Hyundai Kona Electric Ultimate long-term test: EV shows why it's an award winner
First report: our current Car of the Year joins the fleet and immediately shows why it was the team’s number one choice
Our test team was blown away by the Hyundai Kona’s maturity and all-round ability last year, and so far, I can’t see any reason to disagree. Our reigning New Car Awards champion is off to a solid start.
Mileage: 660 miles
Efficiency: 2.8 kWh
It’s around 30 years since I joined Auto Express, and the first car I was allowed to take for a weekend away was a Hyundai Accent. It was probably the least desirable car on the fleet back in 1994, but goodness me, Hyundai has come a long way since.
The latest arrival on our fleet is the Hyundai Kona Electric, our current Car of the Year – and it’s easy to see why it won. It arrived in December and I’ve hardly had a chance to drive it yet, thanks to a torrent of requests for test and video shoots (coming soon, honest!).
Unlike the previous generation, this Kona was designed and engineered from scratch as a pure electric car and it really looks the part. The dynamic lines across the body mirror those of its big brother (and another Auto Express Car of the Year), the Hyundai Ioniq 5. The single-line ‘lightbar’ headlights look cool and the square pixel rear lights also nod to Hyundai’s electric range. I’m a big fan.
The interior is decent too, but with a few slight drawbacks. Mind you, after six months in the premium all-electric Lexus RZ, I’d find lots of cars suffer in a comparison of interior materials, quality and technology.
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The Kona more than holds its own in terms of tech (more on that later), but the materials feel like a mixed bag. The steering wheel and seats are certainly comfortable and suitably soft to the touch, but some of the plastics inside the cabin are hard, scratchy and, if I’m honest, pretty cheap for a car with a list price north of £45,000.
I’m still not totally sold on the brushed-metal effect across the buttons and dash surround, either. Part of me thinks they’re retro cool and a perfect partner for those pixel lightbars. Yet this same effect looks cheap and nasty on the Kona’s key fob.
It is great to have buttons to press on the dashboard, though. Even with two 12.3-inch touchscreen displays, I can still adjust the temperature controls with a press. Likewise, I can select the home screen, navigation, media or car set-up simply with the push of a button, before messing with the screen. It’s ideal, and safer when driving.
Our Kona is packed not only with tech and safety gear, but also some nice luxurious touches. Buyers have three trim levels to choose from (Advance, N Line and Ultimate) and we’ve gone for the range-topper, then added a few options – namely metallic paint, plus the Lux pack, which brings features such as a memory seat, remote parking assist and, of all things, a heated charging door. As standard, our car also gets heating on the front and rear seats, plus the steering wheel, along with a wireless phone charger and an upgraded Bose stereo.
All of this pushes the list price up from £34,995 for a standard 48kWh Kona in Advance trim to the aforementioned £45,345 for our 65.4kWh long-range Ultimate.
Our Kona is supposed to have a range of around 319 miles between charges. But the most that I’ve managed to get it to display so far is 242, then 232 miles after the last two overnight charges from my home wallbox. I put that down to January temperatures and expect it to rise as the weather improves.
All Kona Electrics come with a heat pump, which aims to help warm the car without decimating the range. It seems to work, too; even with the heating blasting out on colder mornings, the range falls far less quickly than in my old Lexus.
Early impressions are that the Kona Electric is an easy car to drive, set up for comfort rather than performance. It doesn’t feel heavy like some EVs, though, and it’s quite agile, without being sporty. Plus it’s quick enough about town – and refined.
There is an exhaustive list of safety tech fitted, and I’ll explore that more in a future report, but Hyundai allows the driver to actually drive; the tech is supportive and doesn’t impose itself with as many alerts and beeps as in some cars. Plus there’s always the option to further fine tune which alerts are required among the settings.
I have no issues with practicality either. With 466 litres of boot space, plus decent underfloor storage, it’s more than enough for my family. There’s plenty of room in the rear for three adults or two large child seats.
An interesting final point is people’s perceptions of brands. A couple of family members have mentioned that it must be
a comedown to switch from a Lexus to Hyundai. “Far from it”, is my reply.
I’m much more comfortable in the Kona, which is more my level: a fair bit cheaper, less ostentatious and still with most of the bells and whistles (but without the beeps). Once those same family members have had a lift, they might see how far Hyundai has come since the days of that Accent.
|Hyundai Kona Electric 65.4kWh Ultimate
|On fleet since:
|65.4kWh battery, 215bhp motor
|Lux pack (£1,600), metallic paint (£650)
|Group: 33/Quote: £717
|319 miles (claimed)
|2.8 kWh (on test)
|None so far
*Insurance quote for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.