For years the Hyundai and Kia brands have caught up with their European and Japanese rivals. In fact, the Hyundai group allows itself the luxury of successfully innovating in the field of electric cars . So much so that today, Hyundai and Kia products are the only ones that can stand up to Tesla. And we could see it by spending a week with the 150 kW Hyundai Kona Electric .
The Hyundai Kona is a well-known model. Rival of the Renault Captur, SEAT Arona, Peugeot 2008 and Citroën C3 Aircross is available in a wide variety of engines, gasoline, diesel, hybrid electric and 100% electric. The electric variant has two versions. The first version has a 100 kW (136 hp) engine associated with a 39.2 kWh battery.
The second version has a 150 kW (204 hp) motor associated with a 50 kWh battery. This time we tested the 204 hp version, which represents the majority of Kona Electric sales, and with the highest finish, the Style that costs from 46,450 euros (without the eternal discounts from Hyundai or help from the MOVES II plan ).
The Hyundai Kona Electric differs aesthetically from its range brothers by a more refined , almost futuristic design, due to the need for improved aerodynamics. The front lacks a calender, although it is hinted at with some relief shapes. The front is also somewhat more prominent, when in the thermal Kona it is almost vertical. Again, to improve the aerodynamics.
At 4,185mm long it is only 15mm larger than a gasoline Kona. But it is also slightly taller ( 20 mm reaching 1,570 mm) although at the same time it has a lower headroom (17 cm for the gasoline Kona and 15.8 cm for the Electric Kona). The wheelbase does not vary (2,800 mm).
The same thing happens with the interior design as with the exterior design. In the Kona Electric, the base is the same as in the thermal models, but the end result is a more refined, more elegant interior . The dashboard is almost identical, the main differences being the digital instrument panel (7-inch screen) and a new, high central tunnel that separates the cabin in two in the front seats. It also has a “fake” head-up display. The information is projected on a methacrylate screen above the instrument panel and not on the windshield.
The central multimedia screen is tactile but maintains functions that are activated via physical buttons, which in this 2020 version are at the base of the screen and not on the sides. The interface is quite fast and intuitive. The system is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay . It should be noted that the navigator, as in many if not all electric cars, can permanently show the charging stations compatible with the Kona at the POIs (points of interest), regardless of the operator.
In the central tunnel, the gear knob has been replaced by four buttons (P, N, R and D). At the top of the central tunnel, the behavior to charge the mobile via induction, USB socket or 12 V auxiliary. And at the base, the controls for the heated and cooled seats , as well as the heated steering wheel. And curiously, there is also the selector for the different driving modes.
It may seem like a bit of an odd place to locate the driving mode selector, a location closer and higher on the center console would have been a bit more practical for those who like me like to change settings often depending on the situation, for example, before overtaking.
The finishes, especially in the ultra-equipped Style version, have nothing to envy to other rivals on the market. It is true that they are not as rewarding looking as in a DS 3 or a Peugeot 2008, but they are of good work and the settings are correct.
In terms of habitability, the balance of the Kona Electric is positive. In front, there is no lack of space, although with a central console-tunnel so high that it blatantly separates the two seats, the feeling may be for some passengers with less space. But it’s just a feeling.
Behind, without becoming the benchmark of the segment, the Kona offers plenty of legroom. In fact, it’s one of the pleasant surprises of this electric SUV: the ample space behind it. Even the opening is wide, sufficient in any case to be able to install a child seat without difficulty, for example. In addition, the access is facilitated by an opening of the doors to almost 90º. To position ourselves, it offers less space than a Peugeot e-2008 and much more than a Nissan Leaf. I found it similar to that of a DS 3.
The trunk, meanwhile, has lost 29 liters of capacity compared to a Kona with a heat engine. It offers 332 liters compared to 361 liters for the thermal range. It has a double bottom, where you can store the portable network charger and its cable.
At the wheel of the Kona Electric
Once on board, it is easy to achieve an ideal driving position. The ergonomics, despite a touch screen and a switch by buttons, is successful. It even offers the possibility of regulating the intensity of the dashboard light. During the day or at night in the city, having the entire dashboard on and glowing is not a problem, but on an open road and without streetlights, it is an ordeal and does not help to see the road well.
Just reach for a button to the left of the steering wheel to lower the intensity. Doing the same with a SEAT, for example, involves stopping the car and diving into the infotainment system menus to lower the intensity. (Yes, I miss the SAAB Black Panel).
The only flat in terms of ergonomics is the position of the button to select the driving modes: Eco, Comfort and Sport. These act both on the engine’s response to the accelerator and regenerative braking, as well as on auxiliary systems (air conditioning, for example). The greatest autonomy is logically obtained with the Eco mode.
There are also four levels of regenerative braking that are selected via paddles on the steering wheel. We can choose no retention and up to three levels of retention. At level 3, the maximum, it is hardly necessary to use the brake in town . The car comes to a stop in just a few meters just by taking your foot off the gas (considerably less than a thermal Kona) and without touching the brake pedal. The Eco and Comfort modes have the maximum regeneration level selected by default, while the Sport mode applies level 1. But with the paddles it is possible to select the maximum regeneration level in Sport.
Another curious fact. In Sport it is possible to brake the car with the left cam without touching the brake. If we keep the left cam pressed -without touching the brake-, the maximum possible regeneration will be applied. If we hit the brake before pulling the left cam, that trick won’t work. We can only select the regeneration levels one by one.
The electric motor of this 204 hp Kona is located on the front axle, where in the other versions the gasoline or diesel engine would be. This is associated with a 64 kWh capacity lithium-ion polymer battery . In order to improve the efficiency of the battery, both when driving and when charging, the battery is cooled by water through a system associated with the air conditioning.
And it is that when driving on the highway, in fast charges or in high summer temperatures, the battery can discharge quickly if it is not kept at its optimum operating temperature. Similarly, it has an electric heater for cold winter temperatures. Remember that most batteries seem to work best between 22 and 25ºC.
The Kona Electric approves a range of 484 km. In our test, it showed a range of 453 km and an average consumption of 14.1 kWh / 100 km , when it approved 15.4 kWh / 100 km. As gross as one was on the throttle, the battery seemed not to drain.
How did Hyundai do it? There is no single reason, but a host of elements that make it possible. On the one hand, without a refrigerated battery, such records would never have been achieved outside of the controlled environment just over 20º from a test bench. On the other hand, the consumption of its engine is really low. And that is achieved with an efficient engine, a very careful aerodynamics and low rolling resistance tires. And this is where we have to talk about one of the points that we have not liked so much in the Kona Electric: the tires.
With 204 hp and 395 Nm of torque, the car strikes us with a lot of energy. The acceleration is frankly good (0 to 100 km / h in 7.6 s) and the recoveries worthy of more powerful and prestigious models, with an average of 80 to 120 km / h in 4.5 s . In Sport mode, the engine response to the throttle is instantaneous, while in the other modes, there is a certain progressiveness in the arrival of power and torque.
The chassis of the Kona, meanwhile, shows up to the performance. The very low center of gravity, thanks to the battery, gives it a lot of poise, while the suspensions have a very successful set-up. The car is both very comfortable and very noble in its behavior, with very controlled body movements and fairly direct and precise steering. And all this with a very successful acoustic insulation.
However, all these qualities are not easily appreciated because of the Nexen N Fera SU1 215/55 R 17 tires with low rolling resistance. The chassis would allow us to take some curves and linked with more joy with which we finally do.
And is that with these tires, understeer can become exaggerated. To top it all, the screeching of the tires does not encourage a real attack. It is taking a curve at a happy pace and they sound like in a series from the 70s where only a hubcap is missing that shoots towards the camera.
Another point for improvement of these tires is the high rolling noise they generate on some sections. This is particularly remarkable, as the Kona Electric’s sound insulation is very accomplished.
These are part of the package of measures that give the Kona an enviable range, but in return we lose in driving pleasure and refinement. The former is not so much of a problem in a compact SUV like this that should be liked by as many as possible. The second thing, in an electric car, is a shame. Part of the grace of electric cars is lost: the silence of the march.
And since we are talking about acoustics, the KRELL 360 W Premium audio equipment with 8 speakers (two tweeters, four woofers, a center track and a subwoofer) of this test unit sounded really good. With a crisp high end and deep low end that you only expect to find in systems from Burmeister or Bowers & Wilkins. I cannot assure that it is at the same level as the aforementioned systems (I am not a specialist), but it deserved mention for its quality.
The Kona Electric against its rivals
The Hyundai Kona Electric operates in a segment in which it is not exempt from rivals, direct and indirect. Peugeot e-2008 , Kia e-Niro and Nissan Leaf E are the most obvious. With the Kia e-Niro in front, choosing the Kia or the Hyundai is a mere matter of taste and / or deal with the dealer (read price), both models have the same virtues and defects, although the e-Niro has to he a larger boot (451 liters).
Compared to a Peugeot e-2008 (50 kWh and 136 hp battery), the Kona Electric leans in terms of habitability and dynamic behavior (solely due to its Nexen tires). However, it far exceeds the e-2008 in terms of performance and autonomy (240 real km for the Peugeot).
The Nissan Leaf E has a 62 kWh battery (from 43,570 euros) and a 218 hp engine with an approved range of 385 km. However, compared to the Hyundai Kona, the Leaf E cannot compete in terms of habitability (inferior to the Kona), dynamic behavior and especially in terms of consumption and autonomy, which is about 335 real km. The lack of a cooling system in the Nissan implies a much higher consumption.
- Real autonomy
- Possibility of charging up to 100 kW
- Dynamic behavior (due to Nexen tires)
- Trunk somewhat small
If there is an interesting aspect with electric cars, it is that all participants come out with the same advantage, or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it. None of them have been making electric cars for 50 or 80 years. Almost everyone became interested in electric cars around the same time, that is less than 10 years ago, when Tesla broke into the market with the Model S. Hyundai did not start with a special advantage over Renault or Nissan, for example.
Hyundai, for its part, has made a strong start. The Kona Electric is the electric car that proves that yes, it is possible to have an electric car as the main or only car of a family. It offers good habitability, very decent features, high refinement, technology and very efficient consumption that give it more than 400 km of real range on average. There is life beyond Tesla in the electric car segment .
For those looking for an electric car for less than 50,000 euros, the Kona Electric is highly recommended. Now, if Ionity could put the batteries to offer a recharging network even half as extensive as that of a certain Californian manufacturer, it would be a great point in favor of the Kona Electric, which accepts loads of up to 100 kW.
|Hyundai Kona Electric 150|
|Motor||Electric. Permanent Magnet Synchronous|
|Maximum power||150 kW (204 hp)|
|Maximum torque||395 Nm over the entire use curve|
|Transmission||Front-wheel drive. Shifting a gear|
|Dimensions||Length x width x height (mm): 4,180 x 1,800 x 1,570|
|Weight||from 1,760 kg|
|80 to 120 km / h||4.5 s|
|0 to 100 km / h||7.6 s|
|Maximum speed||165 km / h|
|Average consumption approved (WLTP cycle)||15.4 kWh / 100 km|
|Average consumption in test||14.1 kWh / 100 km|
|Approved autonomy (WLTP cycle)||484 km|
|Autonomy in test||453 km|