Hyundai Kona Electric II review: plugged into the mains
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Hyundai Kona Electric II
- Impressive range
- Welcome technology updates
- Good steering and ride
- Eco tyres/traction control can’t cope with the wet
- Conservative cabin styling
- Same price as groovy Ioniq 5
When the Hyundai Kona Electric was launched back in 2018, it was a hero car for the Korean maker’s burgeoning Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) cause. It had great range (400km-plus), although it was also very expensive: the price of $80k for the tricked-up Elite was twice that of the entry petrol-powered Kona. Jaws dropped.
Times have changed, right? We now have the futuristic Ioniq 5 BEV, which starts at $80k and goes upwards into three figures from there. Suddenly, the Kona Electric looks a bit like Hyundai’s budget-BEV alternative.
The Kona Electric is still a key plug-in model, partly because of that price: there's a new 39kWh version that starts at $69,990, but even the entry $79,990 iteration of the 64kWh Kona Electric sneaks under the cap for the Government’s Clean Car Discount, meaning you get $8625 back for a “real world” price of $71,365. Kona was New Zealand’s top-selling pure-electric model for October, ahead of the MZ ZS EV and Tesla Model 3.
That new(ish) discount buys you a new(ish) model as well. The refreshed 2021 Kona Electric II has flush new frontal styling, with a closed grille section, new lights/DRLs, plus a new rear bumper and new-design alloys. It looks more like a BEV now.
There’s a 10.25-inch customisable digital dash cluster, extra USB ports, Rear View Monitor (you can have the reversing camera on all the time) and some new safety assists including Lane Following (to hold the car in the centre of the lines), Blind-Spot Collision Avoidance (above 60km/h it will brake to prevent a lane change if needed), Rear Cross Traffic Collision Avoidance, Safe Exit Warning (if a passenger opens a door into passing traffic) and Rear Occupant Alert (so you don’t leave the baby behind).
The 64kWh battery pack and 150kW electric motor are carried over, but new Michelin Primacy4 low rolling resistance tyres have helped increase WLTP range from 449km to 484km. Every little bit helps… and that’s quite a big increase.
The big question for potential buyers might be whether to buy the Kona Electric or the entry Ioniq 5, given they’re both $80k Hyundai plug-ins and both get that sweet cashback. For the BEV-aware it might be a moot point, as they’re very different cars: front-drive (Kona) versus rear-drive (Ioniq 5), compact SUV versus medium-large family car.
Auckland | Auckland City
$266.08 p/w $1,064.33 p/m
But it in these early days of the revolution it’s also natural to compare two BEVs that sit in the same price bracket, simply because they’re both electric.
The Kona is a familiar SUV that just happens to be electric, whereas the Ioniq 5 is bold and bespoke, a pointer to a brave new world. So that choice might depend on your mindset.
The Ioniq 5 is a lot more car and a lot more passenger space for your money… but the Kona goes a lot further on a charge. The entry Ioniq 5 RWD gets 384km from its 58kWh battery, but the Kona Electric can add another 100km before you have to plug in (although the Ioniq can also charge twice as fast as the Kona on the right DC Hyper Charger station).
Let’s leave the comparisons there, because the Kona is still very much its own thing. Quite a fun thing, too. It’s suitably BEV-perky off the line, to the extent that the eco-tyres struggle for traction up to 50km/h. It’s mildly amusing in the dry, but slightly alarming in the wet: if you’re too aggressive, the traction control kicks in, but on a cambered road all that torque can steer the front end off towards the kerb.
When you’re not being silly, the Kona Electric impresses for substantial steering feel and a compliant, well-controlled ride – both things that are not givens in BEVs. It’s better in those respects than the Ioniq 5, even. But there we go with the comparisons again.
It’s equally good on the open road. While we might think of the Kona as a city SUV, it has the dynamic ability and battery range to be a viable and comfortable long-distance machine too.
The tech updates give the interior a nice lift, although it’s still a very conventional cabin experience. And you do have to remember that’s it’s a small SUV, so rear-seat space is modest and the boot is class-appropriate, but still modest at 332 litres.
The entry 64kWh seems like the sweet spot of the Kona Electric range. There’s that $70k 39kWh model with a 100kW motor, but you’re giving up a lot of performance and range (it does 305km). And while the flagship $88k Elite adds some nice luxury equipment and an even bigger touch screen, it’s well over the Clean Car cap, making the post-Discount price gap to the entry car $16,625. So take the Government’s money and enjoy your standard Kona Electric 64kWh.
HYUNDAI KONA ELECTRIC 64KWH SERIES II
ENGINE: 64kWh lithium-ion battery with single electric motor
GEARBOX: Single speed, FWD
POWER CONSUMPTION: 14.7kWh/100km, range 484km