2019’s Top 10 Tech Cars: Hyundai Kona Electric

Surprisingly muscular, with plenty of range

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EV fans in the United States who’ve tired of the long waits for a Tesla Model 3 might want to kick the tires of Hyundai’s new Kona Electric. It has a base price of US $29,995, after a $7,500 U.S. tax credit. For comparison, the base-model Tesla 3 starts at $35,000, after a $3,750 U.S. credit, which is already phasing out. And yet the Kona delivers a no-fooling 415 kilometers (258 miles) of electric driving range—65 km more than the standard Tesla’s range and 32 better than the Chevrolet Bolt’s. It also has a whopping 174-km edge over the latest Nissan Leaf.

Last December, I drove a Kona from Brooklyn to the wilds of Long Island, blissfully unconcerned about range and untaxed by the calculations that run through your head with the shorter-hop electric cars. I found the Kona to be surprisingly muscular, squirting from 0 to 97 km/h (60 mph) in about 6.4 seconds, courtesy of a liquid-cooled, 150-kilowatt motor. In old-school terms, that’s the equivalent of 201 horsepower, with 400 newton meters (295 pound-feet) of instant-on torque.

The Kona’s nearly half-metric-ton lithium-ion battery sits below the floor, where it doesn’t steal a whit of the passenger and cargo space you’d get in the gasoline-powered version. The battery stores 64 kilowatt-hours versus the Chevy’s 60 kWh. And you get a DC fast-charge connection as standard equipment, a welcome touch (it costs $750 extra on the Bolt). Find a 100-kW fast charger and you’ll get an 80 percent charge in about 54 minutes.

One niggle: The brake pedal could use a smoother transition from its energy-harvesting regenerative stoppers to its mechanical-friction brakes. On the plus side, the Kona never comes off as a cost cutter inside: Its suite of standard safety gear includes automated emergency braking and lane keeping, and its infotainment runs Apple Car Play and Android Auto. It all goes to show that the age of affordable, no-sacrifice EVs is dawning.

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