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Hyundai Kona Electric (2020) review: best EV for the money

Published:18 January 2021

Hyundai Kona 2021
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Keith Adams

Devout classic Citroen enthusiast, walking car encyclopedia, and long-time contributor to CAR

By Keith Adams

Devout classic Citroen enthusiast, walking car encyclopedia, and long-time contributor to CAR

► Hyundai Kona Electric review
► EV with near-300 mile claimed range
► Long-range 64kWh battery tested

The Hyundai Kona Electric was so well received when it launched in 2018 it promptly sold out, meaning those of you impressed by the car in our review were unable to get hold of one.

Battery production bottlenecks have been fixed now, though, meaning those who want to get their hands on a remarkably usable and well-judged EV can order one without having to wait upwards of a year for delivery.

But should you place that order? Since the Kona Electric shook the market up it's faced increasingly stronger opposition - in-house, from the Kia Soul and Kia e-Niro, not to mention big hitters such as the Nissan Leaf, Volkswagen ID.3, Lexus UX 300e or Tesla Model 3.

However even against these impressive cars, the Kona Electric still makes a very convincing case for itself. 

The best electric cars on sale in the UK today

Facelifted for 2021

As well as updating the exterior styling at the front with a new grille and daytime running lights, the Hyundai Kona Electric also received wider set tail lights to emphasise the car's stance.


Inside a 10.25-inch digital cluster was added, to compliment the 8.0- or optional 10.25-inch infotainment screen from before. New ambient lighting was included and a two-tone grey interior upholstery package was added to the personalisations list.

The driving range was modestly increased thanks to some new tyres, meaning 300 miles is now possible, and the SmartSense safety suite was enhanced by the addition of rear cross traffic collision alert and blind spot monitoring.

Hyundai Kona Electric: driven

Well, it's a story of good and no-so good. But mainly good. Let's get the humdrum out of the way first – it's basically an electrified version of the Kona SUV sat atop a skateboard lithium ion battery pack and powered by a 201bhp electric motor. The good news is that the 64kWh version uses a 7.2kW onboard charger and has a CCS Type 2 connector, so it'll fast charge on a public set-up. Hyundai says it'll top up from 0-80% in 54 minutes.

The larger than average battery packs means a claimed 300 miles between recharges, and adding a little more interest, impressive performance. Although it has a GTI-shaming 0-62mph time of 7.6 seconds, it actually feels even more rapid than that on the road which makes it one very useful all-rounder. And that's not something you can say about many EVs at this price point.

For comparison, a 62kWh Nissan Leaf e+ will typically manage around 200 miles driven in a similar manner. A Peugeot e-208 will struggle to top 180. An overnight recharge on a domestic wallbox will take around nine-and-a-half hours and cost in the region of £9 on most household tariffs. As for topping it up with a three-pin plug, don't bother unless it's an emergency.

Hyundai Kona petrol and diesel review

Hyundai Kona interior

The Kona is a funky-looking things if up-to-date remixes of the Rover Streetwise are your thing. It's chunky with plenty of cladding, roof rails and is available in some very bright colours. The Kona Electric gets a different front end though – in place of the Hyundai corporate grille topped by an Errol Flynn-apeing pencil moustache, the Kona Electric has a smooth nose, punctuated by geometric shapes, with a vanity flap to hide the charging portal. Facelift models go one further, swapping this for a totally smooth nose with only a crease suggesting the shape of a grille, a la Tesla Model 3.

There are changes inside as well. In addition to the lighter-hued plastic mouldings compared with the petrol and diesel Konas, the centre console is completely different, being positioned much higher and housing push-button controls for the transmission selector. The problem is that the materials used and general design may well be acceptable for a mid-priced B-segment SUV, but with a UK price of £30k is the Hyundai Kona premium enough?

But that's a criticism you can level at just about every EV at this point – their more humble ICE origins are hard to disguise. 

Best electric SUVs: our guide

How does it drive?

Very well, if you're not looking for excitement and communication. You'll love the rapid burst of acceleration off the line, and the hair-trigger throttle response, especially in Sport mode. As the batteries are mounted low down in the platform, the Kona Electric's low centre of gravity gift it with a decent cornering experience that's relatively free of bodyroll. But don't think that you're going to have a fun-filled drive, despite making the numbers.

The main problem is that the controls are too light and lacking in communication to be close to satisfying keener drivers’ appetite for feedback – instead, the Hyundai’s best appreciated when kicking back and going with the flow. After all, this is a family-sized SUV and it's unlikely that the many drivers will be in it for apex-clipping thrills.

Driving normally is far more rewarding anyway as you’ll extend the range available, and it gives you the opportunity to adjust the levels of brake-energy recuperation to suit your tastes. Four stages of regen (from zero to three) can be selected using the steering wheel paddles normally used for manual control of the automatic gearboxes in petrol and diesel Konas. These are great for slowing down for corners and roundabouts without touching the brake pedal.

The best hybrid cars on sale in the UK today

Position zero, the lowest setting, turns off the recuperation completely allowing the Kona to coast until it runs out of momentum. It’s not the most efficient way of driving it, so best ramp it up to full and get used to one-pedal driving. It’s not as effective as the E-Pedal in the Nissan Leaf, but that’s no bad thing – and it will still take you to a complete standstill.

Unlike the Nissan, where the brakes feel disconcerting at best, when you do call upon the Hyundai’s brake pedal in the conventional sense, the experience is one that feels more natural and easier to modulate.

Hyundai Kona Electric: verdict

The Kona Electric used to be the pick of the small Hyundai SUV line-up by some margin, and the best mainstream electric car currently available, but talented rivals are swarming all around. It might be based upon a middling family car in ICE form, but as an EV, the Kona really is an astounding effort.

Okay, so it's not going to set the world on fire as a driver's EV. If you want that, you can stump up more than twice the cash on a Jaguar I-Pace. But it's more than acceptable – it steers where you point it, accelerates with near-GTI pace, and rolls along very nicely indeed. But what really sets the Kona apart from all of its rivals is its excellent real world battery range.

In 64kWh form (the only one to have), it has a claimed range of 279 miles. But in a mixture of A- and B-road driving, as well as the usual city work, it was capable of more than 250 miles between charges. Without even trying. Compare that with the 170-200 you'll get out of, say, an Audi E-Tron or Jaguar I-Pace, and the scale of Hyundai's achievement here becomes abundantly clear.

If the thought of spending more than 30 big ones on a Hyundai SUV with room for four fills you with dread, we'll forgive you for that. Especially as it's a middling driver and the interior needs lifting to meet its list price. But as a state-of-the-art EV that'll go harder, and faster than all of its rivals, this is the one to go for – some achievement considering it's far from the newest option available.

More Hyundai reviews by CAR magazine

Specs

Price when new: £32,900
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: Electric motor, 201bhp, 291lb ft
Transmission: One-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Performance: 7.6sec 0-62mph, 104mph, 0g/km
Weight / material: 1685kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4180/2070/1565mm

Rivals

Other Models

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By Keith Adams

Devout classic Citroen enthusiast, walking car encyclopedia, and long-time contributor to CAR

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