Hyundai Kona Electric review
The Hyundai Kona Electric isn’t the first electric SUV; that accolade fell to its Korean stablemate the Kia Soul EV. It’s a much more exciting proposition than the Kia, though, and one that really takes the fight to established electric cars like the Nissan Leaf, BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf, not to mention the Kia e-Niro that shares the Kona's platform, battery tech and impressive range.
The regular Kona is part of the burgeoning compact SUV class, which means it adopts something of the style of a chunky off-roader while offering the easy-driving practicality of a small family hatchback. In truth, against a roster of rivals that includes the Citroen C3 Aircross, SEAT Arona, Nissan Juke and Renault Captur, a petrol or diesel Kona isn’t a very inspiring choice.
But we’re talking here about the Kona Electric, the electric version of the standard car that’s notable for two rather exciting reasons – a potential range of 279 miles (180 miles in the cheapest variants), and a price that starts at under £28,000 once the government’s plug-in car grant is factored in.
Trim levels aside, there are two versions of the Kona Electric depending on how much range and power you want – or can afford. The SE is only available with a 39kWh battery and 134bhp motor, while with the mid-range Premium, you can upgrade (for £4,000) to a 64kWh battery and 201bhp electric motor. The top-spec Premium SE is only offered with the more powerful battery and motor, which is what you need for that eye-catching 279-mile range. That said, even the smaller battery offers 180 miles.
The downside of a big battery is longer charging times. If you use the basic domestic charging cable supplied with the Kona Electric plugged into a standard three-pin socket in your house or garage, the 39kWh battery will take 19 hours to charge to 95%. The 64kWh battery will take more than 30 hours, which is why Hyundai expects most owners to install a faster wallbox charger at home.
With a 7.2kW supply, charging times come right down to a bit more than six hours and a bit less than 10 hours for the two battery variants respectively. If you want to drive longer distances, you’ll likely be using rapid-charging stations at motorway services, and these can give the Kona Electric an 80% top-up in either an hour or 75 minutes, again depending on which battery you’ve got.
So which spec should you go for? All trim levels are well equipped, with 17-inch alloys, roof rails, adaptive cruise control, electric windows and a seven-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth smartphone connectivity, as well as a comprehensive safety package, so even the entry-model SE is a fine choice.
But we recommend the bigger battery available in the Premium, which also comes with sat nav, a slightly bigger touchscreen, wireless phone charging and a few more active safety features including blind-spot monitoring. The Premium SE adds luxuries like a head-up display to project vehicle and route info on the windscreen in front of the driver, as well as LED headlamps and leather seat facings.
On the road, the Kona Electric feels similar to its internal-combustion siblings, which means it’s not much fun to drive, but never less than competent. The electric version is more relaxing as it’s so quiet, and you don’t have the hassle of changing gear, but the considerable extra weight makes itself felt on twisty roads and when you’re accelerating. The more powerful version is said to cover 0-62mph in just 7.6 seconds, but it never feels like a hot hatch, and top speed is 104mph. The ride is comfortable though, which helps add to the relaxing feel of the car.
From a practicality perspective, the Kona isn’t as spacious or well thought-out as some of its rivals (notably the Kia e-Niro) and the boot may feel pretty small to some users – or indeed anyone who looks in the back of a SEAT Arona. But the Kona is just about big enough to manage a family of four, and it has a good safety package too.
For a more detailed look at the Hyundai Kona Electric, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.