Tesla Model 3 vs. Hyundai Kona Electric

Virtual Showdown: Tesla Model 3 Versus Hyundai Kona Electric

  • The Tesla Model 3 and Hyundai Kona Electric are two radically different animals.
  • However, both are trying to knock down the barriers associated with EV ownership.
  • And both are affordable; both offer a lot for the money. And both are viable options.
  • Tesla’s Model 3 and Hyundai’s Kona Electric go head-to-head in this virtual showdown.

First off, a bit of clarification. Why in the world are we comparing the Tesla Model 3 with the Hyundai Kona Electric? The Tesla Model 3 is a sporty sedan that sits low to the ground, while the electrified version of the Hyundai Kona is a small crossover.

No, my eyes are fine, thank you. But if you think about it, how long did buyers have to wait for the affordable base version of the Model 3?

But now that it’s here, it’s only fitting to compare it with the Hyundai Kona Electric.

And yes, Hyundai managed to beat Tesla in the race to come up with an affordable EV, but not by much. Although, before Tesla had the guts to introduce a base Model 3, Hyundai created what could possibly be the best mass-market EV. With prices starting at $36,450 (before tax credits), it’s a relatively affordable roundabout as well.

Setting The Stage

The Tesla Model 3 is currently sold in three flavors. The base Standard Range Plus starts at $39,500 (before tax credits) and offers 240 miles of range. The Long Range trim is good for 310 miles and starts at $49,500 (before tax credits). The Performance trim has the same 310 miles of range (but a quicker zero to 60 time) and starts at $59,500. These prices do not include destination and other charges. Tesla has a tendency to change the prices on their vehicles, and it happens abruptly. It happened before, and it will happen again.

You can pay more or less depending on where you live too, so keep this in mind as we proceed.

For this virtual showdown, we are pitting the base Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus against the base Hyundai Kona Electric. Interestingly enough, the Kona EV is available in three trim levels (SEL, Limited, and Ultimate) but all are equipped with the same battery pack and electric motor. The Hyundai Kona Electric SEL has a starting price of $36,450 (before tax credits and destination charges).

Tesla Model 3 vs. Hyundai Kona Electric Performance Specs

Tesla Model 3: The Gold Standard

Production and quality issues aside, the Tesla Model 3 remains the gold standard for a relatively affordable EV. In fact, it is considered by many as the new age luxury car. With prices hovering below $40,000, it is seriously pulling on the heartstrings of the masses. It seems buyers are prepared to pay any figure (and deal with long wait times) in order to experience a Tesla, and I get that. However, if you can’t swallow spending more money to abandon a traditional gasoline-fed car, you’re not alone.

Tesla may be late, but the base Model 3 arrived with a vengeance. Making matters more interesting are the significant price cuts to the Model S and Model X. Some say Tesla is desperately seeking attention to sway the odds in their favor. In my mind, the company is fulfilling the final stages of the ultimate goal: to deliver a gorgeous, hi-tech, long-range, fun-to-drive electric car at the lowest price point.

Tesla is not without its fair share of detractors. And believe me, they are aplenty! When faced with such opposition, I repeatedly tell them the same thing: Tesla started the real EV revolution, and they deserve kudos for that.

Blistering Performance

For some people, paying upwards of thirty grand is still a lot for a new car. But for those who know, the price is nothing compared to the fuel savings and performance of the base Model 3. True to Elon Musk’s credo of creating an EV that’s fun to drive, even the base Tesla Model 3 will oblige the wishes of the heaviest right foot.

The base Tesla Model 3 (Standard Range Plus) uses a single electric motor and single-speed automatic to turn the rear wheels. It can rush from zero to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. The estimated range is 240 miles or 386 kilometers. Prices start at $39,500 but you’ll end up paying around $35,750 after tax credits are applied.

Model 3 Performance Red Static Rear
Tesla Model 3. Photo: Tesla Motors.

Minimalist Yet Modern Interior

What’s not to love about the Tesla Model 3’s minimalist interior? The dashboard is devoid of conventional buttons and switches. All you get is a 15-inch center touchscreen to control various vehicle settings and that’s it. It is obnoxiously hi-tech yet incredibly easy to use.

The glass roof bathes the interior in natural light. Yes, the base Tesla Model 3 comes with a tinted glass roof. There are two scroll buttons on the steering wheel that perform different functions depending on the chosen setting. The Model 3 has no conventional air vents, which further cleans up and unifies the design of the dash. The interior feels incredibly different and yet familiar at the same time. The Tesla Model 3 is no harder to use than a basic smartphone.

Exciting as it may sound, the arrival of the base Tesla Model 3 is not without compromise. The interior is a bit low-rent with cloth seats and manual adjustments. Not a big deal unless you’re that sophisticated, but the all-black interior is not to everyone’s liking. What I do like are those standard 18-inch aero wheels, however.

Model 3 Interior Dash Profile View
Tesla Model 3 interior layout. Photo: Tesla Motors.

Superior Practicality

The Tesla Model 3 offers the interior volume of a mid-size luxury sedan. It can seat five people and offers 15 cubic-feet of cargo space in the rear, with more space under the front trunk or “frunk.” If you need to carry longer items, simply fold the rear seats down for more room. Tesla managed to tick all the right boxes in turning the Model 3 into an everyday commuter.

With the Standard Range Model 3, you still get an impressive amount of kit. This includes maps and navigation, Bluetooth, and a basic audio system. Also standard is lane departure warning, forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, and collision avoidance. Enhanced autopilot is also available and includes adaptive cruise control, self-parking, lane keeping assist, and automatic lane changing.

Tesla Model 3 Charging Options

The Tesla Model 3 comes standard with a 32-amp on-board charger. Long-range models receive a 40-amp charger. Also included is a 20-foot mobile connector and plug along with a 120-volt NEMA 5-15 adapter; NEMA 5-15 meaning your common, everyday household outlet. Charging in this way provides roughly three to five miles of range for every hour of charging, although Tesla has a variety of other adapters that warrant more miles per hour of charge time.

But what makes the Tesla Model 3 superior than other EVs is the fast-charging or supercharging capacity. The Model 3 has a DC fast-charging rate of 170 miles of range in 30 minutes. This means you can get back on the road faster than other electric vehicles. The system is also designed to erase range anxiety, which is one of the biggest concerns in purchasing an EV.

Tesla Model 3 Versus Hyundai Kona Electric

Hyundai Kona Electric: The Evolution of Affordable EVs

It’s true. The Hyundai Kona Electric is not only a more gorgeous rendition of the Kona crossover, it’s the evolution of an affordable EV. Prior to the arrival of the base Tesla Model 3, the Hyundai Kona Electric was already on the list of the best and most affordable electric vehicles. Not because it’s a crossover or small SUV (which are desirable in today’s market), but the Kona Electric makes a compelling case to ditch owning a gasoline car in the first place.

I have to admit, the Hyundai Kona Electric is not as fast or as cool as the Tesla Model 3. But at this stage in the EV game, being fast or cool is only a novelty. In order for a mass-market electric vehicle to succeed, it needs to have three main things: long range, easy charging, and an affordable price. All other things (like speed and the “cool factor”) are just a bonus.

With that being said, the Hyundai Kona Electric seems to be hitting the right spots.

Hyundai Kona Electric
Hyundai Kona Electric. Photo: Hyundai Motor America.

Superb Performance

The Hyundai Kona Electric is motivated by a single, permanent magnet synchronous AC motor rated at 201 horsepower and 290 lb-ft. of torque. This is enough to propel the Kona Electric from zero to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds, slower than the base Tesla Model 3. That’s not too bad if you think about it, since the Hyundai Kona Electric is a crossover rather than a sedan. However, speed is only a small part of the equation.

What really makes the Hyundai Kona shine is the 64 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, good for an EPA-estimated range of 258 miles. It tops the Jaguar I-Pace (234 miles) and the Chevrolet Bolt EV (238 miles), and more importantly, it outlasts the base Tesla Model 3!

In this regard, the Tesla Model 3 is clearly outclassed by the Hyundai. This is how the Kona Electric is breaking the barriers to EV ownership. It offers a longer range than comparably-priced alternatives, and is realistically more affordable in the real world.

Sporty Driving Feel

Despite having a less powerful electric motor than the Tesla Model 3, the Hyundai Kona Electric makes use of clever engineering to deliver a sporty feel. The battery pack sits low in the floor. It shifts the center of gravity 3.6 inches lower to the ground than a conventional, gasoline-powered Kona. This gives the Kona Electric the handling characteristics of a car, most especially in Sport mode.

The Hyundai Kona Electric is also equipped with regenerative braking. There are paddles behind the steering wheel that adjust the regen settings. This feature allows for true one-pedal driving, which is more fun than it actually sounds.

Hyundai Kona Electric 1
Photo: Hyundai Motor America.

Practical Interior

The Hyundai Kona Electric is a five-seat crossover. However, since it is based on the gasoline version of the Kona, you can expect a cramped back seat with less cargo room than the Tesla Model 3. But since the Kona Electric is only 164.6 inches long, this is not exactly a deal breaker.

And while the interior of the Kona Electric is still home to an array of buttons and switches, it doesn’t look or feel as hi-tech as the minimalistic dashboard in the Tesla Model 3. Then again, this is not a bad thing. If you want to familiarize yourself with the controls in the Hyundai Kona Electric, you can do so without getting lost in a sea of menus and sub-menus.

In truth, the interior of the Hyundai Kona Electric is no different from the gasoline model, save for the omission of a conventional shift lever. It is now replaced with buttons to engage Park, Neutral, Reverse, and Drive.

The Hyundai Kona Electric SEL comes with LED daytime running lights, a seven-inch touchscreen display and seven-inch gauge cluster; LED taillights, heated front seats, automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Not bad for a base price of $36,450 (before tax credits), right?

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric Interior
Hyundai Kona Electric interior layout. Photo: Hyundai Motor America.

Hyundai Kona Electric Charging Options

The Hyundai Kona Electric is equipped with a 7.2 kW AC on-board charger. It juices up the 64 kWh battery pack in approximately 10.5 hours with a 240-volt outlet. The vehicle also supports DC fast-charging using Hyundai’s SAE Combo Charging System (CCS). It can fast-charge the battery pack in just 45 minutes. However, the fast-charging CCS system is not as common as Tesla’s supercharging network. This gives the Hyundai Kona Electric a disadvantage in long-distance and cross-country driving.

Tesla Model 3 Versus Hyundai Kona Electric: The Verdict

This is a tough one. While I’m all high praises for the styling, performance, and driving feel of the Tesla Model 3, it’s hard to ignore the value proposition of the Hyundai Kona Electric. I believe Tesla is in a conundrum. It feels like the company is shooting itself in the foot with the base 240-mile Model 3. In order for it to be great, it needs to have more than just a lower price. It needs to have an upgraded battery pack to match or surpass the range of the Hyundai Kona Electric, and other similar EVs already on the market.

Sadly, that’s not the case. Good move, Hyundai. We don’t have official figures yet on the base Model 3’s battery capacity, but Hyundai managed to up the stakes even before the base Model 3 came to fruition. If you want a Tesla Model 3 with at least 300 miles of range, you’ll need to choose the long-range model, which starts at $49,500 (before tax credits). Your range will increase and your zero to 60 time will be faster, but that dollar figure is not exactly classified as affordable.

I’m not hiding the fact the Tesla Model 3 is the superior vehicle in this comparison, but make no mistake about the Hyundai Kona Electric. It remains a brilliant choice if you need a longer-range electric crossover.

Alvin Reyes is the Associate Editor of Automoblog. He studied civil aviation, aeronautics, and accountancy in his younger years and is still very much smitten to his former Lancer GSR and Galant SS. He also likes fried chicken, music, and herbal medicine. 

Photos & Source: Tesla Motors, Hyundai Motor America.

  1. Great article comparing features for the purpose of purchasing trade-offs. I am a bit old school, so prefer the Kona dash, Heads Up Display, and some knobs for such things as volume and tuning.

    A few corrections please. OK, the Kona has a 64 kWh battery, not 67. The on-board Level 2 7.2 kW charger accepts 240 VAC, not 120 V. It does come with a level 1 charger for 120V charging, but a complete recharge using that 120V cord found in the tire well will take most of a couple of days, I believe, for a complete recharge. Also, the Level 2 charging uses a CCS plug, not CSS. The DC Fast Charge time at the most powerful level of 150 kW will charge the battery to 80% in under 30 minutes. Please make a note in future articles that the Electrify America network of chargers are going in with the 150 kW level capable!

    1. I also noticed the Tesla charging paragraph has errors. Please check your units. I think it gets about 5 miles per kWh, but this is not an indication of charging speed. If it charged at 5 miles per hour, 240 miles would take two full days! You talk about the Kona having regenerative braking. All hybrids and ev’s have used regenerative braking for the last couple of decades, but only recently has the driver been able to drive one-footed by adjusting the regen to an aggressive level, as both cars allow.

        1. So, using the Tesla 120V charger takes 80 hours, more than 3 full days. Thanks for checking.

    2. Hey Bruce, thank you for pointing out the typos/errors. With all the numbers and figures that need to be considered, it’s never easy to write about EVs in general.

  2. Nice comparison!
    We have our first EV – the Kona SE Premium (top of UK range) – I am astonished at this vehicle!
    The range is genuine – I rumbled 500 miles around the Cambrian Mountains in Wales for a long weekend, and it was just superb!
    I also like a few buttons – more usable on the move than a touch screen for quickly changing stations, popping a/c on, turning on our cooled (& heated!) seats etc. Menu subsystems can be challenging whilst driving, albeit I do recognise the Tesla ones are perhaps the finest in the industry(?)
    Rear seat space & boot space are not massive, but our use case is mostly 2 of us, occasionally 4, & if we really have to lug lots about, we still have an ICE XC60.

    In summary – I would love the ‘kudos’ of owning a Tesla, but I think Hyundai have really hit the spot at a far better price-point with the Kona EV!

  3. Tesla deserves full credit for driving the electric car market to the point where everyone is finally jumping in with genuine daily-driver type vehicles…of course as I say this only Tesla, Hyundai, Kia (Hyundai owned), Nissan, and Chevrolet actual have electric cars on the lot ready to drive.
    To my mind, Tesla is more about the R&D of electric cars. The company has advanced electric vehicles far beyond where the EV1 was, but (and there’s always a but isn’t there), Tesla is less about consumer support AFTER the sale than is Hyundai. That’s the entire reason I waited for the Kona EV to arrive. I can afford a Model 3, or even a Model S if I so choose, but with all cars – especially cutting edge electrics, the backing of a gargantuan conglomerate that has spent the last 25 years fighting tooth & nail to wedge itself into a market that savages even the slightest misstep is a primary part of being an “early adopter”. Hyundai set out three decades ago to validate its product by working to improve build quality, reliability, and market penetration, and one of the ways it has done it is by offering the best warranty protection in the industry. Now that might not sound like so much, but Hyundai didn’t stop there – with just the numbers on paper, Hyundai made it so owners can drive up with a warranty issue and be treated like they’ve just driven in an expensive luxury supercar. The customer’s issue is never dismissed by surly techs, nor even questioned as “valid” in any way. This is NOT how other auto makers deal with warranty coverage as I have gleaned from listening to owners of other brands – including and especially Toyota, Honda, and others. This is why I have owned Hyundai vehicles exclusively for over 20 years and I’ve yet to be disappointed in the quality and reliability of any Hyundai – which means I’ve had very few issues that needed to be sorted out under warranty, but when I have taken a car in for a minor issue (as all have been), they greeted me like I was the most important customer they ever had! And not just “this” dealer, but every Hyundai dealer I’ve purchased from!
    So I waited for the Kona electric – not because I even cared really if it could “beat” the Tesla Model 3 in any particular performance area, but because I buy cars to DRIVE and I have no interest in a car that ends up needing frequent trips to repair facility, or having to deal with 3rd party repair facilities. The warranty on my Hyundai battery states, “Lifetime”. With other car makers I wouldn’t believe that if they sent a letter directly from Bejing, but with Hyundai I BELIEVE they’ll stand by their product in the highly unlikely event it ever needs it!
    This is something NEVER included in reviews of ANY car, of ANY brand, but should be…and I don’t mean asking the manufacturer, or directly polling consumers known to prevaricate for a product they’ve had problems with because they don’t want to admit they brand they chose had problems. The only way to “know” this is to be the proverbial “fly on the wall” when everyday people are discussing all their various car problems and discover how many Toyota owners are truly disaffected by both their car and the poor treatment they receive from the dealer…same for Honda, and certainly BMW (a brand I would NEVER buy for any amount of money).
    I bought my Kona electric in March of 2019 and now have almost 13,000 daily driven miles without a hitch. The Kona electric is fast, yet equally frugal and I routinely average 4.2-4.5 miles per kWh, though driving exclusively surface streets with plenty of stop-and-go, the Kona will easily exceed 5.5 miles per kWh and once I even averaged 5.9. I’ve seen the 100% SOC show 310 miles available range – how’s that for a car that’s EPA rated to 258!
    So far I haven’t had the opportunity to test the Kona’s warranty…not much to go wrong and service to date consisted of rotating the tires and replacing cabin air filters.

    1. @Randy.
      Thanks for these comments, I’m also very interested in the support.
      And if you know, about the cabin air filter:
      Is this filter for:
      a) large particulate (i.e., non-HEPA); or
      b) high peformance for small particulate (HEPA)

      And, does it also include a carbon filter for gases.


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