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Redesigned 2022 Hyundai Kona Electric is fun and powerful but falls short

The small SUV gets some serious range testing, during trips to Washington and Delaware. Will the cord reach far enough?

The Hyundai Kona Electric is redesigned for the 2022 model year, but it's as subtle as the old Hocus Focus cartoon: Hood is stretched. Headlights are different.
The Hyundai Kona Electric is redesigned for the 2022 model year, but it's as subtle as the old Hocus Focus cartoon: Hood is stretched. Headlights are different.Read moreHyundai

2022 Hyundai Kona Electric Limited: Electric mayhem?

Price: $43,840 as tested. Floor mats, $155.

Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver liked the “eager handling, competitive estimated driving range, comes with a 10-year warranty,” but not the “snug rear-seat passenger space, all-wheel drive not available, driving range suffers in cold weather.”

Marketer’s pitch: “Our all-electric SUV.”

Reality: A steady charge, but one missing feature zaps a five-star rating.

What’s new: The little froggy Kona “SUV” introduced for 2018 — and with an electric model offered since 2019 — gets a redesign for the 2022 model year.

I have an eye for subtle changes, but this one whooshed Mr. Driver’s Seat. Still does, if I’m being honest.

Fully charged: I drove the Kona Electric to D.C. to see some friends for this year’s finale of Bob Dylan’s tour. To say I suffered range anxiety is like saying Dylan’s voice is unusual. Would I find the chargers that popped up on the maps? Would they be available? I don’t even think Dylan was this nervous when he went electric in 1965 after his folk days.

But it was better than Plan A, where I was offered the Kona Electric to visit Sturgis Grandma 1.0 in the wilds of northern Pennsylvania. After confirming that the nearest charging option was 40 miles away, in Allentown, I rescheduled.

My nervousness grew because I have only standard 120-volt outlets in my garage; EV owners should have at least 240s available. Fortunately, the days stayed mild, in the 40s and 50s, so cold weather wouldn’t impact the 258-mile advertised range.

» READ MORE: Electric cars are coming, and gas stations will have to adjust

Up to speed: The 150-kilowatt electric motor creates 201 horses, strong for the little crossover. Sixty mph arrives in 6.2 seconds, according to Car and Driver, 0.2 seconds faster than the gasoline version.

The standard gas-fired Kona has 147 horses, the N-Line 195, and the new hot rod N offers an insane 276.

Shiftless: Of course, no transmission is needed to facilitate power; an electric motor is all power, no curve.

Hyundai gives the Kona Electric a new drive mode selection system, though, with Drive to the left, Reverse to the right, Park top center, and Neutral below it. The handsome silver buttons seemed easy to get used to, and the pattern was easy, as new shift patterns go.

It’s sad that the Kona has available all-wheel drive but the Kona Electric does not.

» READ MORE: Kermit the Kona? Small Hyundai crossover hops into the world

On the road: The Kona Electric seemed as fun to drive as the gasoline-powered version I tested three years ago.

Then I found Sport mode, and it became that much more fun. I’d been hesitant to use this mode at first, when I faced Delaware and D.C. trips and wanted to conserve power. But on the return trip from Washington with a full charge, safely off I-95 and in the wilds of Chester County around midnight, I let the Kona Electric fly.

And fly it did. I found that country curves and bouncy dips could be taken at sports-car speed and eventually let loose on corners and sharp exit ramps, as well.

Driver’s Seat: Regular readers will remember my foray into the Volkswagen ID.4 Pro over the summer, when I moaned about the iPad-on-wheels feeling that left all the Volkswagenness behind.

The Kona Electric isn’t that. The gauge pod and dashboard copy the standard Kona’s, although in Limited trim there’s a Genesis-level feel, as well. This electric car feels like a car.

The leather seat is heated and ventilated, and fairly comfortable, but not quite as cushy as that in the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat’s Kia Soul.

Play some tunes: The stereo features pretty silver buttons to choose different sources and dials for volume and tuning, so it’s a fairly classic design. The 10.25-inch touchscreen should be large enough for the tech lovers but still friendly enough for old fogeys like me.

Sound from the system is excellent, certainly an “A,” and it had its work cut out for it after the show. (Unlike every other Bob Dylan show ever, the sound was excellent and the band tight.)

» READ MORE: An electrified vacation in the Volkswagen ID.4

Friends and stuff: A Kona is much smaller than the Volkswagen ID.4 Pro, so the comparison does end here. Rear legroom and foot room are poor, and headroom is OK. One would expect better from this tall vehicle, but no.

Cargo space is 45.8 cubic feet with the second row folded and 19.2 with the seat up, so it’s a small vehicle.

Keeping warm and cool: The heater controls feature a dial for temperature and another for fan speed, and source and other functions are changed with buttons.

Range: The Kona Electric averaged about 3.6 miles per kilowatt-hour, and Professor Google tells me that’s about average for EVs. I was nervous to drive the super-legal speeds of I-95 traffic, thinking range might suffer, but I can confirm it did not.

Also, recharging with my little home-based outlet happened quickly. I parked with about 110 miles of range at 12:30 a.m.; the vehicle was at 225 miles 36 hours later.

Fortunately, the SemaConnect charger I needed in Washington was available when I arrived. I never had a chance to move the vehicle, which felt rude, but six hours later even more chargers had opened up. (And the Kona Electric was fully charged. Relief!)

Where it’s built: Ulsan, South Korea.

How it’s built: Consumer Reports gives the Hyundai Kona Electric a 2 out of 5 for reliability, far below its 2021 tops rating but above the 2019-20 bottom-rung rating. A good choice for gamblers, I guess.

In the end: If all-wheel drive were available and the reliability more consistent, I’d dub this the perfect small electric. But it’s definitely the best I’ve tested.