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  • Writer's pictureMarc Gonzalez

Comparing the KIA Niro EV and Hyundai Kona EV: Which Korean Compact EV Reigns Supreme?

As gas prices continue to rise, consumers turn to affordable electric vehicles to save money and reduce their carbon footprint. The Kia Niro EV and the Hyundai Kona EV are cost-effective electric vehicles. Let's compare their pros and cons and see which is the best small electric car. The Kia Niro EV is manufactured at the Hwaseong, South Korea plant and has an MSRP of $56,562. The Hyundai Kona Electric is manufactured at the Ulsan, South Korea plant and has an MSRP of $54,116.

Hyundai Kona EV
Photo by Vince P. Szigeti

Design-wise, the Hyundai Kona and Kia Niro went in opposite directions. The Kona is all curves, the front and rear bumpers are round, with the back integrating a light bar, and the head and taillight housings shifted entirely to the sides of the vehicle. You will also find what's becoming a trend in Hyundai electric vehicles: the pixels on the lower bumper to make it stand out more. The vehicle's profile has been dramatically updated, with a new set of 17-inch wheels, squared-off fenders and many sharp lines that cut through the sides. On the other hand, the Niro has a more cube-like shape, with distinctively shaped LED running lights in front and back. Kia added some grey-painted plastic panels around the wheel arches, on the lower parts of the doors, and the C-pillar, which was a strange decision. The 17-inch wheels and grey-painted lower bumper complement the styling with added character. Our least favourite trait, shared by both vehicles, is the position of the blinkers and side brake lights tucked on the lower part of the bumper; they are less visible than their earlier generation'. We preferred Hyundai's design over Kia's, especially with lightbars and quirky vehicle lines on both sides.

Photo by Vince P. Szigeti

Interior-wise, these two vehicles also go their own way. As far as electric cars go, the Hyundai Kona surprised us thanks to its wide use of physical buttons inside. Some automakers go out of their way to eliminate as many as possible. You will find them in the Kona on the steering wheel and the center console. It can be frustrating to figure out where the heated seat controls are or even the window wipers in certain cars. The Kia Niro, on the other hand, ditched some controls in favour of a control panel like the one found in the larger EV6 for a more streamlined look. You can switch between the climate and the multimedia controls quickly. In terms of equipment, both vehicles are well-equipped in their base versions. We tested the Ultimate and Wave trims on each model, respectively, and found they included features such as heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, dual-zone climate controls, heated steering wheels, and LED ambient lighting. It is also worth noting the availability of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which require a wired connection in the Niro but are integrated wirelessly in the Kona. Both vehicles offer a decent sound system in their base trim, while the Bose and Harman Kardon sound systems in the respective models add a touch extra. 

Hyundai Kona interior:

The Kona features a new 3-spoke steering wheel, a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, and a gear lever under the window wiper stock. The display is large and crisp but lacks a full-screen map configuration. It provides trip information, navigation, and current driver assistance feature status. We were pleased to find that the Blind Spot Monitoring feature, which activates the camera on the side of the turn signal, is still available on this vehicle. However, we were disappointed to note that the battery charge level on the steering wheel, which shows the current, did not light up like the Hyundai IONIQ5 and IONIQ6.

KIA NIRO EV interior:

The Niro was updated a year before the Kona. While it retains most elements that contributed to its early success, it has improved its interior quality thanks to a redesigned steering wheel with a drive mode selector on the left side. The displays are smaller (the gauge cluster and infotainment screen are 10.25-inch). All the necessary information is provided, except the Blind View Monitor, which is unavailable on this model, regardless of trim. In terms of interior space, although these are two subcompact models, they still offer adequate room for four passengers; the fifth one would be a little squeezed. The ISOFIX ports are present, although you must search for them briefly. The rear anchors are easy to reach in the cargo room. With the rear seats folded, you can get up to 1,805L of cargo space in the Niro; the Kona offers a similar figure; it is large enough for the segment and can satisfy the needs of parents with a child. Finally, you cannot store anything under the hood of these vehicles as the electric engine is located there, like a gasoline engine.

Performance-wise, the Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV are identical. They are both front-wheel drive vehicles powered by an electric motor placed in front, coupled to a 64.8 kWh battery. The ensemble develops 201 horsepower and 188 lb-ft of torque, with a 0-100kph time of about 6.7 seconds, similar to gas-powered vehicles. The acceleration is predictable, and there is limited oversteering thanks to advanced electronic stability control. Braking is adequate for the category, and so is the handling and steering. The suspension is cushy and absorbs bumps on the road while providing decent control in curves. Of course, the battery pack helps to keep the vehicle stable.

On the electric side, on paper, the Kona (420 km) has slightly more range than the Niro (407 km); in reality, it's nearly identical since it's the same powertrain. We observed, on chilly days (around 0oC), an average electric consumption ranging between 18.1-20.7 kWh/100km, which translates to a range of roughly 335 km (210 mi) in the winter, even less on the coldest days of the year. On the warmer days, we averaged about 420-430 km (269 mi). If you live in a cold climate, we highly recommend getting the versions with a heat pump, which helps improve the range in the winter. Finally, charging times are identical, ranging from just over 9 hours on a level 2 charger to 45 minutes on a 100-kW charger. It's a shame these two vehicles don't charge as fast as the larger IONIQ models and the EV6, but it's a great deal for the lower prices. One difference is that the Hyundai has a standard heated charging port, a pretty cool feature, while the Kia has the V2L feature on the top trim level, allowing it to power some small tools at a camping site, which is also great.

Hyundai KONA EV
Photo by Vince P. Sziget

At first glance, the Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV have little in common. However, they're based on the same platform and share the same powertrain. The Kona also has the advantage of being a dedicated electric platform, whereas the previous generation was based on a gasoline platform, which unfortunately caused some vehicles to catch fire. These issues have been corrected, and both cars are safer than ever! There is yet to be a clear winner, but we will go with the Hyundai Kona. Its modern styling and excellent interior ergonomics are 100% worth it. Even though it doesn't have the best autonomy in the segment, it is supremely better to drive than the previous generation and is a little larger for increased practicality. 

Hyundai Kona EV
Photo by Vince P. Sziget

Hyundai & KIA has lent us this vehicle for one week as a press vehicle. We have no affiliation with Hyundai & KIA Canada. The above is a recollection of our personal opinion of the car referred above.

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