2020 Nissan LEAF versus 2020 Hyundai Kona Electric

Nissan LEAF and Hyundai Kona badges

We’re finally getting some mainstream electric vehicles (EVs). Tesla has pretty much owned the luxury long distance EV market with the Model S, X and now the Model 3. The range for these vehicles is well in excess of 200 miles, which other manufacturers have failed to match (with the exception of the Chevrolet Bolt) until recently.

Enter the 2020 Hyundai Kona Electric. With 238 miles of range, it’s now a contender in the long drive category. And, after a recent major re-do, the 2020 Nissan LEAF comes close to matching Kona in range.

We maintain that a car is a car is a car. It gets you from point A to point B, in a style that depends on your pocketbook. Whether the vehicle is powered by electrons or carbon, it’s still a car. You’re still going to need carrying capacity, great handling, responsive steering and brakes, and to live with it every day.

EVs are still relatively expensive. There are many advantages to EVs; fewer moving parts and no regular tune ups or oil changes. The brakes tend to last a very long time because almost every EV turns the wheels into generators while braking to recharge the battery. If you’re in a private home, charging can be a breeze. Simply plug it in at the end of the day and by morning you’re ready to go.

If you want a great guide to EVs, check in with our good friends at Plug ’n Drive, where you can test drive an EV and get all the facts you can ask for, all without the pressure to buy. 

Enough preamble. Let’s see how these two relatively affordable EVs stack up against each other.  We’ve chosen the 2020 Hyundai Kona Electric Limited versus the 2020 Nissan LEAF Plus SV + Technology Package to compare.

Dollars and Sense

These two vehicles are very close in price. They come with a high level of standard equipment, which you’d expect with at $40,000+ price tag. That darn battery is so expensive. The good news is that the cost of the battery is coming down every year. If you look at total cost of ownership, you’ll need to keep an EV at least eight years to break even over the cost of a gasoline powered vehicle. However, speaking as an owner of a fully electric vehicle and a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, once you drive one, you’ll be hard pressed to go back to gas only.

Hydro Quebec has a fun calculator comparing the cost of gas powered vs electric powered vehicles. It’s an eye opener. If you want your brain to hurt, read the McKinsey study on how EVs will catch up to gas powered vehicles in affordability in the very near future. And Forbes has a very straightforward article on the types of driving and use that will benefit an EV owner.

Now, for the nitty gritty.

Competitive Comparison: LEAF versus Kona

The LEAF has an Automobl Value Advantage of $4,200. If you look at the top features for LEAF, the Adaptive cruise control and Conditional driving autonomy (Nissan calls it ProPILOT Assist) are the main components of the LEAF’s win. Even the LEAF SV without the Tech Package has added features like backup automatic emergency braking, blind spot intervention and rear sonar parking assist. 

The question you need to ask yourself: do you want these types of features, or are you more predisposed to luxury items found on the Kona Limited. Leather seats, moonroof, more torque, a wireless charger for your phone are all items that you’ll touch and feel everyday with Kona. You can step up to the Kona Electric Ultimate trim level to get features like Adaptive cruise control, Navigation system and Rear sonar parking assist, but you’ll spend an additional $3,600 to do it. (We took a peek and the LEAF SV + Tech Package wins the Automobl Value Comparison against the Kona Electric Ultimate Package too).

How do these vehicles measure up?

Both vehicles have an interior volume of 92.4 cubic feet. But they distribute it differently. LEAF has a longer wheelbase, and we love a long wheelbase for improved ride comfort. LEAF gives up a lot of cargo area in trade for more front headroom. However, LEAF’s rear passengers benefit from more rear legroom than Kona.

The all-important total range comes into play. Kona has about 10% more range than LEAF, though this can vary by driving style, going up and down hills, stop and go traffic versus highway driving and temperatures. In addition, you can count on losing anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of your range in the coldest days of the winter. Fortunately, most EVs have battery warming modes to make sure you get the most range possible. Plus, if you’re in colder climates, you can crank the heat in an EV and melt the snow right off the windows before you pull away. The vehicle uses the power from your home, rather than the battery, until you’re ready to leave. You don’t even have to step outside to do it, just use the app on your phone to start the heating system. It’s not the best use of electricity, but it should be much cleaner than turning a gas powered vehicle on for an hour before you depart.

How to spend your electrons?

We’ll be seeing more of these kinds of affordable EVs in the near future from Volkswagen, General Motors and other manufacturers. Look at these as leading edge vehicles, rather than bleeding edge. LEAF benefits from almost a decade of development, and Hyundai and other manufacturers are catching up at a rapid rate. Do your research, compare the trim levels using the Automobl Comparison Tool, and confirm for yourself that you’re finally ready to take the EV plunge. 

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