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Ground-breaking, high-spec electric car offers 300 miles of range for less than £32,000

Our Verdict

Hyundai Kona Electric 2018 road test review - hero front

Hyundai’s affordable electric crossover has the numbers to shake this market segment to the core

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?

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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.

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.

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
31

26 September 2018

Its a cut price i-pace in the same way the ice kona is a cut price e-pace or the i40 an xe, but as always I do wonder why pay more for a premium brand. This is a great achievement and cost aside of all bev cars, this could easily fit in to more buyers lives than more or less any bev before, certainly would be on top of my bev list.

26 September 2018
To my eyes this looks better than an I-Pace. Not great, but still better.

27 September 2018
jason_recliner wrote:

To my eyes this looks better than an I-Pace. Not great, but still better.

I agree, its a much more appealing car, even if its not as good dynamiclaly, modern Jags are so horrid.

XXXX just went POP.

26 September 2018

A lot of press were quick to call the i-pace a game-changer and an advance. But if you chuck that much money into building it, it should be good of course and technology in the i-pace is nothing new that others had not been using for some time.

This is game-changing. A long range EV finally truly within a mass market reach and designed for the role from the beginning and not compromised like trying to bolt it all to a normal Golf.

I presume like most EV's it has remote control electric pre-heating. I particularly like the good but still fairly sensible performance.Once people start taking the leap and enjoying running around a pre-warmed car running in near silence and costing pennies per mile they will get hooked and takeup will soar. The Jag doesn't really come into this. Its too expensive to ever be significant.

26 September 2018

Have to agree. JLR missed a huge (historic) opportunity to make the I-Pace both VfM and compettive. Greed ovwrcame them - unlike their previous cars viz the E-Type.

 Audi are making the same mistake. I am seriously considering this Hyandai above the e-tron. To save over £40,000 buys a very nice diesel for the family towing stuff. To much to dismiss.... 

26 September 2018
Melben wrote:

Have to agree. JLR missed a huge (historic) opportunity to make the I-Pace both VfM and compettive. Greed ovwrcame them - unlike their previous cars viz the E-Type.

 Audi are making the same mistake. I am seriously considering this Hyandai above the e-tron. To save over £40,000 buys a very nice diesel for the family towing stuff. To much to dismiss.... 

Or an awful lot of renting when needed. A 3.0D Maserati Levante SUV from Sixt at £79 a day for 1.38 years solid to be precise. I bet that can pull.

27 September 2018
The Apprentice wrote:

A lot of press were quick to call the i-pace a game-changer and an advance. But if you chuck that much money into building it, it should be good of course and technology in the i-pace is nothing new that others had not been using for some time.

This is game-changing. A long range EV finally truly within a mass market reach and designed for the role from the beginning and not compromised like trying to bolt it all to a normal Golf.

I presume like most EV's it has remote control electric pre-heating. I particularly like the good but still fairly sensible performance.Once people start taking the leap and enjoying running around a pre-warmed car running in near silence and costing pennies per mile they will get hooked and takeup will soar. The Jag doesn't really come into this. Its too expensive to ever be significant.

The problem with the mass market is most home owners in the UK (and Europe) don't have there own off street parking, so where do you charge it? This is what will eventually kill the EV market in Europe, they will only sell to so many people, ie those with off street parking, when the majority of us don't have our own parking spots and who don't want to spend hours waiting to charge in a public charger after work?

 

 

 

27 September 2018
KiwiRob wrote:

The Apprentice wrote:

A lot of press were quick to call the i-pace a game-changer and an advance. But if you chuck that much money into building it, it should be good of course and technology in the i-pace is nothing new that others had not been using for some time.

This is game-changing. A long range EV finally truly within a mass market reach and designed for the role from the beginning and not compromised like trying to bolt it all to a normal Golf.

I presume like most EV's it has remote control electric pre-heating. I particularly like the good but still fairly sensible performance.Once people start taking the leap and enjoying running around a pre-warmed car running in near silence and costing pennies per mile they will get hooked and takeup will soar. The Jag doesn't really come into this. Its too expensive to ever be significant.

The problem with the mass market is most home owners in the UK (and Europe) don't have there own off street parking, so where do you charge it? This is what will eventually kill the EV market in Europe, ....

In which case this car is not for them. For the rest of the drive owning public it's OK

 

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

28 September 2018

True in some cities but not a problem for us in the frozen North. On the issue of price this is truly appealing. having an electrical supply capable of driving 22Kw plus chargers is more likely to be a problem for us. Jaguar, Audi and Mercedes are higher perceived quality products for sure, but as my old, wise (and psychotic) ex MD said, you cant sell in volume on quality alone, and I dont see double the Kia price value in those brands offerings. I'm not really a Kia fan, but admire their aggressive approach here. 

26 September 2018

Autocar is a car magazine and it needs to get in touch with its readers. This is not a proper road test, what is it’s real world range in regular driving conditions, this information would help buyers decide if it fits their requirements 

You are the weakest link......

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