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Refreshed crossover EV is more serene in lower-power form and still a tempting proposition

What is it?

So quickly has the world of electric cars moved on that you’d be forgiven for thinking the Hyundai Kona Electric was one of the elder statesmen of the class. Yet it’s little over four years since it arrived as a pioneer with 300 miles of range and a compelling price to match. Good to drive, too.

The electric car market has boomed since and we’ve had arrivals like the Hyundai Ioniq 5 even within the firm's own stable showing the exciting next evolution of the electric car.

Yet the Kona Electric remains a very strong contender in the class and was recently given a raft of updates in order to keep pace with the fast-improving field. Two versions continue in the line-up: an entry-level 134bhp version with a 39.2kWh battery giving 189 miles of range, as tested here, and a more powerful, 201bhp version with the 64kWh battery that’s good for 300 miles of range. 

2 Hyundai kona electric 2022 uk first drive review tracking rear

What's it like?

The changes are minor to the Kona Electric we first got to know and mainly focus on the styling, giving it the ‘no grille’ look that many recent electric cars have adopted. Like many recent electric cars, too, it thus lacks a bit of character and a distinctive face of its own.

Not much has been done to the dynamics of the electric drivetrain, beyond some software tweaks, yet with this revised Kona Electric, we have the benefit of assessing it after the segment has evolved and indeed emerged at a fast pace. And it still holds its own very well indeed.

The more powerful, 201bhp Kona Electric had a tendency to spin its wheels up, such was the amount of torque (290lb ft) being sent through the front tyres, and their lack of grip. The less powerful model we’re testing was always less afflicted by that and it’s almost totally absent now after the recent changes. 

Power and torque delivery are far less sledgehammer; it’s still brisk, but much more drivable now. Only asking the tyres to do far more than is sensible, such as flooring it on a wet road with lock on, will break traction. And you’d be a bit silly to be doing that in the first place. 

The Kona Electric has three very distinctive driving modes: Eco, Normal and Sport. Power and responses noticeably increase between the three of them (Normal seems the best judged overall), as do the vibrancy of the graphics on the updated instrument display. Seeing the whole screen turn red when Sport mode is selected raises a smile and it’s a welcome dose of character into what is a functional rather than stylish cabin.

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There’s a good ride and handling blend in the Kona Electric. It’s all safe and predictable but still involves the driver. A sporty car it is not, but a well-judged one it is. There are no weird quirks or anything to spoil the generally comfortable, refined road manners, with the one area still ripe for improvement being the rather vague steering.

We drove the Kona Electric on a soaking wet, chilly day with the heater and heated everything blaring, and not with economical driving in mind, and got a 3.1 miles per kWh readout, suggesting a 121-mile range. We’d expect that to improve comfortably with more favourable conditions from past experience, as the Kona has been an electric car well capable of matching its official range in warmer weather.

Range is officially marginally better than before thanks to some new tyres that reduce rolling resistance, while the pleasing steering-wheel-mounted paddles remain to allow you to increase and decrease the amount of regenerative braking.

5 Hyundai kona electric 2022 uk first drive review dashboard

Should I buy one?

While it may no longer be the freshest-looking model in the class, the Kona Electric still more than holds its own against newer rivals and retains its excellent value-for-money proposition. After the £1500 government grant, this Premium version comes in at £30,300 (its £31,800 list price is below the £32,000 threshold for the grant), and if you drop a trim level to the SE Connect, it even falls below £29,000.

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Yet given the small adjustment in payments on a monthly PCP or lease deal, buyers are going to be (and really should be) more drawn to the 300-mile range of the 201bhp 64kWh Kona Electric. Its pound-for-pound value is stronger, even if it no longer qualifies for the grant, given its £35,050 list price in this Premium trim. 

That significant boost in range takes the 64kWh version into truly viable first (or indeed only) car territory and addresses the biggest issue of this 39kWh model, which is its range.

12 Hyundai kona electric 2022 uk first drive review cornering front


Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

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xxxx 14 April 2022

30k, about the same as a top of the range 1.0 3 pot Focus, if you're a 2 car family then why not. BEVs not looking quite so expensive now