How does the Kona Electric compare with its petrol-powered rangemates?
Armed with the larger-capacity 64kWh battery, the Kona Electric can cover 300 miles on a single charge (the cheaper model, with a 39kWh battery, has a range of 194 miles). The e-Golf, by way of comparison, will cover just 124 miles.
In that particular way, the Kona Electric is a bit like a purpose-built EV. But in another way, it's much more akin to an adapted electric car. That is torque steer. Flatten the accelerator pedal at low or medium speeds and the car drags itself left and right across the width of the road, recalling the sort of frantic on-boost behaviour that made certain performance cars of the 1980s and 1990s such a handful.
This handling trait is a very long way from being dangerous, but it can take you by surprise. It happens in every one of the Kona Electric's driving modes, too – even the most sedate Eco. Wheelspin away from the line is another problem.
It’s all to do with torque. The Kona Electric’s motor puts out 291lb ft of it, all to the front wheels, and does so instantaneously. The solution, of course, is to drive with a lighter right foot, but driving around a problem doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
The simple fact of the matter is the Kona’s chassis doesn’t feel up to the job of delivering close to 300lb ft of electric torque to the road through a single axle. In that sense, it's a bit like an adapted EV.
What's the Kona Electric like inside the cabin?
Feisty torque steer and wheelspin aside, this is a likeable car. Hyundai says it’s fun to drive, which might be a stretch, but there certainly is an eagerness to the chassis, a keen balance, even, that you simply don’t expect of a compact EV. It's far less flat-footed than the Renault Zoe, for instance. It also feels lighter than its 1685kg, whereas many electric cars feel conspicuously heavy. Below 60mph or so, the Kona Electric has a brisk turn of pace, which means you can zip past slower traffic quite happily.
There are some hard and scratchy plastics inside, but mostly it feels very well built. Interior space is pretty good, considering the car’s compact dimensions, which make it very wieldy around town.
There are four levels of regenerative braking, which you scroll through using steering wheel-mounted paddles, from one-pedal driving to none at all. Regardless of which mode you have engaged, the brake pedal is strangely inconsistent, dancing up and down beneath the ball of your foot whenever you apply any pressure. The steering, too, is afflicted by an unusual tugging characteristic just around the straight-ahead, as though your passenger is gently pulling on the wheel.
If you've decided that you want an electric car and the Kona suits your taste and budget, that small handful of unusual dynamic traits shouldn’t be enough to put you off.
The Kona Electric is that rarest of things - a compact electric vehicle with character.