Test Drive: Hyundai Kona Beats Chevy Bolt Even Before Exiting Hertz Parking Lot

Like most automotive journalists, I get the opportunity to test drive a lot of new vehicles. But sometimes a real-world driving experience presents itself and yields invaluable information. 

I was in San Diego this past weekend for a family gathering and spent four days in a Hyundai Kona.  

The Kona has a lot going for it, including fantastic mileage and a comfortable and spacious interior. I was surprised to find the rental car model I chose had heated seats and lane keeping, but was disappointed to discover it didn’t have adaptive cruise control. 

When making the reservation with Hertz, I deliberately chose an electric SUV with the hopes of spending more time in the highly intuitive Tesla Model Y, which I enjoyed driving last year. But upon getting to the Hertz Gold Member lot where the electric vehicles were waiting, there were no Teslas to be found. 

A Hertz representative told me that almost all of the Teslas in the San Diego fleet had been sold, which the company previously announced in January.  Instead, my choices were about 15 Chevrolet Bolts and a few Hyundai Konas. 

I haven’t test driven a Bolt in some time, so initially chose one after closely examining all of the options. I was disappointed that none appeared to have SuperCruise semi-autonomous functionality. What a missed opportunity for General Motors to expose thousands of rental car customers to the technology. 

After cramming our two carry-on suitcases and a computer bag into the small cargo area (where they barely fit) I settled into the vehicle and plugged in my phone via a USB cord. After fiddling with it for five minutes, I could not get the vehicle to pair with my phone, so I wasn’t able to start Apple CarPlay which I needed to use Waze, my preferred navigation system. 

I reluctantly moved our luggage to one of the Hyundai Kona models and quickly paired my phone and started up Apple CarPlay. Score one for the Kona!  The luggage also fit much more easily, so that was another point for the Kona vs. the Bolt. Sorry Chevy, hopefully the remodeled Bolt due out in 2025 will offer some improvements, although it also won’t support Apple CarPlay, due to GM's plan to stop offering it in its future EVs, which is a huge mistake, in my opinion. 

The four days included a fair amount of driving, so I found myself looking for a charging station on two occasions. Unfortunately the first ChargePoint experience was disappointing: The first charger I tried to plug into didn’t work. Once I moved the vehicle to an operable charger, the driver charging his Polestar EV next to me confided that he was frustrated with the charging experience and often had to charge late at night in order to find functioning chargers that weren’t already occupied by other drivers.  

Despite it being a “fast” 350kW DC charger, it took 36 minutes to go from about 35% to 70% capacity.  The second time I needed to charge, someone was parked at the fast charger, so I used a 100 kW DC charger but managed to go from 25% to 80% in 35 minutes. 

I tried to use a different more conveniently located charger for the second charge but it turned out to be in a park and ride lot which was occupied by a lot of people standing around outside their cars. I didn’t like the vibe so I decided to go back to the first charging station, even though it was out of the way. These are the kinds of experiences that consumers don't realize they are going to have with an EV, until they are having them. 

There weren't as many convenient chargers in suburban San Diego as I would have expected, which was disappointing. I had a much better experience last year with the Tesla SuperCharger network. Many brands have announced they are switching to that charging system in the future, which will be helpful. 

The Kona EV information screen gives the driver feedback on the closest charger, but to find other locations, you have to consult with an app. Hertz supplied me with a card with a QR code that took me to an app I hadn’t used before called Presto that offers info on chargers from various systems including ChargePoint and Electrify America. 

Earlier this month, the Kona was named the Vincentric Best Value in America winner in the Subcompact SUV segment. Vincentric Best Value awards are determined using a statistical analysis model that incorporates the current market price and total cost of ownership of all 2024 model year vehicles.

I would have to agree that the Kona should be added to more shopping lists for folks who are looking for a value without sacrificing amenities. 

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