Image of Kona EV by John Goreham
John Goreham's picture

Driving Hyundai’s Fantastic But “Forgotten” Kona EV Crossover

We have a chance to drive the Kona EV and remember why we first fell in love with EVs.
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This past week, Hyundai brought its impressive fleet of plug-in vehicles to the headquarters of the New England Motor Press Association. Hyundai was on hand to showcase the progress that the company has made in America. It is easy to call Hyundai the forefront electric vehicle company in America for shoppers who seek an affordable model. With four choices available today, Hyundai now outpaces Tesla, Toyota, and all other brands with regard to affordable plug-in crossover models.

The Ioniq5 is now the rock star of the Hyundai family, and rightly so. It remains an easy example of just how great an EV can be. It is plush, modern, satisfying to drive, downright fast, and it undercuts the premium-priced Tesla Model Y line by a meaningful amount of money.

We also enjoyed seeing the AWD Santa Fe plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). Hey, look! It has a spare tire! And the Tucson PHEV was also in the mix. In total, Hyundai lined up four plug-in crossovers, all with different missions and all with different features and price points.

Related Story: Updated - Electric Vehicles You Can Buy With a Spare Tire

We grabbed the keys to the Kona EV. With a price starting around $35K, the Kona is one of America’s best EV crossover values. It had been a very long time since we drove the Kona EV, and now that we had recalibrated our expectations having driven the Chevy Bolt EUV, Mustang Mach-E, Kia EV6, and Hyundai’s own Ioniq5, we wondered if it might feel a bit dated. Nope.

To the contrary, the Kona EV feels fantastic when driven. It has so much torque it can chirp the tires. Not from a standstill but on dry pavement when already underway. Whoa. You almost have to reign in the Kona EV. It wants to run. In Sport mode, it’s a blast.

But what about its interior and infotainment? We feel the Kona EV still holds up. Hyundai was long a leader in easy-to-use infotainment before the Ioniq5 came along. The seats, visibility, and interior appointments all still feel well-suited to a vehicle in a price range of $35K to $45K.

The Kona EV doesn’t have every possible crossover feature a buyer could want. For example, there is no AWD option. Nor is there a spare tire. However, Hyundai does offer plug-in crossovers with both of those features if you feel they are of importance to you.

What the Kona EV does offer is a great compact crossover with a battery-electric powertrain at a price point with very few other options. The Chevy Bolt EUV is one option. We like the Bolt EUV, but with so many "No Bolts allowed” signs on parking garages posted to social media pages, some shoppers have shied away from jumping back into the Bolt line after its very highly publicized stop sale and recall. We also like that Hyundai offers a powertrain warranty of ten years and includes three years of maintenance with its Kona EV, something no other affordable EV brand offers.

Inventory shortages have made shopping for an affordable tricky. The hot new models may be out of stock, and manufacturers may limit the production of other models to save components. If you can find or order a new Kona EV, or if you can find one used, we suggest giving it serious consideration.

Image of Kona EV by John Goreham

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. John's interest in EVs goes back to 1990 when he designed the thermal control system for an EV battery as part of an academic team. After earning his mechanical engineering degree, John completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers, in the semiconductor industry, and in biotech. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American news outlets and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on TikTok @ToknCars, on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin

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