Here’s the dream: an affordable electric vehicle that can go as far on a charged-up battery as your regular car can on a full tank of fuel. Believe it or not, that’s not far off – and the Hyundai Kona Electric proves it.
It’s an electric car that you can buy right now and is claimed to travel up to 300 miles between charges thanks to its 64kWh battery. That sort of distance used to be the preserve of much more expensive EV from Tesla and the like.
The Kona Electric isn’t just concerned with being an automotive Duracell Bunny and lasting forever, though – it’s also pretty nippy. Plus, if you’re more concerned about pricing than pace and stamina, it also offers a cheaper 39kWh battery option with a claimed range of up to 189 miles.
Not only does the Kona Electric have a broad appeal on paper, but it’s also bang on trend with its SUV styling. It’s based on – as you might have gathered – the Hyundai Kona, which is the company’s small SUV. But is it better than its competitors?
If you’re looking at an electric vehicle along the lines of a Kona Electric, you’ll probably also be considering the closely-related Kia e-Niro and Kia Soul EV, as well as the Volkswagen ID.3 and Peugeot e-2008. But rivals in this class also stretch to the likes of the Renault Zoe and Peugeot e-208.
Keep on reading this Hyundai Kona Electric review to find out all its secrets, including how far it will go in real-world driving conditions, how it handles, and what the interior quality is like.
If you do decide you want to buy one, or indeed any other new car, do be sure to try our free New Car Buying service to see how much we could save you, without any haggling at all.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Hyundai Kona Electric’s 39kWh battery option, with 134bhp, offers lively performance, but our pick is the 64kWh version. That packs enough juice to give it 201bhp, which is quite a lot. Such a lot, in fact, that on a wet road the front wheels really struggle for traction. That requires you to be jolly delicate with your right foot to avoid the traction control light winking endlessly as the system tries to manage all the power.
Once you’re on the move, the Kona Electric builds speed almost as quickly as the Ford Fiesta ST hot hatch, with 0-60mph ticked off in around seven seconds (a couple of seconds quicker than the 39kWh version). As it’s electric, there’s no waiting for the engine revs to rise before maximum thrust is delivered – simply flex your right foot and the car sets off with the immediacy of one of Elon Musk’s space rockets.
The Kona Electric is quicker than an MG ZS EV, Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe, and just as quick as a Kia e-Niro and Volkswagen ID.3. But it’s not actually Tesla quick; a Model 3 would leave it for dust.
When it comes to electric cars, though, performance isn’t just about how quickly you can speed up. It’s also about how far you can travel. In our Real Range tests, a Kona Electric with the smaller 39kWh battery managed a real-world distance of 158 miles. That’s competitive, but the 64kWh version managed a mega 259 miles – more than any other car we’ve tested to date. It’s better by a few miles than the Kia e-Niro, which shares the same battery and motor as the Kona, and a lot better than the ZS EV, Leaf, Peugeot e-2008 and Zoe can manage. It even outperforms the more expensive Model 3.
When you lift off the accelerator, you feel the car slowing down quite quickly thanks to the regenerative braking – a system that allows the car to harvest otherwise wasted energy to replenish the battery. You can increase this braking effect if you wish via the paddles on the steering wheel, and you can even make it so strong that it will bring the car to a complete stop without touching the brake pedal.
In corners, the Kona Electric leans less markedly than the ZS EV or Leaf. In most other respects, though, it’s not great to drive spiritedly; the ID.3 and even the smaller e-208 are better handling cars that offer more accurate steering and have more grip to exploit if the mood takes you. The e-Niro is also sharper to drive than the Kona Electric.
Those rivals are also more comfortable. Whatever speed you’re doing, the Kona Electric jostles around over smaller road imperfections, although never to the point that it becomes truly annoying.
Naturally, being an electric car, the Hyundai Kona Electric is as peaceful as a cathedral at town speeds. Once you pick up the pace, road and wind noise start to increase, and by the time you’re cruising at 70mph there’s more of both than there is in the ID.3 or Peugeot e-208.
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