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Road tests

New Hyundai Kona Electric 2023 review

The all-new Hyundai Kona Electric is an impressive car, which also offers plenty of tech and space

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

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Verdict

The Hyundai Kona Electric feels more grown up than before but adds in some Ioniq-based charm to help it stand out. Couple this with a segment-leading powertrain, all the technology you could need and extra practicality and it’s easy to see why it’s a winner. The price tag of this smaller battery model only adds to the Kona‘s broad appeal. 

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Our first taste of the new Hyundai Kona came in pure-electric guise with the bigger 64kWh battery. It’s now time to check out the smaller battery model to see if our newly-crowned Car of the Year is just as good in entry-level spec. 

The Kona Electric impressed us on many fronts on its way to collecting the coveted Auto Express Car of the Year 2023 trophy. Along with making improvements to technology, powertrain and design, Hyundai has clearly decided to put the Kona in a whole different segment. Using the K3 platform from the Kia Niro EV has helped the Kona grow in size so that it’s better positioned between the smaller Bayon and the larger Tucson

Hyundai also says the electric version was the first Kona to be designed so in theory it should be the pick of the range. We’re certainly keen on trying out the hybrid and mild-hybrid Konas, though, after our first experience with the full-EV. 

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Sitting in the range below the 64kWh version is this 48.4kWh battery model. Unlike the bigger battery Kona which will come in Advance, N Line, N Line S and range-topping Ultimate trim levels, the smaller battery car is only offered in Advance. 

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Don’t think the base-spec Kona Electric is lacking in equipment, however, there’s dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors with a rearview camera, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, two USB-C ports up front and two in the rear. There’s even the same twin 12.3-inch screens as in the higher specification Kona models. 

The infotainment system is a doddle to use in the Kona and even the Advance version comes with in-built sat-nav and EV route planning to help make sure you’re not scrambling to find a charger. Hyundai says over-the-air updates will be made available throughout the Kona’s lifespan, potentially including an ‘app shop’ to add more widgets and functionality to the menu. 

There’s clear influence from the brand’s Ioniq line up with the Kona, not just with the pixelated lightbars and eye-catching angular design on the outside, but with the bright and airy interior, too. It’s a pleasant place to sit with plenty of room front and rear, it’s worth remembering this is a pre-production car but we’re told its 99 per cent ready and it certainly feels well screwed together. 

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Hyundai proudly states that the Kona’s interior is a result of customer feedback, which is usually reassuring. Yes, there are larger screens on the dash as is customary with most EVs with premium aspirations, but we like the fact they’ve kept physical buttons for frequently-used functions like the radio and climate controls. The boot now provides a handy 466 litres of capacity, up from 374 litres.

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Sitting in the new Kona you immediately get the sense it’s grown in size over the old car. You sit higher up and the car feels like it has a bit more presence about it. There’s more headroom, legroom and shoulder room than before.

This being the smaller battery model, there’s only 154bhp on offer, well down on the 215bhp the 64kWh battery version conjures up. Crucially though the torque figures remain the same so the lesser-power version is only a second slower to 62mph. 

The torque is instant as you’d expect from an EV and around town the Kona has the grunt to feel very nippy. The Kona is bigger than before in every dimension but its turning circle hasn’t got increased - remaining at 10.6 metres. Steering is light, you’re easily able move the steering wheel with one finger (although we obviously wouldn’t recommend this on the road), but there’s virtually no feedback and it’s easy to cause the front wheels to scramble for grip with too much throttle. 

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We found the electric motor was slightly running out of puff at motorway speeds but should you need to perform a quick overtake the torque provides just enough punch. Even when you’re thrashing the Kona the refinement remains excellent. There’s plenty of suspension travel to deal with cratered roads but the suppleness doesn’t result in too much body roll in the corners. It’s a good balance with a clear focus on comfort. The Advance comes on 17-inch wheels rather than the 19-inch rims found on the rest of the range and we suspect these go some way to enhancing that impressive ride quality. 

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This being the smaller battery model the driving range is clearly going to suffer. A 234-mile range isn’t anything to shout about, especially given that the bigger battery dwarfs this with 305 miles. Unlike many of its rivals though, the Kona will get near to that figure all year round thanks to a standard-fit heat pump. 

The charging figure looks pretty good at 41 minutes to go from 10 to 80 per cent - better than the 64kWh model. Don’t forget it’s a smaller battery though, so in reality you’re adding 71 miles per 15 minutes to the larger battery’s 86 miles. 

At £34,940 the 48.4kWh Kona Electric undercuts the bigger battery model in Advance trim by £3,600. That really is a sizable chunk given the only major difference between the two is the range. When you consider that the cheapest Peugeot e-2008 is still £1,410 more expensive and the Jeep Avenger is £760 extra, this entry level Kona Electric really does have value on its side. 

Model:Hyundai Kona Electric 48.4kWh Advance
Price:£34,940
Powertrain:48.4kWh battery/1x e-motor
Transmission:Single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Power/torque:154bhp/255Nm
0-62mph:8.8 seconds
Top speed:101mph
Range/charging:234 miles/102kW (10-80% 41 mins)
On sale:Now
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Senior news reporter

A keen petrol-head, Alastair Crooks has a degree in journalism and worked as a car salesman for a variety of manufacturers before joining Auto Express in Spring 2019 as a Content Editor. Now, as our senior news reporter, his daily duties involve tracking down the latest news and writing reviews.

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