From £24,9958
Ground-breaking, high-spec electric car offers 300 miles of range for less than £32,000
Jim Holder
26 September 2018

What is it?

A Hyundai to shout about? Why not? The continued rise of Hyundai has been one of the success stories of modern car making.

The transformation from value-driven mass-market car maker should now be well established in your mind. Bolstering its reputation in your grey matter should be the likes of the world’s first mass-market hydrogen-powered car, the ix35 FCV, and the i30 N, a standout hot hatch in a fiercely competitive market.

In very different ways, both are genuine game changers. And now Hyundai has a third car that, on paper at least, moves a game on, and this time it's the battery-electric one.

How so? Quite simply, because the Kona Electric is claimed to rewrite the range versus cost equation that has so dogged the early EV debate.

For just under £32,000, this 64kWh model promises a maximum potential range of 300 miles on official test cycles, all wrapped in an on-trend crossover bodyshape. On the fastest charge, its battery can go from 0-80% charge in 54 minutes. It’s worth noting, too, that lower-range, lower-cost versions are available.

On those criteria alone, the Kona Electric has earned something of a reputation as a half-price Jaguar I-Pace (although you might add the Tesla Model X and soon the Audi E-tron and Mercedes EQC to the list). That’s some pretty tough company to keep, so can it live up to its lofty billing?

What's it like?

The Kona Electric, in line with many electric cars, is mega refined, pacy (in a straight line) and a generally capable performer that can be genuinely joyful to drive every day.

However, within that glowing round-up, there are some caveats that buyers should consider, even if many will end up dismissing them.

Almost all hinge around the car’s weight of 1.6 tonnes - an inevitable downside to all that battery capacity. The Kona Electric uses the more sophisticated independent rear suspension system you’ll find on the more powerful, four-wheel-drive versions of the regular Kona, and the reward is a car that rides well enough most of the time. But point it at a larger road imperfection and it starts to struggle for body control.

The weight also means that grip levels are quite modest, and due to this, along with weighty steering, the car delivers little in the way of dynamic driving thrills.

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That said, the performance of the motor and batteries is quite startling if you choose to use the 291lb ft of torque, which is available instantly, to that effect. While most of the time you settle into feather-light use of the throttle in order to conserve range and enjoy the becalming benefits of an electric powertrain, if you unleash all of the Kona Electric’s performance, it will sprint from 0-30mph (and onwards) at super-saloon pace. Only as you push up to motorway speeds from around 50mph does its response start to feel adequate rather than outright impressive.

However, it's surprisingly easy to break traction or induce torque steer, something that is so at odds with the car’s raison d’être that it’s hard not to wonder if the electronics control department might not see fit to reign in some of that all-out delivery at some point in the future.

There's plenty to love about the Kona Electric’s interior. Although it offers little in terms of excitement, it's well finished, the materials are on a par for the car’s price and the kit list is extensive, starring everything from an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system to digital instruments, a head-up display and a premium audio system.

Space is also on par for the compact crossover class. Fully grown adults might struggle after a while in the back, but otherwise, there’s decent accommodation in the front and rear. Boot space is 29 litres down on that of the standard Kona, due to that battery pack, at 332 litres.

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Should I buy one?

So, a half-price I-Pace? I’d argue that’s an unhelpful comparison, for while the Kona Electric rewrites the rulebook in terms of range for your money, it categorically cannot live with the Jaguar in terms of its design razzmatazz, brand appeal or performance capabilities.

These are chief among the reasons the Hyundai is half the price. But that doesn’t make it any less sensational, just different, and potentially in areas that matter to more buyers.

It's better to consider the Kona Electric on its own merits instead. In terms of range offered for the money, it's nothing less than an exceptional, ground-breaking car. It's also worth reiterating that, based on our inexact experience, it appears to deliver real-world mileage in line with its claimed range, which is certainly not true of all rivals.

Elsewhere, in terms of the driving experience, materials, design and more, the Kona delivers a decently polished performance (and certainly as good as its hatchback rivals) without breaking down any more barriers. Consequently, the five-star verdict has to wait for now.

But no matter: the Kona Electric tears down one of the most imposing challenges faced by the car industry and car buyers. By proving that range can be relatively affordable, it dramatically widens the pool of people into whose lives an electric car could fit.

For that alone, there can be no doubt that Hyundai has notched up another triumph.

Hyundai Kona Electric 64kWh Premium SE

Tested UK Price £31,795 (after Government grant) On sale Now Engine AC electric motor Power 201bhp Torque 291lb ft Gearbox direct drive Kerb weight 1610kg Top speed 104mph 0-62mph 7.5sec Fuel economy 14.3kWh/100km Electric range 300 miles (WLTP) CO2 0g/km Rivals Nissan Leaf, Volkswagen e-Golf

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Comments
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Robert Malcolm Kay 29 October 2018

Buy electric, hire an ICE

I love my Leaf, and have recently ordered a Kona: both electric.But of course these cannot meet all my transport needs: sometines I take the train, sometimes  I have to hire an ICE vehicle. I recently drove 2300 km around Ghana in a Mazda pick up truck: on the worst rioads in the world: horses for courses. I was also considering the iPace, but the Kona gives me an extra £30,000 in hand to play with, and that is a major consideration. Plus the Kona will actually travel longer distances, more quickly, than the iPace, because it is far more efficient so takes a third less time hanging about to charge the batteries.  

Bar room lawyer 27 September 2018

With a weekly commuting distance of 350 miles

and 8 free to use chargers in her employer's car park, this would make fuel costs for the week of nil. Potentially a Mazda 3 being swapped for one of these or a Nissan Leaf when the current PCP ends next year.

Bishop 27 September 2018

Impressive

Can they put the tech in a less ugly car now, please?

Robert Malcolm Kay 29 October 2018

Aesthetics

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.