Much of the country might not know it, but California has been a testing ground of hydrogen-powered vehicles for some time now. More than a few automakers have quietly offered low-volume fuel-cell specials for lease in the Golden State, and Hyundai, having jumped into the silent fray a few years back with a hydrogen-powered Tuscon, returns for 2019 with the all-new Nexo. Unlike its predecessor, the Nexo is purpose-built, riding on an exclusive platform not shared with any volume models. The automaker's extensive efforts makes the 2019 Hyundai Nexo a compelling option in the small and interesting niche of hydrogen-powered automobiles.
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2019 Hyundai NEXO Overview
What's New for 2019
The 2019 Nexo is an all-new model.
Choosing Your Hyundai Nexo
Due to its existence as a low-volume regional special, there's just two available trims and no options to speak of. It goes without saying that there's certainly no optional powertrains on tap. The lack of extras doesn't mean the Nexo is just spartan transportation, however. Hyundai has made sure their gasless wonder comes well equipped with all the bells and whistles expected of cars costing 60 grand.
Most of the Nexo's price tag, of course, is attributable to the hydrogen fuel-cell powerplant under the hood. The stack of fuel cells generates 95 kW of power and is paired with a 40 kW battery producing 240 volts of juice. It's efficient enough to return an EPA-estimated 65 miles per gallon of gasoline equivalent city, 58 MPGe highway, and 61 combined for Blue models or 59/54/57 MPGe (city/highway/combined) for Limited trims. This mileage, coupled with a 41.4-gallon hydrogen tank, gives drivers an estimated 380 miles of range before needing to refill. The five minutes of anticipated recharging time is akin to filling up a standard-sized gas tank at the local Shell station.
From a performance standpoint, the front-drive, single-geared Nexo makes 161 horsepower and 291 pound-feet of torque. These numbers are good enough to move the Nexo to 60 mph in 9.5 seconds, which is a marked improvement from the 12.5 seconds it took the Tuscon FCEV to reach the same speed. The Nexo also trumps its predecessor in weight, charging time, cargo space, and all-important total range.
Range anxiety is a real issue for these types of alternative-energy curiosities, but keeping drivers in the know is a driver information feature called Blue Link. It provides to-the-minute range and fuel level status, a monthly vehicle health report, and even a fuel station locator. The latter is particularly helpful, considering that there are only a few dozen hydrogen stations in operation throughout the state.
All Nexos are built with safety in mind. Standard safety features include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic assist, a surround-view monitor, lane keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, driver attention warning, and high-beam assist. The standard blind-spot monitoring feature is a claimed industry first. It uses wide-angle cameras mounted on the exterior pillars to project an image of the blind spot on the center screen. Drivers merely need to look at the screen rather than crane their necks to discern whether they're in the clear to switch lanes.
Unlike many hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, the Nexo can be purchased as well as leased in its two trims:
A hydrogen-powered vehicle isn't for the faint of heart. An expensive price tag, the dearth of hydrogen stations, and the price of hydrogen fuel – filling the tank often costs two to three times more than if it were gas – make it a tough sell over an electric car. If none of this deters you, we'd lease the 2019 Hyundai Nexo rather than purchase it. The depreciation curve of such a specialty vehicle will probably not be in the buyer's favor.
2019 Hyundai NEXO Review
Mass-produced fuel-cell vehicle. The 2019 Hyundai Nexo arrives as the first-ever mass-produced fuel-cell crossover in the U.S. The Nexo is an interesting consideration, as it's available in California only and only at select dealers, so digging one up may pose an issue.
For green-focused buyers, the struggle may be worth it with its long range without charging and zero emissions. How does the Nexo stack up next to its limited competitors? Keep reading to find out.
Almost 400 miles and no charging. One of the biggest turn-offs to electric vehicles for traditional commuters is the need to charge them. Sure, EVs have come a long way in terms of charging times and driving ranges, but they still require a lot of advanced planning before taking a trip. Even Tesla and its Supercharging stations require route planning and coming up with activities for the kiddos while the vehicle is charging.
The Hyundai Nexo, however, not only boasts a 380-mile range on a full hydrogen tank, it also takes mere minutes to refill, giving you the greenness of an electric vehicle with the refueling time similar to a gasoline vehicle. Finding a hydrogen filling station can pose a bit of an issue, but it's not much more of a problem than digging up an EV charging station on the road.
When compared to other fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) on the road today, the Nexo’s 380-mile range tops the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell and Toyota Mirai, its key competitors, by 15 miles and 78 miles, respectively.
The Nexo’s eco-friendliness goes beyond just its powertrain. It also uses ecological materials in its cabin, including soybean-oil-based polyurethane paint, bamboo-thread seats, bio-plastics, and more.
Feature-packed, but cluttered. On top of boasting an advanced powertrain that gives us a glimpse into the future, the Hyundai Nexo delivers in the standard features any car shopper would be happy with. Its standard features include a sunroof, electric parking brake, power tailgate, wireless charging pad, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, heated and ventilated seats, a 12.3-inch touchscreen, a push-button transmission, and more.
The other FCVs on the market can't match the Nexo’s standard features. The Clarity Fuel Cell comes closest with an 8-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate control, keyless ignition, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. The Toyota Mirai lags with its standard with a 7-inch touchscreen and lack of Android Auto.
Where the Nexo fails us is its cluttered center console. We understand this is a high-tech crossover, but the large center panel with what seems like dozens of buttons on it is a bit too much, even for this advanced rig.
The Toyota Mirai is equally cluttered, but the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell does a great job of looking like an everyday sedan on the inside.
People and cargo are welcome. As the sole FCV crossover on the market, the Hyundai Nexo has a distinct people- and cargo-hauling advantage over the competition.
Its rear seats offer a respectable 38.6 inches of leg room, which bests the Clarity Fuel Cell and Mirai by 2.6 inches and 8.5 inches, respectively. In head room, the Nexo’s 38 inches has a 1.2-inch advantage over the Mirai and 0.9-inch advantage over the Clarity Fuel Cell.
Thanks to its crossover body, the Nexo’s can tote 29.6 cubic feet of cargo behind the rear seats and 56.5 cubes with the rear seats folded. That’s right up there with many traditional crossovers. The Mirai and Clarity Fuel Cell are sedans with trunks that can haul just 12.8 cubic feet and 15.5 cubic feet, respectively.
Final thoughts. The 2019 Hyundai Nexo looks to shake things up in the FCV segment with its roomy crossover body and near 400-mile range. Plus, it's a good value with its impressive list of standard features. Speaking of value, the Nexo costs $59,345 (destination fees included), which is $25 cheaper than the Clarity Fuel Cell and $60 cheaper than the Mirai.
If you can’t stand the busy center console in the Nexo, you may want to opt for the more traditional-looking Clarity Fuel Cell That's likely the only logical reason to choose it over the Nexo.