Hyundai Kona Electric SUV (2018 - ) review
The Hyundai Kona Electric mixes the appeal and practicality of a small SUV with the choice of two battery sizes to suit both budget and desired driving range, making it a serious rival to other electric cars like the Nissan Leaf, Volkswagen e-Golf and Renault Zoe.
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0
There is little to fault the Kona Electric on, aside from a touch more road noise on the motorway compared to other electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and the more expensive BMW i3. The Kona’s chunky design makes it one of the more distinctive looking offerings in the small SUV segment, but it is the choice of two versions, both with a decent driving range, that makes it a winner in our eyes.
- Choice of two battery sizes
- Excellent range
- Practical, but also fun to drive
- Limited boot space
- No all-wheel drive option
- Noisy at motorway speeds
Interested in buying a Hyundai Kona?
How good does it look?
The styling of the Kona might not be to everyone’s taste, but its combination of chunky looks with robust cladding around the wheel arches, small SUV proportions, and a choice of seven vibrant exterior colours certainly makes it stand out. The Kona Electric gets a different grille at the front to the diesel and petrol versions, which is the easiest way to tell them apart. The charging port for the battery can be found behind a flap in the top of the grille. Separate LED daytime running lights sit above the headlights.
Like other similarly-sized small SUVs, such as the Citroen C3 Aircross and Seat Arona, a two-tone roof is available at an additional cost. Buyers can also specify metallic or pearl effect paint. All versions come on stylish 17-inch wheels and feature roof rails. Premium grade models gain rear privacy glass.
What's the interior like?
In comparison with the exterior, the design is a bit more conventional inside the Kona. That’s not a bad thing though, as the quality of the materials is among the best in the segment.
The Kona Electric does away with a gear selector in the conventional sense. Instead, you can select drive, park, neutral or reverse by individual buttons on the centre console. It quickly becomes intuitive to use. While that should mean added space, the whole centre console is raised up, so it doesn’t feel any more spacious up front than the petrol and diesel versions.
Its driving position is excellent, though, offering plenty of adjustability, and forward visibility is helped by the car’s raised ride height. The instrument cluster is easy to read at a glance, while the infotainment screen is mounted high on the dashboard, so you don’t have to take your eyes far off the road to see it. Physical dials are used to adjust the climate controls, and these fall within easy reach.
How practical is it?
At 322 litres, the Kona Electric’s boot isn’t the largest in its class; others. like Citroen C3 Aircross (410 litres) and Seat Arona (400 litres) offer a good deal more – and feel larger inside, too. Still, the Kona’s boot is wide enough to get a couple of suitcases in, with room to spare. The boot space can be expanded to 1,114 litres by folding down the rear seats, which split in a 60:40 fashion.
In the rear, space for passengers is only middling for the segment, with the outer rear seats providing sufficient head and legroom for those of average height. It will feel a bit squashed with three people sitting in the rear, though.
Throughout the rest of the cabin, there are various useful small storage areas, including one underneath the centre console between the front seats. There are also easy-to-reach cupholders and a storage bin on top that includes USB ports and the optional wireless charging pad.
What's it like to drive?
For a small SUV, the Kona Electric can be a fun car to drive, especially on twisty roads. As its battery lies in the floor of the car, the bulk of its weight is low down, so it doesn’t lean as much from side to side in corners. Despite the lack of a four-wheel-drive option, the Hyundai feels surefooted on the move. The steering is light and feels reasonably direct, making the car feel agile when navigating city streets. It feels equally settled on the motorway and doesn’t have any issue getting up to speed.
While the Kona Electric is quiet for the most part, the road noise levels do pick up at motorway speed, especially in the rear of the car. The suspension is a little on the firm side too, due to the car’s increased weight, but for the most part, it does a very good job of soaking up bumps in the road and taking the harshness out of speed humps.
How powerful is it?
There is a choice of two different batteries in the Kona Electric, each producing different power outputs and driving ranges. The lesser is the 39kWh model with 136 horsepower, which is similar to the sort of performance a 1.2-litre petrol engine would offer. With this battery, Hyundai claims the Kona Electric has a driving range of up to 193 miles on a full charge. If you stick to urban or rural routes and don’t typically drive long distances, this battery should suffice.
For those who want to cover greater distances, there is a more powerful 64kWh battery that delivers up to 300 miles of range. This version gets a boost in power to 204 horsepower and in a car of this size makes the Hyundai feel quite brisk when you want it to be. There aren’t any perceptible gear changes being an electric car, which results in a very smooth driving experience.
It is worth remembering that driving ranges quoted will vary according to factors such as temperature and usage. Driving in winter with the heating on all the time, for example, will make a big dent in the overall range. Charging times can vary depending on the type of charger, and if other cars are using the same unit at the same time. Plugging in at home and using the car’s onboard 7.2kW charger will take a little over six hours for a full charge on the 39kWh battery, or nine and a half hours for the 64kWh battery.
How much will it cost me?
One of the biggest advantages of using an electric car is the reduced running costs in comparison to one powered by a combustion engine. The claimed driving ranges of either battery in the Kona Electric suggest longer journeys are possible. We recommend, however, that buyers have a home charger installed so they aren’t reliant on the public charging network. The larger capacity battery offers a longer driving range than its main rivals such as the Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe and Volkswagen e-Golf. However, it’s a quick moving industry.
How reliable is it?
Hyundai is a brand that features numerous times towards the top of Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index. Being an electric car, the Kona has fewer moving parts than conventional petrol or diesel combustion engined cars, which should help to keep maintenance and running costs down. Hyundai offers a five-year/unlimited mileage warranty that includes roadside assistance and annual vehicle health checks.
How safe is it?
Other variants of the Hyundai Kona achieved a full five-star rating when crash tested by the Euro NCAP safety organisation. As the Kona Electric uses much of the same design, we expect it to offer similarly high levels of protection. It features a total of six airbags, with two in front, two side and two curtain airbags that extend to the second row.
All Kona Electric models get an automatic emergency braking system that is active above five miles per hour and can help to prevent slow-speed shunts. This can also detect pedestrians, alerting the driver and braking if necessary.
How much equipment do I get?
Hyundai generously equips the Kona Electric, with keyless entry and start, a 7.0-inch touch-screen with Bluetooth and smartphone integration for Android and Apple phones, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control and automatic headlights. Also welcome is an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel and electric windows all-round.
The Premium grade is better again, adding front and rear parking sensors, a larger 8.0-inch touch-screen with sat-nav and other connected services, as well as an upgraded Krell eight-speaker sound system. A wireless charging pad is useful for those with newer smartphones, though it doesn’t charge as quickly as with a cable. This spec also adds more driver assistance features like the Lane Follow Assist, which helps prevent you from drifting out of your lane on a motorway. Blind spot detection alerts you to any objects you might not see in your mirrors, and it can warn you of any dangers from other vehicles or pedestrians when reversing out of a parking space, too.
If you want to have all the bells and whistles, the Premium SE model is the one for you. It adds leather upholstery on the seat fronts (which come both heated and ventilated), electric height adjustment for both front seats, a heated steering wheel, high beam assist so you don’t inadvertently dazzle other road users, and a head-up display that puts the most important driving data right into your line of vision.
The Kona Electric is for those that want an electric car capable of a decent driving range, wrapped up in a compact crossover shape. Its smooth and refined driving experience and lower running costs give it plenty of appeal. With Hyundai offering an option of two different power outputs and battery sizes, buyers can pick the model that best fits their needs and, more importantly, budget.