HYUNDAI has introduced its second-generation Kona Electric this month, the slightly larger Small segment SUV priced from $52,000 plus on-road costs – or $2800 more than the outgoing model.
The Kona Electric rivals competitors including the BYD Atto 3 (from $48,011), Kia Niro Electric (from $66,590), MG ZS EV (from $40,990), and incoming Subaru Solterra / Toyota bZ4X ($77,990 / TBA).
It is offered in two trim grades – Kona and Premium – and with the choice of Standard (48.6kWh) and Extended Range (64.8kWh) lithium-ion battery packs, and with 99kW and 150kW front-wheel drive options, both with 255Nm of torque.
Hyundai quotes a driving range of 370km (WLTP) in lower configuration and up to 505km (WLTP) in the upper. Charging time is listed at 45 minutes on the 10-80 per cent scale.
As witnessed elsewhere in the Kona range, the Electric line-up includes Hyundai’s futuristic LED positioning lights, differentiated for the EV model in pixelated form. The model is further differentiated by gloss black lower body mouldings and aerodynamic alloy wheel designs.
Larger than its predecessor, the new Kona Electric offers 77mm more rear seat legroom than before, and 17mm more shoulder-room. There is also 15mm more headroom than the previous model, and a larger cargo area – up 33 litres to 407 litres in five-seat mode.
Further forward, the Kona Electric features dual 12.3-inch instrumentation and infotainment screens, a shift-by-wire transmission selector, and handy 27-litre front cargo area.
Every Kona Electric grade features LED headlights, DRLs and tail-lights, dual-zone climate control, a V2L power outlet, heat pump cabin heating, battery conditioning, a wireless smartphone charging pad and Bluelink connected car services with over-the-air updates.
Premium variants add 19-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, powered, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, head-up display, Bose eight-speaker sound, remote smart parking assist, glass sunroof and a powered tailgate.
On the safety front, the Hyundai Kona Electric features an extensive range of SmartSense advanced safety and driver assistance features including AEB with motorcycle detection, adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go functionality, and a front centre airbag.
To this, Premium variants add parking collision avoidance (AEB reverse), blind spot view monitor and a 360-degree camera system.
The new Kona Electric Extended Range model can tow up to 750kg and comes pre-wired for tow bar fitment.
In a further plus, the range also includes a space-saver spare wheel.
Service pricing for the Kona Electric range is capped with intervals set at 24, 48 and 72 months. Pricing for the three services is listed at $520, $1060, and $520 respectively. The vehicle is warranted for five years / unlimited kilometres and the high-voltage battery eight years / 160,000km.
Considering its size, the Kona Electric is a well proportioned Small segment SUV with decent rear seat space and a useful boot. The cabin comfortably accommodates four adults and is far less “plasticky” than the outgoing model, with a more open and modern aesthetic.
Hyundai says more than 10 per cent of Aussie buyers will consider the move to an electric Kona, and after a short stint at the wheel, we reckon they might be underselling it. There are benefits the BEV model delivers that neither the ICE nor HEV can manage, especially if a smooth and quiet ride is high on your checklist.
Placing the gear selector behind the steering wheel (on the column) frees up considerable space in the centre console, which can accommodate everything from a couple of coffees to larger bottles, a handbag, or even a small bag of groceries. It really is very handy.
Add to that simple to understand controls and a logical infotainment interface and there is no getting around that Hyundai has thought this interior through.
That’s not to say there is anything ‘simple’ about the technology offering. As easy as it is to use, the HMI provides detailed information on driving style, range and charging points, as well as a comprehensive selection of infotainment choices that work sweetly with a connected smart phone.
The only quibbles we had, in fact, come from the electronic lane keeping, speed sign recognition and driver attention monitor which are quite overzealous. Fortunately, these may be disabled upon starting the car, and will remain switched off until the next time the vehicle is shut down.
The K3 platform which underpins the Kona Electric was designed with BEV motivation in mind, and it really shows.
The car feels made for electric motivation and delivers progressive acceleration and balanced handling, far beyond that of its ICE and HEV siblings. It is a point you may only notice in back-to-back driving – by all means sample both when it’s time for a test drive.
We found the ride on pockmarked ACT backroads to be effortlessly managed, with no crashing or tracking over degrading surfaces. Even on unsealed roads the Kona Electric remained predictable and calm, with only a hint of road rumble entering the cabin on very coarse surfaces.
Acceleration is linear, and plentiful given the figures. The new Kona Electric provides less power and torque than the outgoing Siemens-powered model (150kW/395Nm) but is better geared to channel that energy to the wheels, while using less energy in the process.
We also appreciated the ease of operation that comes with the vehicle’s regenerative braking system, which even when left to its own devices (Auto mode) is a willing assistant, particularly in urban environs where one-pedal operation makes sense.
If we are being picky, we did find the A pillars a little chunky, hindering the view when approaching roundabouts (welcome to Canberra, am I right?) and angled intersections. It’s nothing that can’t be worked around, but there are others in the segment that do this better.
The only other real downside we can see to owning a Hyundai Kona Electric is that there is now plenty of competition around the segment – and much of it more affordable. Arguably, the Hyundai offers a more reliable (or should we say, ‘better known’) alternative to some of the newcomers – but we also know that’s an argument that won’t sway many.
With more new car buys drawing the purse strings ever tighter, sales of the Kona Electric will show just how right Hyundai Australia’s sales forecast are, and if indeed a third of Kona buyers are tempted by the idea of “going electric”.
Given the sales volume achieved by BYD, MG and others, the number might be a challenge, the Kona Electric’s price point a fly in the ointment of what is an otherwise very attractive package.
Let’s see if time proves us wrong.