Hyundai’s compact Kona Electric SUV — currently one of the most affordable battery electric vehicles on the road — is getting bigger, bolder and smarter with the debut of the second-generation model this week. Flaunting an eye-catching redesign that blends elements of the previous generation with the crazy geometric style of the Ioniq 5 and Ioniq 6 dedicated EVs, the new Kona Electric promises range and efficiency improvements despite its larger footprint.
The second-generation Kona is built on an enlarged and elongated version of the automaker’s B-segment platform — the same as the previous generation — rather than Hyundai’s dedicated E-GMP electric vehicle platform. This allows the Korean automaker to continue to offer gasoline and hybrid variants, holding off on transitioning the Kona completely to electric for at least one more generation.
The new Kona EV is 5.5 inches longer (171.5 inches) than the previous generation with a wheelbase that’s stretched by 2.3 inches (104.7 inches). Inside, the Kona boasts an additional 3 inches of second row legroom (36.4 inches) thanks to that longer wheelbase and features a flat floor for increased middle-seat comfort. The growth spurt takes the Kona Electric from being one of the smallest models in its class to a scale that’s more competitive with the Chevrolet Bolt EUV’s 169.5-inch overall length and 105.3-inch wheelbase.
The SUV looks dramatically wider than before with chunky widebody fender flares but, at 71.9 inches, its footprint is only 0.9 inches wider overall. The additional girthiness is accentuated by the illusion of flared fenders that is created by undercuts in the body that trick the eye. Up front, the trompe l’oeil is further accented by a full-width Pixelated Seamless Horizontal Lamp, a single-piece lightbar that stretches the entire width of the front end. Hyundai’s head of design tells me that this was the most difficult element of the new design to pull off. A similar visor-like light bar highlights the rear end as well. (Of course, the actual headlamps and rear indicators are tucked into larger light pods lower on the bumpers.)
Between the axles, full-electric Kona will be offered with two battery options. The larger 65.4 kilowatt-hour battery pack will most likely make its way to North America, but Hyundai’s 304-mile WLTP-estimated range will likely be adjusted once put through our more stringent EPA testing cycle. (For comparison, the current Kona EV is estimated at 258 miles with its 64 kWh unit.) This configuration powers a 160-kilowatt electric motor (215 horsepower) driving the front wheels to the tune of 188 pound-feet of torque.
Built on a 400-volt electric architecture (rather than E-GMP’s 800-volt system) means the new Kona Electric will still be limited to just 100-kW DC fast charging. Hyundai says that’s still plenty of bandwidth to charge the pack from 10% to 80% in around 41 minutes with thermal preconditioning available to help keep charging speeds in line during cold winter days. The charging door is still located on the front bumper — the best location for convenient public charger access, in my opinion — and now features heating elements to prevent freezing shut in the winter and built-in lights to aid in connecting at night.
In European and Asian markets, the Kona will also be offered with a smaller 48.4-kWh battery, a detuned 114.6-kW electric motor and a 213-mile WLTP estimated range. However, given Hyundai’s track record of only bringing the big battery for the previous generation and its Ioniq models, it’s a safe bet that we won’t see this “Standard Range” model stateside.
To help drivers maximize range, the second-generation Kona Electric now features smart Auto regeneration programming like the Ioniq 5, which can automatically adjust the amount of regenerative braking applied when lifting the throttle based on following distance, route information, battery charge state and more. The paddle-selectable regeneration system also now gives drivers the option to enable Hyundai’s i-Pedal one-pedal driving mode, which can bring the EV to a complete stop without touching the friction brakes. The Kona also inherits the Ioniq family’s e-ASD active sound design for user-customizable faux engine noise in the cabin and is now compatible with the automaker’s vehicle-to-load (V2L) functionality. With the aid of an adapter, V2L allows users to plug in and power small appliances or equipment with the EV’s battery when, for example, camping, working remotely or during emergency outages at home.
Inside, drivers and passengers are treated to a more spacious cabin and a new dual 12.3-inch screen dashboard experience similar to the latest Hyundai and Ioniq-branded models. The new infotainment software is powered by the automaker’s Connected Car Navigation Software which is now over-the-air updatable. A 12-inch head-up display is also available. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity is standard, and Digital Key smartphone access via an NFC tap on the door handle also comes to the Kona for this generation with support for smartphones and smart watches.
Around the cabin, you’ll find new customizable multicolor ambient lighting, a new shift-by-wire lever on the steering column and new slim-design front seats with a deep recline Relaxation Mode that passengers can take advantage of when waiting for a charge to complete. The EV uses more eco-friendly and sustainable materials in its construction. What I didn’t see when poking around the cabin was the Hyundai “H” logo. Like the Ioniq 5, the steering wheel features simple four-dot iconography.
Hyundai’s SmartSense driver assistance tech also sees a generational upgrade. The Kona can now be had with Hyundai’s Remote Park Assist, which allows the driver to move the SUV straight forward or back into tight parking spots from outside of the vehicle. Highway Driving Assist 2 now integrates navigation-based Smart Cruise Control which can automatically adjust the highway cruising speed based on the distance to a vehicle ahead or to more safely negotiate bends in the road.
Hyundai hasn’t announced pricing for the new Kona Electric, but the automaker’s goal is for the compact EV to continue to be one of the most affordable options in its class. Plus, it has to remain less expensive than the slightly larger Ioniq 5. The current generation Kona Electric starts at just over $33,000 before any available incentives while the Ioniq 5 starts at around $42,000, so it’s a safe bet that the new Kona Electric sticks near the lower end of that window.
Expect more specific details and availability to be announced when the new Kona makes its North American debut at the 2023 New York Auto show in just a few weeks.