While there are a couple of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles available, most notably the Toyota Mirai and Honda Clarity, there's just one manufacturer claiming FCEV rights in arguably the fastest-growing vehicle segment of them all, crossovers. Hyundai claims this honor, and for 2019 has replaced the aged Tucson Fuel-Cell with an all-new, bespoke FCEV dubbed the Nexo. Available only in certain parts of the state of California, the Nexo promises an EPA-approved range of 380 miles from a full stock of hydrogen. With no other FCEV crossovers, the Nexo finds rivals in the form of the Toyota Mirai and Honda Clarity and looks to put up a good fight with a 161 horsepower electric motor with 291 lb-ft of twist. It's big on tech and offers greater convenience than traditional EVs, requiring just five minutes to refuel, but hydrogen filling stations are few and far between and priced between $58,300 and $61,800 for the two trims, the Nexo is expensive.
The Hyundai Nexo is all-new for 2019, replacing the old Tucson FCEV with a bespoke fuel-cell platform, exclusive styling, and an all-new name for the Hyundai line-up.
See trim levels and configurations:
One of the Nexo's big points weighing in its favor is just how much it drives like a regular crossover. While the electric motor might not be high on power, there's a useable chunk of torque that makes it feel at home in and around the city.
Electrically assisted steering is now a staple for Hyundai, and while its no more feelsome here than it is in any of the other Hyundais equipped with this numb setup, it's suitably weighted for everyday driving, erring on the slightly lighter side of things that'll make it a firm favorite with those who frequently navigate tight parking lots. There's no huge amount of feedback, and at highway speeds, it's a little too light, but it's not particularly bad and most will be happy with its directness and the fact that there aren't any dead spots.
A particular strong point is the Nexo's braking, which outstrips the Mirai and Clarity by some margin, not just in the effectiveness of the brakes but in the feel of the pedal and the way the regenerative functionality is blended with friction braking. There are, as is the case with the Kona Electric, three levels of regen controlled by steering-mounted paddles, and the system works well overall.
The suspension is well sorted too, though nowhere near as sporting as the Kona Electric which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It rides well, cruises quietly, and absorbs large bumps and crunching potholes rather well. Body roll is kept to a minimum, and mid-corner bumps are dealt with without much fuss or dishevelment. It's yet another solid effort from Hyundai who is proving lately to be the king of exceptional ride quality.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
The Nexo is hugely compelling in a market where FCVs are few and far between. For the same money as you can buy a Toyota Mirai the Nexo not only gives you a popular, practical crossover, but it gives you a huge range, the convenience of a five-minute fill-up, loads of standard tech, and high levels of safety. Interior space, driving refinement, and a competitive price are further benefits, but the relative lack of hydrogen filling stations and the California-only availability of the Nexo are downsides that stunt the Nexo's practical usability. Still, if you're one of those that loves the idea of early adoption, the Nexo is without a doubt the best FCV available on the market.
There aren't many fuel-cell vehicles around, but it's these two that top the lists of the best available. However, there are differences. Honda leases the Clarity, while you can actually buy a Hyundai Nexo, with two choices of varying specification levels to suit your budget and desires, and with both trims comprehensively beating the Clarity for specification and luxury. The Nexo's infotainment is vastly better too, as is its 380-mile range. Not just that, but the Nexo drives better from a ride and handling perspective, and trades on the current fad of crossover styled vehicles, bringing with it the full-sized cargo bay of 29.6 cubic feet that simply decimates the Clarity's setup. The Nexo is the best fuel cell vehicle around.
Perhaps the Nexo's greatest rival comes rfom within the Hyundai stable, as the Kona Electric panders to the electric craze sweeping the world. While the Nexo offers greater convenience than the Kona from a refuel/recharge perspective, the Kona matches the Nexo for approcximate driving range. However, the Kona is smaller than the Nexo by some margin, and offers less seating room, less cargo volume, and less in the way of fancy features and innovative infotainment systems. But the Kona performs phenomenally - driving like a hot hatch rather than an eco-friendly electric crossover. However, what really seals things in favor of the Kona Electric is its nationwide availability, which we feel compensates sufficiently for the inconvenience of having to charge your vehicle overnight instead of stopping at a filling station.