your approach to a prime velocity of 104 mph.

That’s slower to freeway speeds than both the Bolt — which feels decidedly quicker — or Nissan’s Leaf. However each of these fashions prime out at round ninety mph, whereas the Kona simply retains on going. Whereas this author wouldn’t use that capability as the idea of any shopping for choice, you’ll be able to’t low cost it for these days once you overlook to go to the toilet earlier than leaving the workplace.

Variations between trims are minimal. All of them use push-button gear choice, which appears to be the norm for zero-emission automobiles, and are available outfitted every thing you’d actually need — together with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and all of the cool features related to Blue Hyperlink. The bottom SE trim even has heated entrance seats, adaptive cruise management, and lane maintaining help. That is the type of stuff that makes the odd low cost trim piece appear irrelevant within the grander scheme of issues.

If you would like extra, the Restricted trim provides a sunroof, energy adjustable driver’s seat, wi-fi system charging, a upgraded sound system, LED headlamps, and fancier interior supplies. The Kona EV Final provides, adaptive cruise with cease and go, parking distance indicator, and an eight-inch touchscreen with navigation. Hyundai’s interface is straightforward to make use of and clear to see, even with the solar blasting immediately onto it.

One further perk is that the Kona’s slick quick charging setup comes standard on all trims. Hyundai went to nice lengths to make sure the Kona might cost swiftly in all climates by incorporating battery heating and cooling. This helps to maintain charging occasions constant. In best conditions, meaning seventy five-kW quick charging can restore eighty % of your battery life in underneath an hour. In fact, you possibly can nonetheless plug it in at house and let the Kona get a sluggish and regular stream when you make amends for your sleep.

All advised, the Kona is sort of good so far as electric automobiles go. Any shortcomings are due primarily to its relation to the standard, inner combustion mannequin and never as a result of Hyundai screwed one thing up. Assuming the corporate manages to price it near the Chevrolet Bolt’s $37,500 beginning MSRP, it’ll be tied with the Bowtie because the best reasonably priced EV available on the market.

In fact, that doesn’t imply you’ll truly be capable of exit and purchase one. Hyundai understands that electrics presently expertise what we’ll politely name “restricted attraction” in the USA. As a result, the Kona Electric will launch solely in California. From there, Hyundai says it intends to increase availability to the East Coast in 2019 — adopted by choose areas the place consumers are extra susceptible to buying zero-emission automobiles.

[Images: Hyundai; © 2018 Matt Posky/TTAC]

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