25th October 2019 – by Guillaume Séguin
The Hyundai Kona Electric has been the big surprise for the Irish EV market for 2019. Launched at the very end of 2018, it has sold almost 1000 units so far this year, becoming the second favorite EV in Ireland after the Nissan Leaf. This number is really impressive when you know that there is a general shortage of Kona Electric in world.
So what is the Hyundai Kona Electric ?
The Hyundai Kona is a B-segment crossover, comparable to the Renault Captur or Volkswagen T-Cross. It also exists in petrol, diesel, 2 or 4 wheel drive and soon in hybrid (depending on the markets). It exists in Electric form just with the 64 kWh (usable capacity) battery. Some other markets can also get a 39 kWh version. In Ireland it comes in a single trim level, that I would consider mid-range with the added leather seats, if comparing to what you get in other countries. One version only, but you can just choose the colour, there are nice roof contrasting options !
Range, Charging and driving modes
64 kWh. This is quite a large battery especially for a car of this size ! Hyundai engineers have done a great job integrating this massive battery on this 1.80m by 4.16m footprint. It is properly cooled, has a 7.4kW AC on-board charger and a CCS port that can deliver up to 77kw of power on HPC units (150 kw chargers allowing the 200 amps the Kona can take) such as Ionity’s (the only HPCs currently available at the moment in Ireland). On the more common 50kw ESB Ecars chargers, it will give up to 48kw of power till 70% of charge level, and then slow down the charge gradually. That massive battery means of course longer charging times. At home on a 7.4kW charge point, you will need almost 10 hours for a full charge. At a 50kw fast charger, you can get 20 to 80% in about an hour. Thankfully, you won’t have to do that too often as on top of having a very large battery pack, the Kona Electric is also one of the most efficient EVs in the world! On our typical test loop, it returned just 11.0 kWh/100km in Eco+ mode, the lowest result so far, allowing a total range of over 500 km under very favourable conditions !
On a trip from Cork to Derry through the Midlands, I managed a more realistic but still impressive average of 12.8 kWh/100km, allowing to complete the 432 km distance in a single charge ! With 13% or 60km range to spare. An amazing achievement when just a few years ago this trip would have required 3 or 4 charges with a sub-30kWh EV. The WLTP range is rated at 449 km, 400 km are easily acheivable in summer and at 120kph on the motorway in winter you can still get almost 300 km.
These numbers are quite respectable considering the weight of this car, 1685 kg (thank you big battery) but what is more impressive is how the aerodynamics and regenerative brakes work together. As for some other EVs, you can regenerate at difference forces. On this Kona Level 0 is basically free-wheeling, best to optimise efficiency when slowing down. Level 1 feels like if you were decelerating in an ICE car, without touching the brakes. Level 2 is stronger, just like if you were slightly braking and Level 3 is the strongest. These can be changed at anytime (if you don’t touch the brake pedal) by actioning the flappy paddles located behind the steering wheel. and if you long-press the left one, it will brake the car even stronger (till you release the paddle or come to a complete stop). To sum up, these paddles are very easy to use and fun, so you can even be tempted to play with that, instead of using the brake pedal as the effort is minimal!
How is it as an everyday car ?
Let’s start by reminder : this is a B segment non-premium vehicle. On this perspective this vehicle delivers : the equipment level is more than adequate, the quality of the interior and presentation are decent. I really liked the light colours of the seats and platics, where many cars offer fully black upholstery and dashboard. Handling is ok, and the motor is very powerful (204hp!) for a vehicle of this size. It’s actually too much when taking off : Don’t floor it or you’ll spin the wheels, front axle doesn’t like all that power at start… but of course at higher speeds you will really enjoy that power and the 0-100kph in 7.6 seconds is excellent. Comfort is good but the room isn’t huge. Again, it’s a B-segment vehicle so don’t expect miracles, it is wider than a Renault Zoé but for the rest it’s not really roomier, rear passengers will be seated knees up due to the higher floor, and the boot is even slightly smaller than the one of the little French car (338 vs 334 litres). If you want a real family car, you might want to look at the Leaf, more refined, much more roomy for 5 adults, or maybe the Kia e-Niro cousin (if you can get one!). Storage is limited in the doors but glovebox is ok and there is a massive shelf at the bottom of the centre console !
What is a bit sad is that if this single trim is generally well equipped, there is a lack of equipment you can find in other markets and that usually more common in bigger cars such as a heads-up display, sunroof, cooled seats, front parking sensor of blind spot monitor. The Adaptive cruise control is also missing (lane keep assist is here though). Another big miss are the electrically folding door mirrors and native satellite navigation (Android auto and Carplay are standard though). There is just 2 USB sockets and 1 12v sockets in the front, nothing for the rear passengers. But for the rest it’s quite well equipped for a small car, with climate control, heated leather seats and steering wheel, all electric windows, 17” aerodynamic alloy wheels, or an electric handbrake.
Should I buy one ?
The Hyundai Kona Electric is a success because it offers an amazing range for less than €40.000. At these price point you usually find cars with less range. And for the Irish public the range is the key! Of course if you don’t need so much range, you might want to look at a car like the Renault Zoé, offering almost as much features for much less or a Nissan Leaf that is more refined.
It would be great if Hyundai was selling a better equipped version of this long range Kona : such range appeal to the sort of drivers who would enjoy adaptive cruise control, native navigation or LED headlights. On the other hand, a less equipped and more afforable with the 39kWh battery would be a great offering for people driving in and around the city.
Still, you should get this 64kWh Kona Electric if range is your priority and you can’t afford a Tesla, a great little package. You won’t be disapointed.
Hyundai Kona Electric : €38.130
Price excludes delivery charges, includes VAT, VRT, VRT rebate and SEAI grant.
Thanks to Kearys Cork for lending me the car !