Not content with only offering petrol and hybrid versions of its Kona, Hyundai has produced a fully-electric version to compete with the likes of Volkswagen’s ID.4 and MG’s e-ZS. With an entry-level Kona Electric offering a claimed maximum range of 180 miles and a higher-spec variant taking that figure to 300, there’s a Kona Electric to suit most lifestyles – and budgets. But does it suit you? Our review offers insight.
Hyundai’s Kona Electric was facelifted in 2021 with a smoother, simpler front-end design, which we like very much. It’s contrasting to the more aggressive designs employed by rival models, arguably matching the car’s approachable demeanour perfectly. This won’t be by mistake; Hyundai’s designers naturally have set out to make a car that appears as right for an electric vehicle newbie as it does someone with experience of the segment.
What’s it like to drive?
There are two main specifications of Kona Electric you can choose from. Starting with the entry-level 136hp car, where there is a 39kWh battery powering the electric motor, you’re given a nippy crossover. It’s smooth under power, rides really nicely over bumps and steers even better, with a very positive-feeling, enthusiastic nature.
The higher-grade car has a punchy 201hp that helps the car – powered by a larger 64kWh battery – surge forward with hot hatch-aping performance. It, too, rides nicely, and steers equally as well, only now you have a decent thump in the back when you exercise the motor’s muscle. Nice. Both versions though, feel outwardly relaxing to drive and eco-focused. We like that.
Emphasis on that focus is shown in the regenerative technology of the Kona Electric. This technology, common on electric cars, recuperates energy that’s normally wasted during braking, injecting it back into the battery. It helps to make the car more efficient, while also helping to reduce the workload on the actual brakes because of the resistance provided by the system. You can, of course, turn it off so the Kona rolls along like a normal automatic car. But we like using the tech, and suspect many drivers will.
It’s smooth under power, rides really nicely over bumps and steers even better.
The Kona Electric interior is, as you’d expect, based on that of the regular petrol car, but it gains a few extra features. They include buttons for the electric drive modes, so you can cycle through eco, normal and sport modes, which tweak the car’s character accordingly. You also get buttons in place of a traditional gear selector. But otherwise, it’s typical Kona, which is to say very good indeed.
Sure, you don’t get the plushest of materials as standard, but build quality is very good, while the infotainment system is crisp enough – if not class-leading in response. The seating position up front is commanding and the digital instrument cluster ahead of the driver is clear and well-illustrated. We especially like the wide range of adjustments offered to the driver, meaning people of all shapes and sizes can get comfy.
The seating position up front is commanding and the digital instrument cluster ahead of the driver is clear.
Practicality and boot space
The Kona Electric is largely like its siblings when it comes to space, barring one small change. The floor is ever so slightly higher, especially in the back, because that’s where the battery is located. That does remove a few millimetres of foot room for back passengers, but in truth there’s still plenty of space for two adults, or three kids on the back bench.
The boot also loses a small amount of space due to the storage area for the cables beneath the floor, but above the floor, it’s unchanged from the petrol car. We got three suitcases in no problem.
Reliability and running costs
The Kona Electric is a new car so it’s impossible to give a reliability verdict yet, but, given that Hyundai sells it with an eight-year or 100,000-mile battery warranty, there’s plenty of reason to think it’ll be a safe bet. That’s on top of the five-year, unlimited mileage warranty for the rest of the car. Not bad at all.
As for running costs, this will depend on where you charge your car. If you regularly plug in at home and charge overnight, when costs are typically at their lowest, you can expect to pay as little as 1.5 pence per mile in energy. Naturally, if you use a supercharger at a service station, that average cost will increase.
The charge times are competitive for this segment; Hyundai claims a 54-min rapid charge time from 0-80% in the 64kWh car with 100kW plug (typically at service stations). The claimed 0-80% charge for the 39kWh car is 50 minutes, because that car has a lower maximum charge rate of 50kW. Overnight charging on an 11kW domestic wallbox plug is about six hours for the 39kWh car, while the 64kWh car will need about 10 hours if it’s plugged in at home on a wallbox. That’s a fair rate.
Hyundai claims a 54-min rapid charge time from 0-80% in the 64kWh car.
What we love
The Kona Electric is a no nonsense, easy-to-like step into the world of EVs. It’s practical, nice to drive and good looking, while not being overly complicated or unconventional in style. For new EV drivers and practical crossover buyers alike, the Kona Electric makes a lot of sense.
The Kona Electric is a no nonsense, easy-to-like step into the world of EVs.
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The Hyundai Kona Electric isn’t a class-leader by any measure, but it is brilliantly rounded, with the sort of claimed range you can genuinely depend on. We like the way it looks, but our favourite thing is how this car drives. It feels quality on the road and tough inside, making it an ideal electric car for small families.
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