Making electric fun: Hyundai Kona Electric first drive

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It’s not often I test electric cars. In fact, before this drive of the Hyundai Kona Electric, I had only tested one fully electric car – the Tesla Model X. Therefore by driving the Kona, I’ve doubled the amount of electric cars covered by Car Obsession (go me). Anyway, it’s about time I get on to the topic in hand.

Oh great, another electric car – more range anxiety

Range anxiety is a big fear of many people when it comes to electric cars, and for good reason. You don’t want to find yourself running out of battery when you’re in the middle of nowhere, because the last time I checked, fields don’t offer plug sockets. Although petrol and diesel are yet to die off, there’s already a plethora of electric cars out there, but the range some of them offer isn’t quite where it needs to be yet.

Sure, you can buy a Tesla, but you’ll probably need to remortgage your house to do so – a base Model X costs around £75,000. This is where the Kona Electric comes in to its own, as it’s able to offer a range that is actually usable on a day-to-day basis. It’s offered with two batteries; 39kWh, and 64kWh. It’s the latter I have on offer here, meaning I can enjoy a range of up to 300 miles (39kWh offers 194 miles).

It’s not desperately expensive either, as it starts from £24,995, although I’m willing to concede it’s a noticeable difference compared to the standard Kona. However, it’s certainly not the most you’d need to fork out for an electric car. That price is for the 39kWh battery though, you’d need to give over £29,495.00 if you want the bigger, and more powerful battery.

The performance is…electric

You’ll often hear people bang on about how they’d much rather have petrol or diesel than embrace what the electric car is able to offer. I would say I’m one of those people, however, I simply cannot argue with the performance this compact SUV is able to offer. 204ps is produced by the Kona Electric, along with 395Nm of torque.

Hyundai Kona Electric

This means 62mph is dealt with in just 7.6 seconds, which is pretty impressive for a small family SUV that practically weighs 1700kg. In case you’re wondering about top speed, that’s 104mph. Prod the throttle and you’re met by a bit of whirring from the electric motors, and torque that is so instantaneous, it’ll make you wonder if you’ve stepped in to the wrong car.

Making electric fun

This kind of power delivery means that the Kona Electric is a rewarding and fun car to drive. It may be a bit portly thanks to a heavy battery, but it’s genuinely good fun in the bends and it handles well too. It looks like it’s going to show you a fun time, and it does. You’ll think I’m mad for saying this, but it feels relatively light, considering the car’s weight. There is a bit of torque steer to contend with, which does take you by surprise, but it’s nothing major to worry about.

The car can either be driven in Sport, Normal or Eco, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out which is which. On my short drive with the car I kept it locked in to Sport mode, purely because it allowed the Kona to feel like a real livewire. As you would expect, the throttle response becomes greater, and the steering also weights up as well. The steering doesn’t offer a lot of feedback, but at least there is a decent amount of grip.

What about the rest of the driving sensation?

The Kona Electric offers a pleasant and rewarding drive, although I did find that audible tyre noise was able to creep in to the cabin. However, when you’ve got a car as quiet as this – I.E. no engine noise – tyre/wind noise will always be more exposed. Having said that, I can’t imagine the Kona Electric will be overly tiring to drive for a long period of time – as long as the charge allows of course.

The ride has got a slight firm edge to it, but it still rides well enough and is able to offer a comfy ride. It may not glide over the tarmac, but the suspension is good enough to take the sting out of most bumps. The seats are comfortable as well, plus they offer heated and ventilated capabilities thanks to the equipment included within the Premium SE trim level.

Is it spacious?

The chances are, buyers of this car will be looking to get a small family car that is environmentally conscious, therefore it needs to offer a decent amount of space. The Kona Electric is so-so here, as rear space for adults will be limited, although for children it should be just fine, and you do of course have ISOFIX points. Front space is better though, plus there is a decent amount of cubbyholes.

The boot isn’t exactly the last word in space as it has been cut down to 332 litres as opposed to the 361 normally offered. Mind you, that’s not too large a deficit and I doubt it will have a negative impact on family buyers. On the plus side, the boot opening is nice and wide, plus the lip on the entrance is minimal, which will make loading larger, heavier items in.

How much does it cost? What’s included?

Buying a Kona Electric should be straight forward, as there are just three trim levels available; SE, Premium and Premium SE. SE starts from a reasonable £24,995, and is able to offer 17″ alloy wheels, leather steering wheel, automatic lights, adaptive cruise control, front and rear electric windows, rear parking sensors, reversing camera, keyless entry, AEB and a 7″ infotainment system with Bluetooth, DAB radio and smartphone connectivity.

Making up the middle trim is Premium, which starts from £26,370 and is able add features including dimming rear view mirror, front and rear parking sensors, automatic wipers, LED rear lights, privacy glass, 8″ infotainment system with navigation, 8-speaker KRELL audio system, wireless phone charging pad, blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert.

That leaves the range-topping Premium SE, which is the model tested here. It starts from £31,795, adding equipment including electronically adjustable front seats which are ventilated as well as heated, leather seats, full LED headlights, high beam assist, heated steering wheel and a head up display. Thanks to the good amount of safety kit, the Kona Electric was able to secure 5 stars from Euro NCAP, much like its ICE counterpart.

Final thoughts

I would need to spend longer with the Kona Electric to really to get know it better, but what I can tell you, is that my initial impression was ‘positive’. I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. Joking aside, the Kona Electric seems to a breath of fresh air. Not only does it offer a range that is actually usable, but it’s fun to drive and offers a funky, distinctive styling. It’s well priced too, so it looks like Hyundai has pulled it out the bag here. I think it’s Kona be a success…

Hyundai Kona Electric

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