Hyundai has a lot riding on its Kona subcompact SUV. Since launching in 2017, more than 122,000 Konas have been sold in Canada – 101,851 with gas engines and 20,794 battery-electric models.
For 2024, the Kona undergoes a major revamp. It gets sharper styling, more technology, and a larger cabin and cargo area. It’ll be available in gas, electric and high-performance N Line models. But unlike in other markets, including Europe, the Kona will not be available as a hybrid in Canada.
“The hybrid version is not our goal for the United States and the Canadian market,” Se Hyuk Park, head of the compact vehicle project management group at Hyundai Motor Co., said at the preview of the 2024 Kona in Berlin. The company wants to skip straight from gas engines to electric vehicles, he said. “That’s where the kind of advancements are going to be made in North America.”
Hyundai didn’t say how much the new Kona would cost. The current gas-powered Kona starts at more than $22,000 and the electric version starts at more than $44,000.
Compared with the last version, this second-generation Kona has grown in every dimension. It’s longer, taller and wider, in both EV and gas models, which means more space in the cabin – a definite improvement in legroom for rear-seat passengers.
On the outside, the Kona electric gets a cool, new design that’s surprisingly sharp for an EV; it’s bolder than many of its competitors, including its South Korean cousin, the Kia Niro. A new face includes a distinctive and elegant lighting element with a thin, horizontal dotted line that stretches across the front end. Smooth lines and sharp angles cover its body. On the display model, a silvery-purple metallic paint shimmers in the light and looks different depending on the angle. Below the hood is a tiny trunk with enough space to hold a purse. Nearby, a crimson red Kona N Line model is a stark contrast to the electric model owing to its aggressive design touches, which include a massive wing-type rear spoiler, black mirrors, a black roof, beefy 19-inch alloy wheels and twin exhaust outlets.
The cabin is clean and modern with two integrated 12.3-inch panoramic display screens and a combination of traditional buttons and dials that are intuitive and easy to reach. All driver controls are relocated around the steering wheel, so there’s more open console storage space. The location of the rectangular-shaped gear-shifter has been moved to the steering wheel, too, but it’s in an awkward spot, not directly in your field of vision.
Sustainable materials are incorporated into the cabin from the ceiling upholstery to the steering wheel to the floor carpets. More innovative technology is available too, including over-the-air software updates, a digital key that lets drivers unlock or lock the doors or start the car using a smart phone or smart watch, a Remote Smart Parking Assist (RSPA) system, which guides drivers in and out of parking spaces, and a smart key button that enables the Kona to move forward or backward while the driver is standing outside the vehicle, also designed to help with tight parking spots.
The Kona electric model will be equipped with a 65.4-kilowatt-hour battery and 160-kilowatt motor with slightly more range – an estimated 418 kilometres – compared to the current 2023 model’s 415 kilometres. It will have battery preconditioning to warm the battery in cold weather, a lamp on the charging port door to improve visibility at night, and a heated charging door designed to open in frigid temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees. It also has a new one-pedal driving system that lets the driver accelerate, decelerate and stop using only the gas pedal.
A Vehicle-to-Load (V2L) function also supports internal and external charging of electrical devices so you can plug home appliances into the charging port and brew a cup of java or blow-dry your hair.
Details were scarce on the gas-powered models, but we do know two gas engines will be available – a standard four-cylinder engine and a turbocharged four-cylinder on the N Line. The engines are a carryover, but the turbo gets a new eight-speed automatic transmission. The gas-powered models will be available in front- and all-wheel-drive configurations. Unfortunately, the Kona electric will only be available with a one-motor, front-wheel-drive system. That’s disappointing because other EVs like the Toyota bZ4X and Nissan Ariya offer both front and all-wheel drive.
Production of the 2024 Kona begins at Hyundai’s South Korean plant this June. Gas-powered models will be available in Canada this summer, followed by the all-electric this fall. More details will be available when the Kona makes its North American debut at the 2023 New York Auto Show in April.
2024 Hyundai Kona Electric
Base price: TBA
Motors: 160-kilowatt motor, front-wheel drive
Battery: 65.4-kilowatt-hour battery
Charging capability: Level 1 and Level 2 – TBA; Level 3 – from 10 to 80 per cent in 41 minutes (100 kilowatt max)
Range: 418 kilometres, as estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Alternatives: Nissan Ariya, Volkswagen ID.4, Tesla Model Y, Kia Niro Electric, Toyota bZ4X, Subaru Solera, Chevy Bolt
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.