Pity the poor auto manufacturers. It takes 3 to 5 years to design a new model and get it into showrooms. By the time it goes on sale, the market may have moved on to something else. An SUV used to mean something like a Cadillac Escalade or Ford Expedition — a big, bold, brawny vehicle that could swallow 6 bicycles, 10 suitcases, a family of four plus a few friends, a dog, and camping equipment, all while towing a ski boat to the lake house.
But people soon tire of trying to park a vehicle as big as a supertanker and getting 10 miles a gallon on the highway going downhill with a tailwind. They complained about the harsh ride, calling it truck-like. (Well, hello. Those vehicles were trucks.) The Ford Explorer was a Ranger pickup with a passenger car body. The Expedition was built on an F-150 chassis. But the customer is always right, so the car companies stopped building those body-on-frame behemoths and transitioned to unibody chassis borrowed from their passenger cars. The result was fewer off-roaders, more soft-roaders.
But even those were too big for many tastes, so the manufacturers made them smaller still to come up with a range of cute utes like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Honda now has introduced an even smaller car it calls the HR-V. General Motors has such tiny offerings as the Buick Encore and Chevy Trax, which look barely big enough to carry a backpack and a box of tissues.
Hyundai hopes its new Kona SUV will be a Goldilocks vehicle — not to big, not too small, just right. Like all current Hyundai vehicles, it is attractively styled. And soon it will be available in a battery electric version featuring two battery sizes so it can appeal to a broader customer base. Those who want a less expensive option and are comfortable with a range of about 186 miles can choose the 39.2 kWh battery model. Those who want longer range and can pay more for the privilege can opt for the 64 kWh battery with 286 miles of range.
In both cases, range estimates are based on the new WLTP formula used in Europe. It is much closer to real-world driving but may not match up exactly with EPA ratings and you still might need to be an abnormally efficient driver to match the rating.
Like Tesla cars, the electric Kona models feature a front end treatment that eliminates the traditional grille. Hyundai says it will announce prices in Europe after the Geneva Motor Show is over next week. Norwegian news source Side3 estimates the Kona will begin at about $38,600. (US prices for the conventional Kona with front-wheel drive begin at less than $21,000 including delivery. But note that US and European prices can vary greatly, and prices can also vary greatly from one European country to the next.)
Availability in Europe is set to begin in June. The car already has nearly 18,000 people in Norway who have signed up for one. Now that the Opel Ampera-e’s future in Europe is cloudy, the Kona Electric is the closest Europeans can get to an affordable battery-powered CUV until the Tesla Model Y arrives in a few years.
Not all the news about the Kona Electric is positive. The larger battery version gets to 60 mph in under 8 seconds. The car with the smaller battery needs nearly 10 seconds for the run to 60. Also, the electric version will not be available with all-wheel drive, a definite downer for many prospective customers who think AWD is one important factor that sets an SUV apart from a normal sedan. Both versions are available with a host of standard and optional electronic safety technology. Both feature Apple Carplay and Android Auto as well. They also come standard with built-in wireless charging and fast charging capability.
Is the Hyundai Kona the right car for you? The answer is a definite “maybe.” If it fits your lifestyle, it is a handsome vehicle with Hyundai’s reputation for reliability in a trim new package. When it comes to all-electric SUVs that are available today (well, soon anyway), the choices are few and far between. Contact your local Hyundai dealer for more information on availability and prices. And check out this video from Hyundai for more about the Kona Electric:
Hat tip to Leif Hansen. Takk skal du ha.
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