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2021 Hyundai Kona Electric facelifted, but Model 3 looms large

John Law

Hyundai have given the practical Kona Electric SUV a going-over visually, while retaining its impressively high range.

Mid-life updates only sometimes result in a better-looking vehicle, but we reckon the redesign of the 2021 Hyundai Kona Electric is an example of a visual improvement for this small SUV.

The Kona Electric echoes some of the cues of the updated Kona SUV range but with some EV-specific touches, morphing into a wholly more sophisticated shape. With a number of new safety and cabin technologies added to the package, we anticipate the price to rise gently when the facelifted version arrives on our shores in early 2021.

Hyundai Kona Electric 2021 rear end
Hyundai’s Kona Electric receives a host of new tech features.

Unlike the previous version of the Kona Electric, which set new benchmarks in Australia for combining a fairly long range of 484km (WLTP) with a reasonably affordable price of $59,990 ($65,887 driveaway), the new car leans further into EV styling cues. Specifically, it’s ditched a faux grille entirely.

The facelifted Kona Electric carries over the same 64kWh battery and 150kW/395Nm electric motor, driving the front wheels only. DC fast-charging is possible at 100kW, allowing recharging from 10 percent to 80 percent capacity in just 47 minutes.

Hyundai Kona Electric 2021 charging plug
You continue to charge the Kona Electric via a front-mounted Type 2 plug.

The biggest problem for the Hyundai Kona Electric continues to be the existence of the Tesla Model 3 sedan. The entry-level Model 3 Standard Range Plus ($65,290 before on-road costs) is about five grand more expensive but offers 430km of range (WLTP).

As well as the new design, there have been some changes under the skin. Hyundai have added more safety features, all of which are crucial to retaining a five-star ANCAP safety rating. The refreshed Kona is set to arrive in the first half of 2021.

Hyundai Kona Electric 2021 interior
There are new displays in here – both measuring 10.25 inches in size.

A 10.25-inch touchscreen display remains with touch-capacitive shortcut buttons below, and there’s now an equally-sized 10.25-inch digital driver’s display – a feature also found in Hyundai’s smaller Ioniq electric hatchback that costs $48,970 ($53,363 driveaway) and delivers 311km of range on the WLTP cycle.

The revised Kona Electric also now lines the passenger footwells with ambient lighting, while rear passengers will also now enjoy a single USB port for recharging devices.

Hyundai Kona Electric 2021 side profile
The Kona bests the Nissan Leaf for value and range, but the Tesla Model 3 isn’t much more expensive.

Truth be told, most of the changes are outside, and are primarily limited to the front end. It’s cleaner than before, and still carries the out-there DNA of the rest of the Kona range, but further separates this vehicle from its combustion-powered half-brothers.

The new Kona Electric is also a total of 40mm longer than the current model, all of which has been added outside the wheelbase presumably to increase luggage capacity. Hyundai also claims the redesigned over-arches significantly reduce turbulent airflow through the wheel arches.

Hyundai Kona Electric 2021 front end
With a near-500km range, though, this small SUV EV appeals to many.

While the Kona Electric was never wanting for more safety gear, Hyundai has obliged anyway. Adaptive cruise control, lane-trace assist and AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection are joined by more advanced systems – things like safe-exit warning, rear-seat alert, rear cross-traffic assist, and blind-spot monitoring.

The Kona retains its 64kWh lithium-ion battery, which bests competitors like the Nissan Leaf hatchback that costs $49,990 ($53,190 driveaway) but offers a shorter 270km of range (WLTP) from its 40kWh battery. A Leaf e+ with a 62kWh battery and 385km of range (WLTP) is on its way to Australia, though this version has not yet received a price.

In Australia we only receive the big-battery 64kWh Kona, whereas buyers in South Korea and other markets also get a choice of a smaller 39.2kWh pack.