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We review the Hyundai Kona Electric 2018

We review the Hyundai Kona Electric 2018

27th August 2018

The Car.co.uk verdict:

4.3

The standard Hyundai Kona is an average small SUV – but the new Hyundai Kona Electric is something far more special. With a range of up to 300 miles, you’re witnessing the next generation of electric motoring – matched only by £70,000 Teslas.

If you’re in the market for a small electric SUV, your choice has just been made for you. The Kona Electric looks every-inch the rough and rugged little fashionable SUV, but it’s got a beautifully refined electric motor that seems to go forever. This is an extremely impressive little car that’ll fly off the forecourts.

Pros

  • An incredible Tesla-challenging range that defies the modest price tag
  • Popular SUV styling with attractive paint options
  • An almost endless list of excellent safety features

Cons

  • A less-than-exhilarating ride, thanks to the Kona’s enormous weight
  • One of the least spacious SUVs in its class
  • Slightly sluggish at working its way up to higher speeds

Looks

4 out of 5

Looks

A small car with all the most sought-after SUV details

The new Hyundai Kona Electric ticks all the aesthetic boxes needed to slot it into the increasingly popular ‘small SUV’ category. It has all the SUV details of the standard fuel version; increased ride height, chunky black plastic exterior trim, and roof bars – and it looks good for it. You’ve also got 21 colour combinations with the Hyundai Kona Electric new model – thanks to 7 body colours and 3 roof, pillar, and mirror tones.

The Hyundai designers tend to make their SUVs a little ‘busier’ looking than the competition – and the Kona Electric is no exception. It’s not as sleek or smooth as the Citroën C3 Aircross, nor is it as futuristically styled as the Nissan Leaf – but it’s got a rugged and genuinely tough look, helped by its scowling dual headlights and chunky, wide stance.

There are also a few nods that’ll pick the Hyundai Kona Electric SUV out as being a bit more special compared to the standard car. The closed grill identifies you as ticking another stylish modern motoring box – zero emissions – and the electric-only 17” alloys have a definite electric-concept-car feel to them.

Practicality

3.5 out of 5

Practicality

An incredible range that overshadows SUV shortcomings

If you’re in the market for traditional Hyundai SUV practicality, the Kona Electric will miss the mark slightly. This isn’t a full-size SUV with 4 wheel-drive and cavernous boot space; instead, it joins the likes of the Nissan Juke and Citroën C3 Aircross in the increasingly well-populated ‘small SUV’ category. Boot space is slightly reduced compared to the non-electric Kona, offering only 332 litres – and trailing other small SUVs significantly – with the C3 and SEAT Arona both around 400 litres.

Of course, when you’re dealing with electric vehicles, practicality isn’t just about how much you can squeeze in; there’s that all-important consideration of whether or not the range of the car is suitable for your needs – and when you look at the Hyundai Kona Electric’s potential range figures, all boot space grievances are forgiven. The Kona Electric is capable of a whopping 300 miles on a single charge – to give that some context, virtually every other sub-£30,000 EV offering manages about half of that.

Charging can be done quickly too – using a 100KW fast charger; you’ll get 80% capacity in less than an hour. That said, as fans of EVs are well aware; 100KW chargers are difficult to come by in the UK at the moment – however, with 300 miles of range, you’ll have no problem finding fast-charger-equipped services for a coffee break.

Engine and Power

4.5 out of 5

Engine and Power

An incredible new range benchmark for low-cost EV

The Hyundai Kona Electric has two power configurations; there’s a 39kwh battery powering a 135bhp electric motor – and a 64kwh battery that’s twinned with a 201bhp motor. The 39kwh offering claims a range of around 200 miles, whereas the 64kwh version is the one that reaches that incredible 300-mile range.

It’s important to stop for a second and fully understand what that 300-mile range represents. If you compare that to other EVs around the same price, the £28,000+ Nissan Leaf scrapes a 150-mile range in favourable conditions – and the same can be said for virtually every other sub-£30,000 EV. So, how much does that 300 miles cost elsewhere? Realistically, you’re going to need to part with £71,600 for a Tesla Model S, which highlights what a revelation the Kona Electric is.

Despite the 201bhp output, the Hyundai Kona Electric’s performance isn’t going to scare any hot-hatch drivers – the electric running gear sees to it that there are 1.7 tons hidden away in that small package, which is a good half-ton heavier than the standard Kona. The result? Well, the Kona Electric isn’t an exhilarating drive – but since all that power is available constantly, you might shock a few of those hot-hatches away from the lights.

Although the range is ground-breaking, the Kona Electric actually feels the most at-home doing short, nippy urban runs. It darts through traffic beautifully, and in a city-centre, when speeds are rarely higher than 20-30mph anyway, you forget you’re driving a car that’s not really capable of speed beyond double figures.

Reliability

4.5 out of 5

Reliability

A new model that’s underpinned by an impressive Hyundai track-record

The Hyundai Kona Electric’s 2018 release date means it’s a new model, and as such, there are no solid reliability statistics in place from driver studies yet. In the absence of reliability info, it’s worth looking at Hyundai overall to get a picture of what Kona Electric owners might come to expect – and it’s a positive picture.

Hyundai frequently tops, or comes top 3, in independent reliability surveys – and they’re not afraid to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to warranties either. The Kona Electric comes with Hyundai’s industry-leading 5-year unlimited mileage warranty – and a battery warranty that’s good for 8 years.

How reliable with the Hyundai Kona Electric be? Only time will truly tell, but if you’re buying one, you can be sure that Hyundai has got you covered; however that reliability plays out.

Onboard equipment

4 out of 5

Onboard equipment

A good range of options with no spec feeling left out

The Hyundai Kona Electric accessories list is very respectable and comes with the kind of kit that’s going to be popular with the small-SUV audience.

SE is Hyundai’s entry-level spec – and on the Kona Electric, it offers a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 7 inch TFT instrument cluster, steering wheel audio controls, as well as USB charging and connectivity. From a comfort and convenience point of view, SE also offers electric lumbar adjustment, auto screen defogging and auto headlights.

Bump your Hyundai Kona Electric specification level up to ‘Premium’ and you’ll get privacy glass, a larger 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system interface that comes with live traffic services, auto wipers, and a wireless phone charging pad that’ll remind you that you’ve put your phone down if you try to leave the car without it. Take a step up to ‘Premium SE’, and you’re reaching peak Kona Electric spec – including high-beam assist, full LED lights all around, a neat projected head-up display, and an array of comfort options; including electric seat adjustment, heated and ventilated front seats, and some nice leather touches.  

Premium SE also comes with an audio system provided by Krell Industries – which might not have the instantly recognisable name of B&O or Bose – but is many a hi-fi enthusiast’s brand of choice, and they do a great job of providing 8 superb speakers for the Kona Electic.

Interior

4 out of 5

Interior

Premium finishes and a smart, intuitive layout from Hyundai

When you climb on board, you’re met with a premium feel from the Hyundai Kona Electric interior. You can choose between black, or a smart looking three-tone blue and grey interior – both of which are available as cloth, cloth and leather, or pure leather. The centre console is completely unique to the Electric version of the Kona and obviously lacks any traditional transmission shift – replaced by a shift-by-wire selection of button presses.

The whole interior layout is intuitive feeling, and the infotainment screen is large enough to be easily used but doesn’t feel intrusive. The instrument cluster is created with a 7-inch high-resolution TFT screen – and presents the speedo, charge level, energy flow info, and driving mode at a glance.

Driver comfort has clearly been a focus for the Hyundai design team, especially on the Premium SE specification level. There’s 8-way electric adjustment plus electric lumbar adjustments – as well as 3-step ventilation options and 3-step heating options – both of which are becoming increasingly welcome in our changeable climate.

The drive

4 out of 5

The drive

Enlarge

The drive

A slightly underwhelming drive – but one that goes a long way

It would be an injustice for a Hyundai Kona Electric review or mention of prices to not talk about the absolutely incredible range that the car is capable of. Although the larger-range battery and beefier output motor aren’t available on the SE spec, even the 200-mile 39kwh version beats everything else in the class.

While the range is exceptional, the overall drive leaves a little to be desired. If you want a car that makes you feel alive, the Kona Electric isn’t the thrill-seeking ride you’re looking for. That said, with either 135 or 201bhp immediately available under your foot, you’re not going to feel sluggish driving around town.

The Kona Electric offers a fairly firm driving experience – but a great rear multi-link suspension set up happily absorbs all but the worst potholes any road can throw at it. The steering also feels firm, nicely weighted and direct – giving you a chunky little SUV that responds well to zooming around a town centre.

Some smaller SUVs can feel a little top heavy, owing to the greater ride height – but with nearly half a ton of additional weight from the electric drivetrain, there’s no body roll concerns in the Kona Electric.

Cost

5 out of 5

Cost

A smart little SUV that’s outstanding value for money

Before delving into Hyundai Kona Electric costs, it’s important to remember that the government issue grants for low-emission vehicles – and the Kona Electric very much fits the bill.

In fact, the Hyundai Kona Electric grant falls into ‘category 1’ of the government’s scheme – meaning it will drive at least 70 miles without any CO2 emissions at all. This means your grant will reduce your cost by 35% – up to a maximum of £4,500. The grant is applied at the dealership – so the prices quoted here, and in the showroom, already have the discount applied.

Hyundai Kona Electric prices start at £29,440 for the baseline SE – which only comes with the 39kwh battery. The Premium starts at £30,870 for the 39kwh powerplant – and moves up to £33,995 for long-range, 300-mile 64kwh battery configuration. Step up again to the Premium SE (which is only available with the 64kwh power option), and you’ll be paying an on the road price of £36,295.

The Kona Electric is a nice car – it probably won’t win any design awards, and it’s very unlikely to be the quickest or most exciting car you’ll ever drive – but frankly, this electric drivetrain with its outrageous range could be fastened to the base of a shopping trolley – and it would still represent outstanding value for money.

Safety

5 out of 5

Safety

The Kona Electric is packed tight with impressive safety features

Hyundai has left no stone unturned when it comes to making the Kona Electric the safest ride it can possibly be. In fact, they’ve packed so many safety features in; the car complies with the most stringent European safety standards.

To begin with, there’s the very impressive Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go – which uses forward-facing radar sensors to maintain your distance from the car ahead. If traffic stops, so do you – and you’ll start moving again when the speed picks back up. As part of the radar system, the car’s also equipped with Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist and Pedestrian Detection, alerting you to issues – and applying the brakes if required.

If looking out for you to the front isn’t enough, the Kona Electric also has smart Lane Keeping Assist technology onboard too. The system comes to life at speeds greater than 60km/h and sounds an alarm should you stray over the white lines or other types of lane indication. The Kona will apply corrective steering to help you hold the centre of your lane – or put you back on track if you’ve drifted to either side. Blind-Spot Collision Warnings also show a visual alert on your wing mirrors and make an audible warning if you’re indicating with a car in range.

If you happen to be reversing into potential traffic, Hyundai has got you covered too – with Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning systems that scan 180-degrees to make sure you have clearance. If the Kona Electric decides you’re driving when you need a rest (and it’s got pretty sophisticated ways of deciding), then it’ll suggest a stop too.

After reading this extensive safety line-up, you probably don’t need telling that this host of features and a full complement of airbags means the Hyundai Kona Electric has a 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

Why buy

4 out of 5

Why buy

Incredible range from an outstanding value small SUV

A significant new benchmark has been set by the Hyundai Kona Electric battery. Not so long ago, we were happy to see a 70-mile range from a Nissan Leaf – but that’s now considered inadequate. The Kona Electric pushes the boundaries of next-generation cars again – and it does it really well.

Inside the Kona Electric is a nice place to be, the finishes are high-quality, and the equipment is as good as anything else in the class. Outside the car, the Hyundai Kona Electric styling pack means those all-important SUV styling touches are there too, keeping you at the forefront of small car fashion – and, from a genuinely practical point of view, creating a car that can withstand the knocks and bumps of modern motoring.

It isn’t the perfect driver’s car – but it is comfortable, very able in around-town traffic, and incredibly safe. Sure, you’re losing a bit of luggage space – but unless you’re frequently stuffing your small-hatch boot to capacity, this isn’t likely to be a problem.

If you’re looking for an electric car, the Hyundai Kona Electric with its incredible £30,000 retail price and unrivalled range should be right at the top of your list.

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