Hyundai Kona EV Review Is It Unique in The EV Segment?


Electric cars will be come the norm in ten years but will the Kona EV be one of them?

Electric cars have been around for a long time now, but they’ve not really been valuable for many ordinary motorists. Hyundai claim they have one with the Kona EV, but do they?

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Transmission

The Kona electric is pretty easy to adjust to, the only really unfamiliar thing is the need to use transmission buttons on the center console, just like on an Aston Martin.

These ones though are for the single speed auto gearbox that all EVs have to have, you’ll need to adjust to these silence when you push the starter button too, and to what happens when you merely brush the accelerator to initiate forward motion.

Some of our colleagues in the media have implied that this throws the kona electric, off course, in a somewhat wayward fashion.

A bit like the torque steer on poorly developed hot hatches of the 80s, in which you could change lanes merely by stamping on the throttle. Actually that’s a huge exaggeration

There’s certainly no doubt that the front wheels of this car struggle to channel its prodigious reserves of torque to the tarmac, not helped by the feeble Nexen tires developed for low rolling resistance, rather than grip.

Nexen Tires
Nexen tires

But, all you actually feel is a slight pull on the steering wheel, and a brief chirp of these stability systems, as the Konar catapults itself forward with the kind of pace you’d expect from a powerful hot hatch.

Power Range

Like all electric cars it runs out of puffs pretty soon after, at which point, you realize that driving the car in this way is somewhat ridiculous.

Not least because the energy you’ve just pointlessly used is probably going to take an extra half hours worth of charging replenishment.

Driving Range

Just how much charging replenishment will depend, to some extent, on the version of this model that you’ve chosen.

There are actually two. the Kona electric range kicks off with a variant conforming to the kind of battery capacity offered by most similarly priced EV rivals, offering 39 kilowatt hours.

The main issue with the base variant though, is driving range. The quoted WLTP rated range reading for that entry-level derivative, 180 miles from a single charge, is actually very class competitive.

But it still pales in comparison with the 279 mile WLTP rated figure that’s claimed for the 64 kilowatt hour version, the one we tested, and the one that most customers will choose.

As we’ve said elsewhere in this post, that’s enough to make the Kona electric and everyday use usable proposition.

In a way that Hyundai’s other battery powered model, the Ioniq electric which has a WLTP rated range limited to just 140 miles, simply isn’t.

Energy Regenerative Process

You’re going to need to adjust to a slightly different style of driving to maximize the distance you can travel between charges, which primarily means management of the energy regenerative process that kicks in when you come off the throttle/

Like some other EV’s this one provides you with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. that allow you to either intensify, or reduce the regenerative braking feel. In this case through three stages.

Something we haven’t seen before on an EV, is any kind of system to autumise the regenerative process based on traffic flow. And that’s what this Kona’s smart regenerative braking system does.

It does this by using the safety system radar sensor to constantly calculate the optimum level of braking regeneration, based on the positioning of vehicles ahead.

When you set off in this Kona, it defaults to the auto system which delivers a slightly strange brake pedal feel, and what can sometimes seem like slightly abrupt levels of retardation until you adjust to the way the setup works, and learn to trust it.

We preferred to deactivate the smart system which you can do via the button on the right hand side of the steering wheel, and use the paddle shifters instead.

Kona Energy Regenerative Process
Energy Regenerative Process

Artificial Noise Warning

A more familiar EV feature is that for creating artificial noise to warn those on the pavement of your approach in urban areas.

This EVS button down to the right of the steering wheel activates the virtual external sound system in question. And it works at up to 15 miles an hour/

It’s not very loud, and would probably be drowned out on busier urban streets.

But at least it shows that automotive engineers are thinking of the possible dangers that battery powered vehicles pose to deaf or visually impaired pedestrians.

Given the speed at which this one can suddenly appear out of nowhere, rest to 62 miles an hour takes nine point seven seconds in the 39 kilowatt hour version, and just 7.6 seconds in this sixty four kilowatts hour variant.

Driving Vision

Around town you might sometimes struggle with rear over-the-shoulder vision in this car, hence the need for the standard reversing camera.

But maneuverability is as agile as it would be in any ordinary Kona, despite the absence of a sizable internal combustion engine. The car’s turning circle remains unchanged at ten point six meters.

Battery Packs

Get beyond the city limits onto twisting secondary roads, and you’ll be in territory where an electric vehicle would usually be far less in its comfort zone.

That’s because of the hefty battery packs they have to cart about EV’s usually battle big-time with weight, that means the need for firm suspension to stop the car from wallowing about through the bends.

Which means in turn, that you feel every bump and ripple in the road. This one has weight issues too, at almost 1.7 tons, it’s nearly 300 kilos heavier than a conventional Kona model, but Hyundie has managed that bulk much better.

Handling

First by spreading it out evenly across the floor pan, so lowering the center of gravity, and second by incorporating the supplier more sophisticated independent rear suspension setup you’ll only find on more powerful four-wheel drive versions of the conventional Kona.

It isn’t a perfect solution, you still feel deeper potholes, and sharper speed humps more keenly than we’d like, but it’s certainly an improvement on the EV market norm.

It also contributes to cornering composure at speed, that’s much better than we expected it would be. It’s just a pity that electric steering is so relatively feel free.

On the highway the relative quietness of the drive line means that you particularly notice tire and wind noise, and even things like the wiper motor and the ventilation fan.

The acceleration on offer starts to thin out very noticeably once you get beyond 65 miles an hour, a characteristic that could do with being set a touch higher to fit in with a more usual national limit.

Top Speed

Of course, you won’t often be approaching the top speed capability, or at least you won’t if you want to preserve anything like a reasonable driving range figure anyway.

But for the record, it’s 96 miles an hour for the 39 kilowatt hour version, and 106 miles an hour for the 64 kilowatt hour variant.

Driving Modes

Another way of quickly depleting or traveling distance between charges is to select the most urgent of the three driving modes on offer.

Sport, which gives you noticeably quicker throttle response and bathes the single instrument dial ahead of you in an orange glow.

You’ll try it once, then stay in the other two settings, Eco and normal for most of the time after that. Perhaps, with one eye on the energy flow graphic you can select to show you at any given time what’s being powered, or charged by what.

Route Planning

As in any EV there are lots of screen options to allow you to plan your route around your remaining available charge, or to engage in partly justified smugness and the extent of your eco friendliness in comparison to combustion engined travel.

The Kona delivers more where it matters. If you buy it you probably won’t ever replicate that 279 mile driving range figure we quoted earlier for the 64 kilowatts our variant.

But there’s the potential to regularly get in the right kind of ballpark between charges, which is what matters.

And what makes this the very first EV that many families will ever have been able to consider, for them the future starts right here.