Hyundai's small electric SUV looks set to trade some of its driving range and performance later this year for a lower price, according to new government documents.
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The 2021 Hyundai Kona Electric looks set at last to gain the 'short-range' 39kWh battery offered overseas, in a bid to lower the electric SUV's starting price in preparation for the larger, more premium Ioniq 5 mid-size SUV.

Since its Australian launch in early 2019, the Kona Electric has been available solely with the larger of the two batteries offered internationally, a 64kWh unit – but that looks set to change, with Hyundai homologating the smaller 39kWh pack for sale in Australia, under the provisional 'Eco' name.

While Hyundai Australia has yet to officially confirm the smaller battery for our market, it's thought it could join the Australian Kona Electric range by the end of 2021 – though it's unlikely the 'Eco' name listed in the government filings would be carried over into local showrooms.

Whereas the larger 64kWh battery offers up to 484km of 'real-world' WLTP range, the 39kWh unit's lower capacity sees the maximum WLTP range claim cut to (up to) 305km.

Performance also takes a hit, with the 64kWh model's 150kW/395Nm e-motor traded for a lesser 100kW/395Nm unit (on the front axle), extending the 0-100km/h sprint time from 7.9 to 9.9 seconds.

What the smaller battery pack and less potent motor lose in performance they make up in price, however, with mid-tier Kona Electric 'Premium' vehicles in the UK with the 39kWh battery retailing for £3250 (AU$6000) less than their 64kWh Premium counterparts, before government subsidies are applied – a reduction of around 9.3 per cent.

Apply that difference to the Australian line-up – which spans Elite and Highlander grades, priced from $62,000 to $66,000 plus on-road costs – and buyers could expect to pay around $56,000 before on-road costs for a mid-spec Elite model, equipped with the 39kWh battery.

Hyundai Australia could opt to introduce a cheaper, 39kWh Active variant to lower the price further, which could trade the Elite's 10.25-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, keyless entry, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and more for a circa-$53,000 before on-road costs list price.

A potential Active variant would bring the Kona Electric closer on price to other 'affordable' electric vehicles in Australia with similar 260-300km driving ranges, namely the $49,990 before on-road costs Nissan Leaf, and Hyundai's own $48,970 before on-road costs Ioniq Electric Elite – though the $43,990 drive-away MG ZS EV would remain the value champion.

The certification of a cheaper battery option for the Kona Electric comes just months prior the launch of Hyundai's much-anticipated Ioniq 5 electric SUV which, despite being larger, newer and packed with more technology, is set to be equally priced, or a touch more expensive than the 64kWh Kona Electric.

In the UK, prices for a range-topping Kona Electric 64kWh start at £37,200 drive-away, versus £36,995 for the cheapest Ioniq 5 – suggesting Australian Ioniq 5 prices could start below $65,000 before on-road costs, encroaching on the 64kWh Kona's price territory, and opening the door for the launch of a cheaper variant.

Stay tuned to CarAdvice for more details on the 2021 Hyundai Kona Electric 39kWh, as its rumoured Australian launch later in 2021 approaches.