By adding performance and range to an EV over and above the market’s going rate, you inevitably add weight to it. And by taking away enough rolling resistance to make the most of that range, you take away mechanical grip. This has been every electric car maker’s catch-22 for the past decade, of course; but neither compromise was likely to be good news for the Kona Electric’s rolling refinement or handling dynamism.
The car’s suspension certainly has the anti-roll bars necessary to keep its body quite flat even when cornering at a reasonable lick, but the Kona’s ride has that familiar noisy, slightly wooden quality of a car running on hard-compound economy tyres. It deals somewhat fussily and ineffectively with even medium-sized lumps and bumps taken above 50mph. When the car’s mass is disturbed vertically or enticed to pitch, its dampers often need two or three attempts to rein it back in.
Steering feel is notable by its absence. The car’s electronics are clever enough to allow you to drive it with pace in any case, but turn them off and you’ll become very aware of how tender the grip level under the car’s front wheels is – and how easily you can overwhelm it with an instantaneous 291lb ft.
Suffice it to say, it isn’t for the want of power that this Hyundai ultimately fails to convince as a driver’s car, having started with real promise. And to be fair, the Kona Electric conducts itself adequately at the sort of unhurried cruising speeds at which you’re most likely to drive it – with one eye, perhaps, on completing that fourth return office commute of the week on a single charge, or when bidding to make it all the way home from visiting extended family without stopping to plug in.
But on those short-range hops when you’re unconcerned with how many kilowatts per mile you’re getting through, it’s certainly a shame that the Kona Electric’s limitations become quite so plain, so quickly.
Subtle, fast-acting electronic traction and stability controls are the Kona Electric’s saving graces when it comes to driving it at or near the limit of grip. Leave them on and, though you’re aware that this is not nearly as alike to a true driver’s car when cornering as it is when accelerating, you won’t be that aware of how modest and easily disturbed is its hold on dry Tarmac. Lateral body control is respectable; damping is questionable, particularly when bigger inputs disturb the car’s equilibrium.