17.11.2018Hyundai Kona Electric 64 kWh review
The Hyundai Kona Electric has a great specification on paper, and leads the charge from the mass-market EVs to challenge the driving ranges offered from premium models. We had a drive on the UK launch and were mightily impressed, but now NGC has a Kona Electric 64 kWh on test for a week to see how it tackles day-to-day life.
Review by Chris Lilly
The larger 64 kWh battery Kona Electric comes with Hyundai's more powerful electric motor, putting out 150 kW (204hp) to the front wheels. It's a good amount of power in a car this size, and you have to factor in the fact that a significant 395 Nm of torque available from zero rpm. These figures combine for a 0-62mph time of 7.6 seconds, which isn't hot-hatch quick, but it's not far off. Low-down grunt is available from almost all electric motors found in EVs though, and the benefit of a 150 kW motor over lesser-powered units is that it sits comfortably at motorway speeds. There is no sense that the Kona Electric is running out of puff at pace, and when you accelerate from a slip road on to a dual carriageway, the Hyundai will surge forward nicely within the legal limits. It's a very flexible powertrain, perfectly suited to urban driving as all EVs are, but also comfortable on open roads. The Kona Electric has enough pace to provide an enjoyable drive when pushing on, and the instantly accessible, digital nature of the power delivery and lack of gears means it's very easy to drive - whether you are pottering around town or stretching its legs on a fast A-road.
The Kona Electric might be capable of rapid bursts of acceleration, but don't go thinking this is a hot-hatch with a conscience. Instead, the Hyundai's set-up is softer, relying on the battery placed in the floor to create a low centre of gravity for stability. This allows a more supple set-up to proceedings than its non-Electric Kona stablemate, and also encourages drivers to pilot the EV in a manner that gets the best out of the car's potential range. There is little body roll when cornering, but hit a few undulations or a couple speed bumps, and there is certainly the sense that the Kona Electric has a relatively supple ride. It's not as though you will be driving on air, but for a compact crossover, where the norm is for a sportier set up, it's certainly a different - and welcome - approach. Grip is good considering the amount of power going through the front wheels, which are shod in low-rolling resistance rubber. It's easy enough to trigger the traction control with a boot of the right foot, but more normal driving style will see the orange light remain dark and unflickering. Since the wheels are pushed into the corners of the car, the Kona Electric proves an agile machine, and is easy to park. Placing the Hyundai in tight situations is no issue either, but you'll be thankful of the parking sensors and reversing camera when looking out the back, because of some fairly chunky C-pillars.
The Kona Electric is definitely part of the Kona family, but there are a number of differences to give the game away that there is no engine lurking under the bonnet. The closed off grille is the clearest indication that this is the electric Kona, though there are a few other tell-tale signs, such as the aerodynamic alloys and smoother chin, side panels, and rear section. I think it's a better looking machine than the conventional Kona, though it doesn't stand out as much, apart from those that appreciate their EVs. Essentially it's the same car as the Kona though in terms of practicality, as the battery sits in the car's floor, out of the way. This isn't unexpected, but also makes for the Kona Electric's biggest weakness - interior space. The boot isn't particularly large, and could only really be compared to smaller offerings from superminis. Rear occupant space is limited too, and sitting four adults in the Kona Electric with a bit of luggage is possible, but you will get a few complaints from those in the back over long trips. Leg and head room are the main limitations, with not much space in the foot-well to stretch into because of that underfloor battery. It's a relatively common issue with EVs, but the Kona Electric doesn't seem as practical as a Zoe for example, despite having a similar footprint.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Once in, passengers will benefit from comfortable seats, though they don't have high levels of lateral support. Covering long distances is no issue though, for those in the front at least, and if travelling with two adults and two children, there will be no issues in terms of space or comfort. The interior is in a similar vein to the exterior, looking broadly the same as the conventional Kona, but with a few significant differences. Hyundai uses buttons to select drive, park, neutral or reverse, rather than a gear stick or selector, which makes the centre console look cleaner. It's lifted too, so that pressing those buttons is easier, and brings a number of controls closer to the driver. There's a handy storage area beneath this floating control unit, but other than that, the standard Kona interior is used. The touchscreen system sits on top of the dashboard, and the whole system is cleanly designed, though not the most interesting cabin to look at. Buttons and dials feel nicely built though, and there are plenty of soft-touch materials on higher surfaces to give a feeling of quality within the cabin.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
This is where the Kona Electric leads the market. The official range quoted by Hyundai for the Kona Electric 64 kWh's range is 300 miles on a single charge, which is frankly superb for a car costing around £30,000. It's largely the same as the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla models, though they cost at least twice the price, and the Kona Electric certainly isn't half the car. In real world driving in a chilly October, the Kona Electric range averaged out at 252 miles on a charge, and that's despite the cold autumnal conditions and no effort to drive economically. After more than 700 miles in the Kona Electric, the average efficiency score according to the trip computer was 4.4 miles/kWh, for an indicated 280 mile or so range. The best figures I had - still in normal driving conditions it must be said - were as good as 5.1 miles/kWh. That's an indicated 320+ mile range, after more than 60 miles of driving in town and on open roads. I would be confident to say that a typical range for the Kona Electric would be about 280 miles, and that 250 miles is a conservative calculation, primarily found either when snow is on the ground, or when carrying out long motorway trips at speed. In practical terms, I completed a number of long trips with no issues over range at all. A family run to London Zoo from south east Wales only saw a couple of quick top-ups when we needed to stop anyway. The commute of around 100 miles meant I only had to charge every other trip, and there were runs to the Cotswolds, the midlands, and the Black Mountains, where I didn't need to charge at all, or only while stopped for the day regardless. It's a very usable range, and makes the Hyundai a very practical EV in terms of long distance travel.
The Kona Electric is not only the greenest model in the Kona range, but it's one of the greenest cars on the road full stop. It's an efficient EV - at 14.3 kWh/100km - even considering its crossover styling, and there are the usual EV features to help drivers make the most of the long range. Hyundai gives drivers a smart brake energy recuperation system, which allows them to alter the strength of the regen by using paddles on the steering wheel. Strengths range from coasting to strong braking, and if you hold the left-hand paddle, the car will automatically bring you to a stop in a gradual manner. It's one of the best regen systems around, and very easy to recoup a number of miles on a single trip. There are Eco and Eco+ modes to stretch that range out further, but to be honest, normal is efficient enough most of the time, and you get better access to the power available, while Sport is positively quick. The 64 kWh battery can be charged on Type 2 and CCS units, and will accept up to 100 kW on a rapid charger, when they come online. Charging timers can be set, and the car can be pre-conditioned, saving the drain on the battery. Heated seats and wheel means that you don't need to warm up a large body of air, rather you can focus on the driver, and a smart cruise control system helps drivers keep to a steady pace. There's driving coaching available from the infotainment screen, and a number of displays and functions to show charge points, range, and display an eco driving score. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 24.
The Kona Electric range is split between two battery sizes and three trim levels. The smaller battery models get SE and Premium trims, while the 64 kWh model tested gets Premium and Premium SE. All come well equipped, as is common with EVs, to make them better value for money considering the relatively high list price. The Kona Electric 64 kWh Premium SE model tested includes 17-inch alloys, leather trim, electric heated and ventilated front seats, automatic lights and wipers, climate control, high beam assist, cruise control, wireless phone charging, 8-inch touchscreen system with Bluetooth, DAB, USB, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, Krell premium stereo, multi-function steering wheel, regenerative shift paddles, keyless entry and start, parking sensors front and rear, reversing camera, and drive mode select.
The Hyundai Kona Electric is one of the best EVs on the road at the moment, and certainly the best value for money. The only fly in the ointment is that it won't be practical enough for some, but that only refers to its interior space. A long range, ultra rapid charging capabilities, comfortable drive, nippy performance, and stylish looks in a popular sector will be more than enough to convince many buyers. It's not only one of the best EVs around, it's one of the best compact crossovers too, regardless of powertrain options.
Model tested: Hyundai Kona Electric 64 kWh Premium SE
Body-style: Compact crossover
Engine / CO2: 150 kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades: SE, Premium, Premium SE
On-road price: Kona Electric range from £24,995. Price as tested £31,795 (inc. PiCG)
Warranty: Five years / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 5.0 Stars