Last updated on September 12th, 2021 at 05:56 pm
- Excellent 300-mile range for top drivetrain
- Enjoyable drive and reasonably quick
- Well equipped with technology
- A little pricey
- Small boot
- Limited legroom in rear
Range (WLTP): 189-300 miles Top Speed: 96-104 mph 0 to 62: 7.9-9.7 sec Cost/Mile (@14p/kWh): 2.89-2.99p
The small hatchback is one of the most popular car types in Europe, but we still haven’t seen the perfect electric version yet. The Honda e impressed us with its concept car design but falls down on range. The Vauxhall Corsa-e is cheeky but has some rough edges. The Renault ZOE is a classic, but more functional than exciting. And then there’s the Hyundai Kona Electric. The top models have a class-leading 300-mile range and are packed with features. Could this be the small electric hatchback we’ve been looking for?
Price and Options
Hyundai and Kia’s partnership means that the top 64kWh battery and 204PS motor option with the Kona Electric is familiar. We’ve seen the same combination in the Kia Soul EV and Kia e-Niro 4+. But you can also choose a 136PS motor and 39kWh battery. These drivetrain options overlap with three trim types. The lowest SE trim can only be purchased with the lesser drivetrain, and the top Premium SE trim can only be purchased with the top drivetrain, but the middle Premium trim can be specified with either.
Even with the SE spec the features are generous. All cars come with 17in alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian recognition and rear parking sensors with a camera. The Premium and Premium SE add front sensors as well. The default paint colour is called Galactic Grey, but other options cost £565 extra. These include orange, red, white, a lime yellow and blue. However, apart from the trim levels, there aren’t other options to choose from. If you want keyless entry, you’ll need to go for the Premium or Premium SE.
The Kona ranges in price from £30,150 including the government grant for the SE up to £38,500 for the Premium SE. The Premium trim with smaller battery costs £32,000 but with the bigger battery it's £36,150. A few months ago, the Kona would have looked like decent value for an EV, although not a bargain like the ZOE or Corsa-e. However, the VW ID.3 is now a challenge, with a range of options that could potentially be competitive to every level of the Kona.
Korean electric cars tend to fall between two stools. Either they’re a bit too generic and vanilla, like the Hyundai Ioniq and Kia e-Niro, or a bit too radical, like the Soul EV. The Kona Electric errs on the generic side, although the forthcoming styling refresh will lift this. That said, in the red paintwork of the car we were sent, the appearance is more exciting, and the thin headlights provide a more serious appearance. However, while the Kona is far from ugly, we’d still like to see a bit more design flair.
Where Korean cars always win, though, is practicality. Like a lot of EVs, it’s taller than the usual cars in this class. In fact, at 1.57m it’s a little bit taller even than a Nissan Leaf. This is partly because the batteries are mostly located under the car floor, but there is some benefit for internal space, of which more shortly. Since the Kona Electric is from a range that still includes fossil fuel variants, the motor and other electronics are in the front under the bonnet, so you don’t get a frunk.
The plastic wheel arches provide an air of ruggedness and will be practical as they will be more resistant to scuffs as well as cheaper to replace if damaged. This gives the vague sense of the Kona Electric being a crossover SUV, and some car vendors classify it as such, but really, it’s just a tall hatchback. Like the Kias we've tested, for the Premium and Premium SE with keyless entry, you need to press a button on the door handle with the key in your pocket to unlock, and you need to get the timing right. If you try to pull the door handle too soon, it won't work, which isn't as slick as some keyless systems, such as the VW ID.3's or Renault ZOE’s.
Although the Kona Electric has a drivetrain inside it similar to the two Kia EVs we’ve reviewed, Hyundai has a more straight-laced approach to the interior than Kia, with no-nonsense buttons instead of dials and the choice of any upholstery colour you want so long as it’s black. For the SE and Premium, the seats are black cloth, whereas for the Premium SE this is upgraded to black leather. The cloth seats are also only mechanically adjustable, whereas the leather ones are electronically adjusted. The Premium SE seats are also the only ones that are heated and ventilated, with a heated steering wheel to match. The leather seats are comfy enough, so would be good for long journeys, and the height of the Kona means there’s plenty of headroom for tall drivers and front passengers.
The central console is an unusual design and is actually two-tiered. The lower level has a recessed tray and a 12V car power port plus USB. The top has two cupholders of varying sizes plus the control switches for the car. In front is a small cubby with a door containing a USB port and Qi charger, although only on Premium and Premium SE models. There’s another small recess further back and if you lift the arm rest there’s another, deeper cubby.
With the Premium SE, the outer rear seats are heated as well. As with the front, there’s plenty of headroom for rear passengers but not as much knee room in bigger cars such as the VW ID.3 or Kia e-Niro. There is a central rear seat, but it’s not very wide, so best used by a child. In fact, although you could have four adults travel in this car, the rear is better suited to children, and there are IOSfix points on the outer seats, although not on the front passenger seat.
The back of the middle seat can also be tilted down to reveal an arm rest with two integrated cupholders. However, another omission for rear-seat occupants is any air vents or USB charging ports – a surprise in a car so otherwise well equipped.
Storage and Load Carrying
Perhaps the most obvious area where the Kona Electric reveals its hatchback credentials and falls away from the “urban SUV crossover” format is in boot space. The standard boot size is 332 litres, which is even less than a Renault ZOE, and way behind a Nissan Leaf or VW ID.3. There is some more room under the boot floor, with two levels of trays. The first is empty but compartmentalised, and the second houses charging cables alongside the inflator / tyre fixing kit, as there is no spare tyre included.
If you drop the rear seats forward – with the usual 60/40 split available – you can reach a total of 1,116 litres. This is still less space than a ZOE, and a lot less than a Leaf or ID.3. If you want plenty of room in the rear, the Kia e-Niro would be a much more flexible option. However, on the plus side, the boot floor is mostly flat, so if you’re carting something around that is long and straight, it will be transported safely. Overall, a usable boot for a hatchback, but not ideal for the luggage of four adults heading off on a two-week holiday or moving your offspring up to university.
The sturdy steering wheel bristles with control buttons but they're large and simple to operate, although it is quite easy to mute the audio accidentally when you’re only trying to adjust the volume. There are discrete stalks for windscreen wipers and lights, plus paddles for increasing or decreasing regen braking, exactly like the Kia EVs.
However, the drive control system is very different. Instead of a rotating knob, you get substantial, functional buttons for selecting drive, forward, reverse, park and neutral in the central console. There’s a separate lever for engaging the electronic parking brake. Further down the central console is another row of buttons for seat heating or ventilation (Premium SE only), drive mode, heated steering wheel (again, Premium SE only), engaging auto hold (which means you can take your foot off the brake when stationary in drive mode), and toggling the parking sensors. Just above the central console are the air conditioning controls, which include a full suite of physical buttons for all the functions, although this is single zone.
Turning the car on involves the usual process of putting your foot on the brake and pressing the start/stop button. The display behind the steering wheel then engages, showing power and regen levels on the far right, with a trip meter next along. The central circular LCD changes function depending on driving mode. In standard mode it shows MPH with a digital readout. In Sport this changes to a power meter, and in Eco it shows regen. On the left, you also get a power/regen display.
There’s a set of buttons down on the right, for toggling various safety features. Most importantly, this is where you can enable the head-up display, which rises from the dashboard behind the steering wheel in exactly the same way as with the Kia Soul EV. This is an exclusive feature of the Premium SE trim. It’s a great feature and means you can more easily keep your eyes on the road.
Another differentiation between the SE and Premium options is in the size of the central touchscreen. For the SE, it's a 7in unit without navigation, but for the Premium and Premium SE it's 10.25in with sat-nav and an 8-speaker audio system to go with it. The menu options are the same as with all the Kia and Hyundai EVs we’ve tested. The layout is mostly logical, using a combination of physical buttons below the display and touchscreen.
Performance and Driving
The Hyundai Kona Electric is decidedly fun to drive, particularly in 64kWh guise in Sport mode. In fact, we’d go so far as to say that this is one of the most fun front-wheel-drive EVs we’ve tried, although the Mini Electric feels just that little bit spritelier. The 64kWh Kona has the same 204PS motor as the Kia Soul EV and e-Niro 3 or 4+. It's also about 100kg lighter, and the 39kWh car is a mere 1.5 tons. Nevertheless, the official acceleration specification isn’t as quick, taking 7.9 seconds to reach 62mph with the bigger motor and 9.7 seconds with the lesser engine.
However, the lower weight is probably one factor that makes the Kona feel a bit nimbler than its Kia competitors, even the heavier 64kWh version. This is a great car for nipping around city traffic and the fact that it's not quite so fast to 60 makes little difference when the speed limits are 40, 30 or even 20mph. On the downside, there is a definite sign of torque steer from the front-wheel-drive system under hard acceleration, but it’s not as noticeable as with the Kia Soul EV – more of a dull tug than a leap.
While the Kona doesn't provide the rear-wheel-driving pleasure of the Honda e or VW ID.3, and it’s not quite that elusive hot electric hatch we're dying to see from someone. But it’s a great balance of enjoyment with the practical needs of an everyday hatchback. It's also competent at motorway speeds, which is a relief when the range is so capable.
Range and Charging
Although the Kona Electric we were sent to test had the same 64kWh battery and motor as the Kia Soul EV and Kia e-Niro 3 or 4+, Hyundai has managed to squeeze 300 miles of range out of this drivetrain rather than 282, and you still get a useful 189 miles with the 39kWh battery. One of the reasons for this is because the Kona Electric has a heat pump to make the car heater more efficient.
There's a CCS port hidden under a flap at the front of the car, providing combined AC and DC charging. On a 7kW AC wall box, the 64kWh battery will take 9 hours 35 minutes to charge from empty and the 39kWh will take 6 hours and 10 minutes. The bigger battery also supports 10.5kW AC charging, which reduces the time to full charge to 7 hours 30 minutes. Annoyingly, DC charging is only supported up to 50kW. On a 50kW supply, replenishing 80% for the bigger battery takes 75 minutes and 57 minutes for the smaller one. Considering the long range of the 64kWh model, it’s a real shame that 100kW charging isn’t supported, particularly now that Hyundai has a partnership with IONITY, providing access to its 350kW DC chargers.
With a 14p per kWh home supply, the Kona is cheap to run at 2.99p per mile for the 64kWh battery and a mere 2.89p with the 39kWh one. The insurance groups are reasonable as well, ranging from 22 for the SE to 27 for the Premium SE, which are lower than many EVs in this class. The Kia Soul EV is in group 34, for example.
Like most Korean cars, the warranty is excellent, too, although not quite as good as Kia's in terms of duration. However, while the basic warranty is 5 rather than Kia’s 7, it's for unlimited miles, and the battery warranty is for 8 years or 125,000 miles, with 70% capacity guarantee. This is a very generous battery mileage and shows Hyundai’s confidence in its technology. You get 12 years of anti-corrosion, too. You also won’t be paying any VED and zero benefit-in-kind (BiK) as a company car for the first year if purchased through a company.
You get a decent amount of safety tech even with the SE version of the Kona Electric. This includes autonomous braking with pedestrian recognition, forward collision warning, lane keep assist and even tyre pressure monitoring. There's even adaptive cruise control across the entire range, a very welcome feature in these days of increasingly heavy traffic and frequent average speed limit motorway sections.
The Premium and Premium SE add Blind Spot Detection, intelligent speed limit warning, lane follow assist, and rear cross traffic alert. The latter is for when you back your car out of a parking space or driveway into a busy street – not something we’d recommend, but a useful safety measure if you find you have to.
|Price:||SE – £30,150; Premium (39kWh) – £32,000; Premium (64kWh) – £36,150; Premium SE – £38,500|
|Range (WLTP):||39kWh – 189 miles; 64kWh – 300 miles|
|Charge time (7.4kW):||39kWh – 6 hours 10 minutes; 64kWh – 9 hours 35 minutes|
|Charge time (11kW):||64kWh – 7 hours 30 minutes|
|Charge time (50kW, 80%):||39kWh – 57 minutes; 64kWh – 75 minutes|
|Battery:||39kWh or 64kWh|
|On Board Charger:||7.2kW, 10.5kW (Premium SE only)|
|Cost per mile*:||39kWh – 2.89p; 64kWh – 2.99p|
|0-62mph:||39kWh – 9.7 seconds; 64kWh – 7.9 seconds|
|Top Speed:||39kWh – 96mph; 64kWh – 104mph|
|Power:||39kWh – 136PS; 64kWh – 204PS|
|Cargo:||332 litres / 1,116 litres with rear seats down|
*based on electricity costs of 14p per kWh