Electric dreams. While the gas-powered Kona is the mainstay of this SUV range, its Electric sibling offers a very different take on propulsion. Unfortunately, it’s only available in a few states – if you’re not a west coast or New England resident, skip to the next section.

Still here? The EV wears its sister’s clothes with one or two tweaks, and the front looks less appealing with an asymmetric charging port in lieu of the conventional radiator. However, it’s the inclusion of a 201 hp electric motor and a 64 kWh battery that really changes the car’s temperament. Front-drive only (unlike those AWD-available gas versions), it’ll hit 60 in around seven and a half seconds while delivering pleasingly instant acceleration. Range is quoted at just under 260 miles, while you can select how much regenerative braking you want via gear lever-style paddles behind the wheel. Connected to a fast charger, the battery will replenish from 10 to 80% in just 47 minutes.

Fussy rather than pretty. While the EV’s nose looks rather gawky, the standard Kona is no oil painting either. Some might like its mirror-image goatee grills, but for us, there are too many acute angles and unnecessary contrasting strips across the exterior. The C-pillars are especially fussy, and the outsized lower light clusters at both ends seem unnecessary. The tapered rear side windows serve to restrict outward visibility, which isn’t great for smaller children.

The rest of the Kona’s five-seater interior is better, with physical AC dials and two rows of buttons across a dash dominated by a high-set screen measuring eight inches in base models and 10.3 inches higher up the Kona food chain. Screen quality and ease of use are both impressive, though the shiny black plastic surround is a magnet for dust and fingerprints. Speaking of plastic, the cabin is swathed in it, contributing to a rather low-rent feel overall.

Generous interior space. The cabin doesn’t feel particularly alluring, but it’s impressively space-efficient. The front seats are supportive and well-sculpted, while rear passengers benefit from over 35 inches of rear legroom. The Kona’s bulbous shell hides a cargo area measuring 19.2 cu ft, expanding to 46 cubes when the back seats are lowered.

Even the $23,000 Kona SE comes with alloys and cruise control, while SEL trim introduces keyless start and blind spot monitoring. The $1,700 Convenience package is well worth the outlay, adding wireless charging and heated seats to a sunroof. Mid-range N-Line brings a 10.3-inch infotainment screen, but the wireless smartphone mirroring found on lesser models is absent. We wouldn’t suggest spending $30,000 on a Limited, even though it does sport adaptive cruise control and leather trim.

2023 Hyundai Kona Interior

Results may vary. The gas-powered Kona has received high marks from America’s two crash test agencies, but the broadly similar EV hasn’t been tested yet. Either way, this SUV deserves praise for offering active lane control and automatic emergency braking across the board. It is disappointing that the high-performance N model lacks adaptive cruise control or the AWD that’s available on other models, especially as its turbocharged 275 hp engine would benefit from being reined in. A limited-slip diff does come as standard alongside adjustable suspension dampers, though the stiff setup is more suited to race circuits than cratered roads.

Costing $36,000, the N will be a relatively niche choice. It’s hard to believe it’s cut from the same cloth as the rather asthmatic SE and SEL models, which use a 147-hp engine yoked to a CVT transmission. A far better combination is found in mid-range N-Line and Limited Konas, where a 195 hp turbo and seven-speed dual-clutch auto complement a comfortable ride that’s even better if you specify AWD.

Final thoughts. With so many variants and differing characteristics, summing up the Kona range is tricky. Base models feel underpowered and plasticky, the N is a hardcore WRX and GTI rival, and the Electric can travel the average width of a US state between charges.

Whether any of that appeals to you will depend on your preferences and needs. If you want a cheap, spacious, and reliable SUV with a great warranty, we’d recommend an SEL with one or two options added. N-Line trim offers better performance and a superior transmission without the expense of its Limited stablemate. The Electric suffers from limited availability but is undoubtedly the star of the range. Again, stick to mid-range SEL trim to receive the best combination of value and equipment.

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