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The Charging Point

Your one-stop destination for electric and hybrid cars

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An in-depth look at the Hyundai Kona Electric

The release of the critically acclaimed Jaguar I-Pace and the recent unveiling of Audi's E-Tron had many industry experts claiming that the electric car revolution was firmly underway and Tesla finally had bona fide rivals to contend with.

But in reality, both of the aforementioned models are expensive and will only be in reach of those with plenty of cash to burn on a new car, leaving the real revolution to the likes of the Nissan Leaf, Kia Soul EV, Renault Zoe and Hyundai Ioniq.

The problem here is real-world range and even the most potent 40kWh Leaf can only travel 168-miles before those batteries are depleted, which is enough to put off some EV-curious customers.

However, a 64kWh version of Hyundai's latest Kona Electric offers up to 300 miles on the new and more stringent WLTP test cycle but costs half as much as a Jaguar I-Pace. Too good to be true? We find out.

What is it like to drive?

The Hyundai Kona Electric comes with either a 39kWh battery pack, which delivers 135hp and a range of around 194-miles, or more potent 64kWh, 204hp variant.

It is the latter that we spent some time testing and like so many other electric vehicles on sale now, the instantaneous, 395Nm of torque that's offered equates to some seriously fun acceleration.

Kona Electric also boasts numerous driving modes that alter the throttle response and the level of regenerative braking that's applied. When left in Eco or Normal, it feels like a pretty normal, small-engined family hatchback, but Sport mode frees up maximum power for some zippy around town motoring.

However, Hyundai didn't set out to create a high-performance machine with its powerful electric variants, so don't expect rally car handling.

The low rolling resistance front tyres tend to push wide when hitting corners at speed and the steering doesn't offer a lot of feedback, but the battery packs add a lot of extra weight and that's to be expected.

But this model shares much of its underpinnings with petrol and diesel-powered Kona siblings, which means it rides well over the rutted roads of the UK, only flummoxed by the larger potholes and cracks.

It's also surprisingly quiet and comfortable for a car that costs just over £30,000 with the UK government grant included, with very little road or tyre noise leaking into the cabin.

It is only on long motorway journeys that the Hyundai really falls behind the additional refinement of an I-Pace or Tesla, with power from the motors ebbing away at 65-70mph and a lack of insulation and specialist acoustic treatment letting in a little wind noise, but it's still perfectly comfortable. 

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Does it scrimp on the creature comforts?

Surprisingly, it doesn't, and even Hyundai's basic 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system is refreshingly sharp and responsive to inputs. Plus, it is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Of course, the fully kitted Premium and Premium SE models see the price creep up to £32,795, but we think that's a small price to pay for heated seats, a heated steering wheel, leather trim, a reversing camera and a head-up display.

Premium and Premium SE models also sport an 8-inch infotainment screen with satellite navigation, live traffic alerts and a wireless phone charging pod in the centre console.

It is an impressive suite of equipment and one that is perhaps only let down by the general fit and finish of the cabin.

Some of the interior plastics feel a bit cheap, the digital displays and battery charge status indicator look naff, while the doors feel light, thin and rather inexpensive, but savings have to be made somewhere.

On top of this, the rear can feel a bit cramped for adults and at 332-litres, the boot is a bit on the small side for large families, but that comes part and parcel with the curvaceous crossover styling and our clan of three found it perfectly suitable for life's daily slog.

 

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What's it like to live with? 

We recently had a 7kW charging station installed at home but even that was only called upon towards the very end of our time with the Kona Electric.

Only those with mammoth daily drives will require regular plugging in, which takes around 9 hours with a home charging point, or 31 hours from a standard domestic plug socket.

Of course, there is the option to a 50kW rapid charging outlet when on the move, which will take around 75 minutes for an 80 per cent charge, but that will easily dispatch of a 400-mile journey with a single coffee break.

In short, it is very easy to get big mileage out of the Kona Electric with some careful driving and considered use of the heater, wipers, lights and other ancillaries but the truth is, we never had to worry about this.

Our week consisted of a fairly standard 40-mile round trip for work on a handful days, while daily excursions to the shops and journeys to visit friends were also undertaken without so much as a glance at the remaining range.

Hyundai also bundles in a plethora of driver assistance systems, such as Autonomous Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Detection, Lane Keep Assist, Driver Attention Alert and Lane Follow Assist, which make longer motorway trips a complete doddle.

Perhaps one area that Hyundai to address is a lack of connectivity in the form of a smartphone app, which would allow users to unlock, pre-heat or cool and check on charge status remotely.

But a specific heat function on the Kona Electric's bank of dials and switches gets the cabin up to temperature in an impressively quick time.

Verdict

Many dubbed the Jaguar I-Pace a 'game-changer' when it first launched and rightly so, it is an excellent car from an established manufacturer that finally gives Tesla a run for its money in the premium sector.

But when we look back at vehicles that helped bring all-electric motoring to the masses, the Hyundai Kona will surely be one of the names we reach for, as it offers so much bang for the buck.

A 65kWh battery that delivers 204hp, 395Nm of torque, a sub-8 seconds 0-62mph sprint time and a WLTP range figure of 300-miles for just over £30,000 is extremely good value for money.

Granted, there are a few areas where improvements could be made but this is a very good car and one that's likely to prove extremely popular with those looking to take the leap into EV ownership.

Score 8

Data

Power unit Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor + 104kW or 170kW battery
Transmission Single-speed 
Power 136 - 204bhp
Full economy N/A
0-62mph 7.6 - 9.7 seconds
Top speed 96 - 104mph
Weight 2,020kg to 2170kg
Electric range  194 - 300 miles
Emissions 0/km

 

One of the most accelerative cars on the road is also among the most relaxing. Who saw that coming?"

Read more Portrait of writer Dan Prosser