Hyundai Kona Electric review: Still the electric crossover to beat?

The Hyundai Kona Electric quickly became one of our favourite electric cars following its launch in 2018.

Sitting alongside the Kia e-Niro, Hyundai offered the Kona in various guises – with hybrid and combustions versions – a strategy that continues in this most recent version.

What the Kona offers is crossover charms with pure electric power – including a range that’s respectable and prices that are approachable.

The design of the Kona Electric has been simplified slightly over the previous outing. Fundamentally, this is a facelift of the compact crossover, so it’s instantly recognisable as the Kona.

There’s a new front bumper, enclosing the area that previously had a covered grille. The grille remains on the hybrid and combustion version, but the Electric model now gets a better front design, looking a little more refined, a little more loved.

From the sides the looks are broadly the same, but there are some bodywork changes resulting in a slightly simpler look. Plastic wheel arches and other detailing has been removed from the Kona Electric, while also providing a point of distinction from the combustion engine models.

The result is a slightly cleaner look, while the regular gas-guzzling Kona looks a little more rugged with those plastic wheel arch protectors. If nothing else, it’s easy to spot the electric on the road now, thanks to the slight shift in styling.

There are some minor exterior differences between the trim levels offered – SE Connect, Premium, Ultimate – but that mostly amounts to how premium the lower section of the front bumper looks. As is often the way with Hyundai, there aren’t a whole world of options, instead different spec is dictated by those different trim levels.

That makes selecting your model easier: we suspect the most popular will be the Premium, which offers a choice of battery sizes, but still comes in at a price that qualifies for the UK’s Plug-in Car Grant, saving you £2500 off the larger 64kWh version. What you’re getting is a well equipped car for under £30K, with decent range too.

Minor interior updates
The interior of the Kona Electric hasn’t seen huge changes over the existing model – the largest noticeable difference being the move to a fully digital driver display.

The Kona is comfortable and roomy enough in the front, but the rear seats are a little more cramped. Put a tall driver in the front and you’ll be left with minimal legroom in the rear, so it’s really only then suitable for smaller children, but there is plenty of headroom, which saves it from feeling too cramped.

Hyundai Kona Electric (Image: Hyundai)

Hyundai Kona Electric (Image: Hyundai)

The highest level trim gets the option for leather facings and lighter colours, while the lower trims have a black interior, which, if nothing else, won’t show up so much muck if you’re transporting a young family around – which many Konas will be.

On the Ultimate trim we tested, there are leather touch-points, but fairly wide use of harder plastics of various textures. As we said, this isn’t out of place given the price of the car – and for those who want something superior the Ioniq 5 is worth a look as an alternative. Although it’s easy to point to higher-priced cars with interiors that are obviously higher quality, it’s really hard to complain about the Kona at this price point.

Ultimate trim does bring some luxury, with seat heating and cooling for those front seats, however, with that cooling being rather more unique.

The boot is a little compact, offering 332 litres of space, although the rear seats will fold to increase the capacity if needed. For many, as a daily run-around, that’s plenty of space for the weekly shop, but broadly aligns with the Citroën ë-C4 and others around this price point. There’s a small storage tray under the floor of the boot, but not much space for anything else.

All in, it’s an interior that fits its purpose. So long as you can accept that the Kona is a pretty compact crossover, because it’s in the back seats that you’ll feel that the most.

Interior technology
One of the interior changes that we mentioned is the digital driver display. This replaces a display that had a single central dial and gives a lift to the driving experience, although it does seem to be sunken quite deep within the cowl. No matter, it’s clear enough with a left-hand speedo and right-hand power meter.

We like that Hyundai presents plenty of data on this display, like the average mileage you’re achieving from that battery, which will help you get a better picture of how you’re driving.

The centre section allows you to leaf through information, such as more data, so there’s a small degree of customisation too. Importantly, it’s all clear enough to understand, which can’t be said about all car displays. As you switch through drive modes it will change colour too, with red for Sport, of course, to make it a little more ‘racy’ looking.

The central display is flat, there’s no curving of the cabin towards the driver, with a run of buttons beneath it to take you to where you want to go – including a customisable button. Two dials mean it’s easy to work with, while also supporting touch, although the volume knob seems a stretch, better placed for the passenger than the driver. Fortunately, there are comprehensive controls on the steering wheel too.

Again there’s easy access to information on how efficiently you’re driving and where the nearest public charger is. Some of the graphics look a little dated, but with support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, there’s plenty of flexibility – even if those smartphone-based systems don’t fill the entire screen.

There’s a little crossover into the driver’s display – you can see the audio you’re playing, for example – but otherwise the buttons remain pointing to Hyundai’s systems. That means that if you’re driving with Google Maps through Android Auto, for example, and you press the Maps button, it will revert to the Hyundai system, leaving you to dig through the system to find your way back to Android Auto.

Despite some of Hyundai’s graphics looking a little dated, there’s actually a lot of information that’s useful. You can drill into what’s using your charge, find your average consumption, plus more. You can also easily find navigation options to take you to an electric car charger, but like so many systems, it doesn’t have all the chargers and lists some that you can’t actually use, like in private car parks.

Read more: Pocket-lint

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