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All-new second-generation electric crossover gets distinctive new looks and a longer range

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The new Hyundai Kona arrived in the UK in late summer 2023 as a petrol, hybrid or electric crossover, as tested here. 

For the second generation of its popular crossover, Hyundai developed the EV first, the petrol and hybrid versions afterwards.

Aside from the standard heat pump, there's another winter bonus: the front charging port now has a heated cover, in case it freezes shut.

Focusing on the EV makes sense, because it accounted for 40% of European sales of the outgoing Kona, and that's expected to rise to 60% for the new one.

This generation of Kona is a bigger car than before, lifting it clearer of Hyundai's own Bayon and sitting it neatly between that and the larger Tuscon – so right in the firing line of competitors such as the Volkswagen T-RocHonda HR-V, new Toyota C-HR and even slightly bigger cars like the Nissan Qashqai.

The Kona Electric offers two battery packs: a 48.4kWh one with a 154bhp electric motor and a 65.4kWh one with a more powerful motor, at 215bhp. It's the Long Range model that we've so far tested.

Rapid charging is available 102kW, while the WLTP range is 281-319 miles, depending on the spec, or 255 miles typically.

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DESIGN & STYLING

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hyunda kona electric review 2023 003 bolt on

Hyundai has good things going on in its design department. Under design director SangYup Lee, there's an absence of an obvious family face, but all of its latest designs are striking - with the range really hitting its stride with the Ioniq 5 and Ioniq 6.

Mechanically, the Kona is a little less surprising. The first Kona was one of the first cars to use Hyundai and Kia's front-wheel-drive multi-energy platform, and the new one is effectively a development of that. Now called K3 and shared with the Kia Niro, it accommodates the petrol engine elsewhere in the Kona range and the big pattery packs required by the EV, plus the smaller ones of the hybrid.

 

INTERIOR

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hyunda kona electric review 2023 011 dash

The Kona Electric comes in three trim levels, the one pictured being the highest, Ultimate, to which a Lux Pack is added, although we suspect you could live without it: it gets plusher seats with preset memory, forward collision avoidance and a heated charging flap (which we're quite intrigued by).

We also like the felty seat materials. The rest of the interior is pretty good, too. It feels bigger than a car that's only 4.3 metres long. It lets big adults fit behind big adults and the boot is deep and long.

The gear selector is sited behind the steering wheel, allowing for a large storage space between driver and passenger The material choices are mostly fine, too. The brushed-metal-effect dash has retro budget-stereo vibes (not unpleasantly) and features quite a lot of proper buttons, and we'd forgive a lot of material choices to have these. There are around 30 of them; what a joy.

There's also a touchscreen, of course. A steering-wheel button can be configured to bring up the driver-assistance menu, where we think it's likely drivers will turn off some features, or at least their bongs.     

A word about one that you can’t currently disable: the eye monitor, which alerts you if you’re drowsy or not paying attention. In theory it’s a decent idea, but here it gives lots of false positives and pings with furious insistence for seemingly random time intervals if you, say, reach down to check the cabin temperature or look over your shoulder for a blindspot. This has to be in EU-bound cars from 2024, but the GSR2 rules say drivers can switch the system off and that, anyway, it only need sound for as long as it takes for ‘the driver to understand it’ – not for anything between two pings and 30sec-plus, as here.

The importer is talking to engineers back in Korea to clarify, because it’s thought it’s functioning improperly and a software update will sort it, so we’ve left the rating here unaffected by it. (It was also flagged on the Kona’s international launch.) But if it is working as intended, we'll be back to amend this rating, taking as many stars off the total score as one deems appropriate for a system that makes you want to take the bus.

 

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

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hyunda kona electric review 2023 022 cornering front

The Kona makes smooth and quiet progress, with easily metered torque from rest.

Hyundai has resisted the urges of some manufacturers to give its car acceleration that will snap your neck in half. The 0-62mph time is 7.8sec – as much as double some of the rivals like, say, the Smart #1, but it's none the worse for it.

The instant torque and easily measured throttle makes progress from a standstill swift and there's some involvement and engagement to be had from pulling the gearshift-style paddles behind the steering wheel, which vary the amount of regenerative braking that comes from the motor - from effectively freewheeling through to a system that means you'd rarely touch the brake pedal.

RIDE & HANDLING

hyunda kona electric review 2023 023 cornering rear

The Kona rides relatively quietly and smoothly – although because it's set up relatively softly, body control can be loose over crests and bumps, yet it can also feel lumpen over speed humps. But this is an electric compact crossover, after all, so one wouldn't expect too much more.

There's not loads here for the enthusiast, but neither is there in most of its rivals. It steers accurately enough and, bongs aside, is an easygoing car to lope along with.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

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hyunda kona electric review 2023 001 tracking front

In our experience with the Kona Electric so far, across two stints but not yet on one of our measured economy test routes, it has managed efficiency in the region of 4mpkWh, which is entirely reasonable for a crossover of this size. That should give it a range of around 260 miles in normal driving.

We haven't had a chance to charge it yet, our tests coming in two different short stints, but its maximum charging rate of 102kW is competitive, if not outstanding, in this sector. It's worth remembering, of course, that it's a peak and not likely a speed that the Kona Electric will hold indefinitely, especially towards the upper end of its charge status.    

VERDICT

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hyunda kona electric review 2023 024 static front

The new Kona Electric isn't as game-changing as the original was but, being roomy, well-priced and equipped for its price, it remains compelling in its market.

This is a good car with a good efficiency - provided that the driver assist's overreactions are on the blink. If it turns out they're working as intended, ignore the system's advice and look hard elsewhere.

Additional testing by Matt Prior

 

Sam Phillips

Sam Phillips
Title: Staff Writer

Sam has been part of the Autocar team since 2021 and is often tasked with writing new car stories and more recently conducting first drive reviews.

Most of his time is spent leading sister-title Move Electric, which covers the entire spectrum of electric vehicles, from cars to boats – and even trucks. He is an expert in electric cars, new car news, microbility and classic cars. 

Sam graduated from Nottingham Trent University in 2021 with a BA in Journalism. In his final year he produced an in-depth feature on the automotive industry’s transition to electric cars and interviewed a number of leading experts to assess our readiness for the impending ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars.