New Hyundai Kona Electric 2018 UK review

The Hyundai Kona Electric is an attractive proposition, and we've driven a late prototype version in the UKVerdict4.5The Hyundai Kona Electric is decent to drive, refined and comfortable, and it’s just about big enough for a small family. But it really stands out because of two things: its range and its pricing. This really is the first car that delivers Tesla-esque range between charging stations, but for less than £30k. That’s a great achievement, and it’s likely to ensure that the Kona Electric’s sales figures are limited by production capacity, rather than demand.

The Hyundai Kona Electric is the first of a new breed of EVs, with stronger range than we’ve been used to and, crucially, the sort of small SUV body style that really appeals to buyers these days. We were cautiously impressed by the car during an early drive in Germany – and now we’ve tried a late prototype in the UK to see if it stacks up on British roads. 

Of course, the Kona itself is reasonably well known. It’s a small SUV designed to rival everything from the Citroen C3 Aircross to the SEAT Arona. It’s decent but not outstanding, thanks to some pretty average packaging and a drive that fails to involve. It’s a car you’ll buy on image and styling alone, really – and we’re not about to get into judging those criteria.

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The Kona Electric, on the other hand, makes quite a case for itself. There’s a 39kWh ‘small battery’ version that can travel around 200 miles on a single charge, while the 64kWh model we’re testing here manages another 100 miles on top of that. Those are very impressive numbers by any EV’s standards, let alone one of this size. It’s also worth pointing out that those figures are calculated based on the tougher WLTP economy test that’s being introduced later this year – so they should be more achievable in the real world.

The 39kWh model has a 134bhp electric motor, while the 64kWh edition beefs that up to 201bhp. That’s enough for decent performance, with typical EV prowess from a standing start as the instant torque kicks in. It’d be stretching things to say that the Kona Electric is genuinely rapid – it does weigh around 1.7 tonnes, after all, so it doesn’t feel as fast as its official 0-62mph time (7.6 seconds) suggests – but it’ll be quick enough for everyday use around town.

The power does feel like it’s thinning out when you get to 65mph – frustrating, given the UK motorway speed limit – but the Kona Electric can still keep pace with faster traffic. The motor itself is nicely refined, too, with only a distant whine if you really stand on the throttle. 

That mass makes itself known on twistier roads, where the Kona’s Nexen low-rolling-resistance tyres (on 17-inch alloys) will give up the fight long before the chassis does, allowing the nose to wash out into understeer. There’s not much involvement to speak of, but it’s safe and sensible. This isn’t a hot hatch, and it seems pretty happy with that. 

A bigger potential problem could be ride quality, but the Kona Electric gets the same multi-link rear suspension as the higher-end combustion-engined Konas, As a result, the whole package delivers a solid balance between body control and comfort. Only the worst British potholes thunk through to the cabin and even then, the Hyundai tries its best to dampen their effect so they don’t annoy.

The cabin is largely the same as on the petrol-powered Kona, which means only modest amounts of space in the rear seats for adults. There’s a 332-litre boot, which is bigger than you’ll find in most superminis but smaller than a family car’s, while the cabin layout is neat and functional. The facia is dominated by the eight-inch touchscreen, which is crisp and quick to respond, as well as featuring Apple and Android connectivity for those who want it. Entry-level SE editions get a slightly smaller screen, incidentally, although its smartphone hook-ups are the same. 

All sounds reasonable enough, doesn’t it? But here’s the Kona Electric’s trump card: pricing. Factor in the UK grant for plug-in vehicles and the 64kWh model in Premium trim will cost you less than £30,000. That is truly remarkable when established sub-£30k EVs like the Nissan Leaf and VW e-Golf are delivering barely half of the Kona’s range, for only a few pounds less.

Key specs

  • Model: Hyundai Kona Electric Premium 64kWh
  • Price: £29,495 (after grant)
  • Engine: Single electric motor
  • Power/torque: 201bhp/395Nm
  • Transmission: Direct drive, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 7.6 seconds
  • Top speed: 104mph
  • Range (WLTP test): 300 miles
  • CO2: 0g/km
  • On sale: Now

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