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Comparison: 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric vs 2019 Kia Niro EV

Why, you may ask yourself, are we pitting against one another two vehicles that are almost identical. Well, the exercise serves precisely to verify if they really are the same, and to help determine if one has the edge.

For sure, though, these two cousins are from the same mold. They use the same kind of battery and same infotainment system and cost about the same price. Wish us luck.

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric

Photo: Hyundai

Already a resounding success in its gasoline-engine version, the electric Kona with its 415 km range has quickly conquered consumers open to the idea of going electric. So much so that it’s difficult to find one at a dealership because demand is strong and supply unable to keep up.

Its starting price of nearly $46,000 is more than double that of the gasoline-fed Kona, but is no higher than comparable electric models. The Kona Electric’s battery powers a front-mounted engine with an output of 201 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque.

Available in Preferred and Ultimate versions, the Kona comes with standard equipment including 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights and taillights, heated side mirrors, blind spot warning with lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert, variable intermittent front wipers, intermittent rear wiper, heated front seats, cloth upholstery, 6-way manual adjustable driver's seat, 6-speaker audio system with 7-inch touchscreen and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Also included are leather-trimmed steering wheel and shifter, automatic climate control, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, forward collision warning with avoidance assist, driver attention warning, heated steering wheel, digital instrument cluster display, passive keyless entry, electric parking brake and rear parking sensors.

The Ultimate trim adds LED headlights with active cornering lights, rain-sensing wipers, leather upholstery, eight-way power driver's seat with lumbar, ventilated front seats, head-up display, 8-inch infotainment display with navigation, eight-speaker stereo, wireless smartphone charging, sunroof, auto-dimming rearview mirror, garage door opener, LED interior lighting, front parking sensors and automatic high beams.

Photo: D.Boshouwers

Aside from the comprehensive equipment, the Kona is not the physically appealing creature. One wonders at the need for a front grille seemingly pulled from the props room of a sci-fi movie. In this respect the Niro EV is visually closer to a normal car.

On the road, meanwhile, there’s not much to report, the drive it delivers is solid, quiet and pleasant.

2019 Kia Niro EV

Photo: D.Boshouwers

Kia was the second manufacturer to offer the same vehicle in three different green formulas… after sister company Hyundai (with its IONIQ). Thus the Niro is available in hybrid, plug-in hybrid and 100% electric versions. It’s the last of these we’re pitting against the Kona Electric.

As mentioned, this is a very close relative of the Kona; we find the same battery power with 64 kWh, though from a different supplier than Hyundai uses. The official range is 385 km instead of 415 in the case of the Kona, probably due to the slight added weight - the Kona tips the scale at 1685 kg while the Niro is at 1764 kg.

Comparable equipment
Like the Kona, the Niro EV benefits from state-of-the-art technology with the same 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, back-up camera and parking assist, standard premium harman/kardon 8-speaker audio system and USB port and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

There’s more, including wireless smart phone charging, Bluetooth wireless connectivity with voice recognition, electronic stability control system, hill start assistance, forward collision warning, advanced front-end collision avoidance assistance, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, blind spot collision warning, warning driver attention, intelligent cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, serial parking distance warning, etc ...

Photo: D.Boshouwers

More fun to drive
The Niro EV, again like the Kona (I told you they were very similar), offers four drive modes - Eco, Normal, Sport and Eco+. Each one adjusts the regenerative braking level, heating and cooling settings, and even speed limits to help you effectively manage the vehicle. In Eco+ mode, the performance parameters include a more-aggressive braking and all the systems keep their energy to the maximum.

Where the Niro is different from the Kona is in its interior presentation that’s a little more unobstructed, leaving more space to passengers and luggage. While the Kona offers 544 litres of cargo space behind the second row, the Niro offers 629 litres. The difference is even greater if you fold down the seats, when you get 1,296 litres in the Kona and 1,804 in the Niro, or a substantial 50% more.

Advantage Hyundai Kona Electric

In theory, the 415 km of range surpasses the 385 the Niro EV officially offers. However, we managed to squeeze more than 410 km on a full charge from the Niro. So this advantage is exactly that, theoretical, but for those who value statistics, Kona offers a slight advantage. The base Kona Electric is also slightly better equipped than a base Niro EV.

Advantage Kia Niro EV

In terms of available space, driving position and interior design, a slight plus for the Niro, which also comes with heated rear seats in its high-end trims, not found in the Kona. If you’re looking for a fully equipped model, you’ll get more for your money with the Niro.

Similarities

As for the asking price, at the starting line the two models are mere dollars apart. Styling is not the foremost quality of either of these models, so it’s not like one casts a shadow over the other. The infotainment and connectivity systems are also the same.

Verdict

While the race is extremely tight, we give the Niro EV the nod in a photo finish, mainly because of its slightly more-generous interior space and cargo and its styling that is closer to a regular car, as well as the driving position, slightly superior. A victory eked out by a hair, we repeat, because you won’t make a bad deal opting for the Kona Electric. But since a tie was not an option for our editors, we hail the Niro, in a squeaker.

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric

We like

Quiet cabin
Range

We like less

Not roomy enough
Styling is not the best quality
No 4WD version

2019 Kia Niro EV

We like

Lots of standard equipment
Good cargo space
Good range

We like less

No 4WD version
Not the most stylish either

Specifications

... 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric2019 Kia Niro EV
 TransmissionAuto 1 vitAuto 1 vit
 DrivetrainFWDFWD
    
 Consumption (city)16.2 kWh16.2 kWh
 Consumption (highway)19.3 kWh19.3 kWh
    
 Engine  
 TypeElectricElectric
 Output201 hp201 hp
 Torque290 lb-ft290 lb-ft
    
 Capacities  
 Cargo Space544 L, 1,296 L635 L, 1,789 L
 Range415 km385 km
    
 Dimensions  
 Length4180 mm4355 mm
 Width1800 mm1805 mm
 Height1570 mm1545 mm
 Wheelbase2600 mm2700 mm
    
 Warranty5 yr/100,000 km5 yr/100,000 km
    
 Pricing$44,999 to $51,999$44,995 to $53,995
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    

 

Photo: D.Boshouwers