First drive: Hyundai Kona Electric 2019 review

Moving Well | Tim Nicholson | Posted on 22 March 2019

Tim Nicholson takes Hyundai’s new Kona Electric for a spin.


First impressions:

 Hyundai has set a new benchmark for electric vehicles with its practical and fun-to-drive Kona Electric.


Hyundai has ramped up its electric vehicle rollout in the past six months. Late last year it launched the Ioniq hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric models, and this month marks the arrival of another zero-emissions offering – the Kona Electric.

The Kona Electric is based on the popular petrol-powered Kona small SUV that went on sale in Australia in late 2017.

Hyundai has priced the Kona Electric from $59,990 plus on-road costs for the Elite grade, which climbs to $64,490 for the more generously specified Highlander that we drove at the media launch in Adelaide.


The base price is $20,000 more than the range-topping petrol-powered Kona Highlander, about $15,000 more than the Ioniq Electric, and $10,000 more than Nissan’s second-generation Leaf hatchback due to land in showrooms in August.

However, that price premium starts to pay off when you consider the Kona Electric’s ‘real-world’ driving range of 449 kilometres, which eclipses that of the Leaf (270 kilometres) and Ioniq Electric (230 kilometres).

The all-electric Kona is differentiated from its petrol sibling by a distinctive new closed front grille, a fresh rear bumper and unique aerodynamic 17-inch alloy wheels. Unlike some of its EV rivals, it doesn’t scream ‘eco car’.

Inside, Hyundai has replaced the regular gear shifter with park, neutral, drive and reverse buttons for its shift-by-wire transmission.

So how does the Kona Electric drive? Does it feel completely different to a car with an internal combustion engine? Do you have to change your driving style? While it does drive differently, the Kona Electric is not completely foreign.

As you’d expect, it’s a quiet ride. The only noise it gives off is a subtle electric sound and some tyre roar on roads with a coarse chip surface.

Acceleration from a standing start is exceptionally quick (Hyundai claims 0-100kmh in 7.6 seconds), thanks to the almost instantaneous torque.

Ride quality is excellent, due in part to Hyundai’s Australian tuning program that adapts the suspension and other settings to our conditions. It handles exceptionally well and on the twistier sections of road it feels like a sporty hot hatch.

Power comes from a 150kW/395Nm electric motor paired with a 356-volt lithium-ion polymer battery with a capacity of 64 kilowatt hours. 

wheel detail on blue kona
aerial shot of kona on white pavement
closeup of kona charging lit up by green lights

That makes for a driving range of 449 kilometres on the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP), considered to be a ‘real-world’ test. After we finished our 242-kilometre drive north-east of Adelaide, we still had 196 kilometres of battery range left.

For urban commuters travelling to and from work or doing the school run or shopping, the Kona Electric’s range is ample. However, for a longer trip like the Melbourne to Sydney run you would need to stop and recharge at one of the recently launched Chargefox charging stations along the Hume Highway.

The Kona has an adjustable regenerative braking system that recaptures kinetic energy and converts it into electricity to recharge the batteries. On the strongest regenerative braking setting – controlled by shift paddles on the steering wheel – there’s no need to use the brake at all as the accelerator will do the stopping for you. It’s a strange feeling at first, but it doesn’t take long to adjust.

Keep an eye on RoyalAuto for a full road test of the Hyundai Kona Electric in the coming months.

Hyundai Kona Electric Highlander

PRICE

Price as tested: $64,490 plus on-road costs.
Model range: $59,990-$64,490.    

DRIVETRAIN

Motor: Electric motor and 64kWh, 356-volt lithium-ion polymer battery.

Transmission/drive: Reduction gear/front-wheel drive.

Maximum power: 150kW.

Maximum torque: 395Nm.

Wheels: 17-inch alloy. 215/55 R17 94V tyres.

DRIVING RANGE/EMISSIONS

Official range: 557 kilometres (ADR and NEDC standard). Approximately 449 kilometres real-world range (WLTP standard).

CO2 emissions: Zero emissions.

STANDARD SAFETY

Front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot warning, autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, driver-attention warning, rear cross-traffic alert, six airbags.

STANDARD FEATURES

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 8.0-inch touchscreen display, 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, heated and cooled front seats, leather-appointed seats and steering wheel, auto-dimming rear-view mirror.

WARRANTY/SERVICES

Five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Lifetime service plan, every 12 months.