• Rear windscreen isn’t very big, which limits the rear vis...
    Rear windscreen isn’t very big, which limits the rear visibility.
  • Sunroof is small but helps bring in some light to make th...
    Sunroof is small but helps bring in some light to make the all-black cabin feel airy.
  • Legroom and headroom are limited. Under-thigh support isn...
    Legroom and headroom are limited. Under-thigh support isn’t great either.
1 / 0
Rating 8 8

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric review, road test

29th Sep 2019 10:00 am

The Kona Electric sure looks interesting. But does it have the real-world performance and range to be considered as an alternative to conventional combustion engine cars?

  • Make : Hyundai
  • Model : Kona Electric
We Like
Nippy performance
Good city driving range
Zero local emissions
We Don't Like
Cramped cabin
Unexciting interiors
Long charging time with conventional power outlet

The track record of electric cars sold in India hasn’t been great. The ones on sale earlier had a very limited range, were not powerful and, with no charging infrastructure to support them, they were also impractical. Now with all the talk of electrics, the timing couldn’t have been better for the launch of the Kona Electric – Hyundai’s first mainstream EV with a large range and a modern, practical cabin. Little surprise then that in a span of just 10 days, Hyundai received over 120 confirmed bookings. The Kona is available in a single ‘Premium’ variant, at an ex-showroom price tag of Rs 23.72 lakh at 15 select dealerships across 11 cities in India.

 

The Kona EV is already an international success. Since its launch in April 2018, it has sold over 15,000 units worldwide. It is offered with two battery choices – 64kWh and 39.2kWh – in global markets. For India, Hyundai has chosen the smaller and more affordable 39.2kWh option, which the company says has an ARAI-tested 452km range. At an asking price of Rs 25 lakh (on road), the Kona EV won’t disrupt SUV sales, but is it worth looking at if you can install a charger at your home? Will it be practical to use? What is the real-world range? What are some of the creature comforts and luxuries you will have to give up when your money is used to buy exorbitantly priced batteries? These and other questions are answered in our first all-electric road test in a long time.

Hyundai Kona Electric

Rs 27.57 lakh * on road price (New Delhi)

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Hyundai India calls the Kona an SUV, but going by the proportions and the design, this is more a crossover than a full-fledged SUV. Even when you compare the dimensions, the Kona is just a size bigger than the i20 Active. Creta-sized, it isn’t. However, at 1,800mm, it is quite wide and has a longer wheelbase too. The 17-inch alloy wheels complete the picture and feel proportionate to the car’s size.

This alloy-wheel design is claimed to have aerodynamic benefits.

The Kona doesn’t disappoint when it comes to defining itself as a futuristic vehicle. Up front, you have slim LED daytime running lights, below which are the bi-functional LED projector headlights. Further, you have a sealed grille that helps channel the air in a better way, giving the Kona EV an overall drag coefficient of 0.29. The grille also carries the CCS Type 2 charging port, so you can conveniently park head-on into the charging area parking slot. This plastic ‘grille’ is poorly constructed, though, and feels cheap. In profile, you can see a lot of body cladding over the flared wheel arches, especially in the rear, which add to the Kona’s off-roader look. The slim LED tail-lamps mimic the look of the front DRLs and sit atop the big reversing light.

CCS Type 2 charging port is placed on the front grille.

The Kona Electric sits on a heavily modified version of the combustion-engine Kona’s platform, and gets MacPherson strut-type suspension up front and a sophisticated multi-link at the rear. Although the Kona EV has not been crash-tested by the Global NCAP, the regular Kona did receive a 5-star safety rating at the Euro NCAP. The electric version uses advanced high-strength steel. While there is no engine, gearbox or fuel tank, the 39.2kWh, liquid-cooled, lithium-ion polymer battery pack sits on the floor – between the four wheels as well as under the rear seat – and added precautions are taken to ensure that there is minimum damage to it in case of a crash. The high-voltage battery is made up of 90 cells wired in series to provide a voltage output of 327V, and it is connected to the motor by high-voltage orange cables.

Up front sits the 136hp, permanent-magnet synchronous motor that converts electric energy into the mechanical energy used to turn the wheels. How does it work? Simple, when current flows through the windings in the motor, it generates a magnetic field which, in turn, rotates the rotor and generates torque. This torque is transferred to the wheels through a single-speed reduction gearbox.

 

If you peek under the bonnet you will see an on-board charger (OBC) and an electric power control unit (EPCU) mounted on top of the electric motor. The on-board charger converts the external alternating current (AC) from your home power supply (wall charger) to direct current (DC) in order to charge the high-voltage battery placed under the floor. An inverter (a part of the EPCU) is responsible for converting the DC supply from the battery to AC and sending it to the electric motor, which generates torque to move the vehicle forward. Also, while decelerating, the electric motor actually spins in reverse and the otherwise wasted kinetic energy (created while slowing down mechanical energy) is converted into electrical energy. A separate 12V battery is used to power the Kona EV’s standard electronics, like infotainment, cabin lights and more.

For its price, the Kona Electric has a small cabin, so let’s talk comfort first. Getting in and out of the front seats isn’t that difficult. You have to drop down onto the seats rather than just sliding onto them, like in some SUVs. Once in the driver’s seat, though, you have good frontal visibility. Rear visibility isn’t that great because of the small rear windscreen. The front seats provide ample under-thigh and side support to keep you in place on corners. The driver’s seat also offers 10-way adjustment with lumbar support, hence finding your perfect driving position is quite easy. Tall drivers might find headroom to be tight, as the sunroof protrudes into the cabin.

Front seats are very supportive and comfortable. The cushioning is on point.

The instrument cluster has a simple layout and is easy to read. There’s loads of useful information like range, battery charge, energy flow and different drive modes. On the left, you also have a real-time drive indicator that shows the amount of battery power being used when accelerating and the amount of energy recovered during regeneration.

The fully digital instrument cluster is very detailed and provides plenty of information.

The horizontal layout of the dashboard is pretty straightforward and doesn’t feel very exciting.
Soft-touch plastics are few and the hard plastics don’t really givea premium feel. Neither do most
of the buttons on the centre console and steering, though they do havea very nice tactile feel to them. The 7.0-inch floating touchscreen in the middle is small but is at a nice height, so you don’t have to tilt your head down too much to operate it. Although the buttons on the sides of the screen may seem like they’re from a very old layout, they make touchscreen operation while driving much easier and safer.

Silver elements on the dashboard do break the monotony, but the design still feels mundane.

There are plenty of storage places to keep your day-to-day stuff – the door pockets are accommodating enough and the glovebox is also of a good size. The centre console has a couple of cupholders, a storage compartment in the armrest, and an enclosed storage space below the AC controls. Since the Kona uses buttons instead of levers to change transmission modes (P, R, N and D) and has an electric parking brake, you get an additional storage spacebelow the console. This space isvery usable and comes with a 12V charging socket as well as a USB charging slot.

Buttons to select transmission modes is convenient while parking.

If you are primarily going to be chauffeur-driven, there’s not much to look forward to in the Kona, as this isn’t a particularly spacious car. In addition, the floor is placed higher due to the position of battery below, resulting in a knees-up seating position. Legroom is sparse for tall passengers and there’s no space to slide your feet below the front seats due to the placement of the rear ventilation ducts underneath. Also, at 332 litres, the boot space is only the size of a hatchback’s.

332-litre boot has a low loading lip. Portable charging cable eats up space.

Powering the Kona in India is a 136hp electric motor that makes 395Nm of torque. The cabin is
silent even when you push the start button and remains silent when you start driving with a light foot. You have a choice of four drive modes (Eco, Eco+, Comfort and Sport), depending on the way you want to drive. In Comfort mode, the car responds well to a tap on the accelerator and the drive is effortless and smooth. A gentle foot on the accelerator, makes the Kona build speed in a seamless manner. All you need to do for a quick overtake is hit the accelerator pedal a bit harder and the car leaps forward with a surprising surge. This makes closing gaps in traffic easy, and there’s always enough power available. Switch to Sport mode, and responses to accelerator inputs are suddenly sharper. There’s now an instant flow of power when you flex your right foot; and at times, if you are a bit hard on the throttle, you even get a lot of wheel spin. Eco mode is more inclined towards city-driving conditions; and although the accelerator inputs are slightly dull, it still provides enough power to drive smoothly. Long-pressing the drive mode button engages Eco+, the most energy-efficient mode where the Kona’s top speed is limited to 90kph and the climate control is switched off (it can be switched on manually).

In profile, the Kona looks more like a hatchback than an SUV.

So, how fast exactly is the Kona? When we put it through our standard test, the amount of torque available right from the moment you floor the accelerator is too much for the tyres to handle and creates a lot of wheel spin. Despite this, the EV still tested a very respectable 0-100kph time. However, with traction control switched on, the torque is put down on the road in a clean manner, which brought out an even better time of 9.09sec. Impressive.

Like most electric vehicles, the Kona also uses regenerative braking. Energy harnessed from slowing down is stored to the battery. This feels similar to engine braking in a regular car, where the car starts to slow down when you lift your foot off the accelerator. The Kona additionally provides three levels of regeneration via paddleshifters on the steering wheel. However, in the maximum regeneration (level 3), the car’s deceleration is so strong that it feels like the brakes have been applied suddenly. This needs some time getting used to. Level 1 and 2 are more comfortable in the sense that they decelerate in a similar manner as most petrol or diesel cars. There’s a level 0 as well, for no regeneration. Holding on to the left paddleshifter also brings the car to a halt, allowing you to drive the car with just one pedal.

Charging and range

One of the most important aspects of electric vehicles is charging, and Hyundai has done its part to keep you covered. On the purchase of a vehicle, you are provided with a 2.8kW portable AC charger that you can plug into a normal three-pin wall socket (16A). This takes around 19hr to charge the car from 0-100 percent. You are also provided with a 7.2kW wall-mounted AC charger that will be installed at a location of your choice (home or office) and takes 6hr 10min for a full charge. If you want an extra wall box charger, you can get one by paying Rs 80,000. Hyundai is working with Indian Oil Corporation to set up DC fast chargers at different locations across the country. These 50kW DC fast chargers use CCS Type 2 connectors and can charge your car from 0 to 80 percent in less than an hour. For using some of the electric chargers in malls, you will need to buy a type 2 charging cable with a male and female plug on either side. As of now, Hyundai isn’t providing these as part of its package, so you will need to buy it from third-party retailers or online portals.

‘Auto’ button locks charging cable into car’s port to prevent theft.

The Kona has been tested by ARAI under their standard test conditions and they claim it has a range of 452km. This is a bit unrealistic, and under real-life conditions and our city driving cycle, at an average speed of 17kph, the Kona delivered a maximum range of 324km. On our highway test cycle, driving at same speeds as we do on petrol and diesel cars, it gave a range of just 295km – which is lesser than in the city.

This is the reverse of what usually happens with petrol- or diesel-powered cars, and the reason for this is the regenerative brake feature. There is very little regeneration happening on a largely steady state highway run. What also helps the combustion-engine-powered cars is their gearing, which is often ideally suited to highway speeds. Do note that the car was in Eco mode with regeneration at level 3, but the climate control was switched on all the way, as it should be. So, it’s not difficult to get a range of close to the 250-300km mark, depending on how you drive and how much regeneration you can tolerate.

The Kona rides on a slightly stiff suspension and this is because it needs to carry the roughly 320kg battery, along with the rest of the car’s weight. It handles small potholes and undulations reasonably well. However, over a rough patch, the suspension kicks, and there is a fair amount of movement inside the cabin. Big potholes are taken with a sharp thud and you get tossed around inside as well. The multi-link rear suspension and the stiff chassis make the car feel nice and planted around corners; the low centre of gravity resulting from the under-floor battery pack helps too. So, at speed, the Kona feels planted and stable.

 

The car also feels agile and nimble from one corner to another, but is let down by a couple of factors. Firstly, the steering does nothing to make you feel connected with the front wheels; and secondly, the Nexen N’Fera SU1 215/55 R17 tyres, despite having good rolling resistance, are not very grippy either.

While the brake feel isn’t ideal in regeneration mode 2 or 3, it gets better as you reduce regenerative braking. Pedal feel actually gets less and less wooden and vague – which is a good thing. With regeneration on 0, you can actually trail brake into a corner quite effectively. The Kona Electric has an unladen ground clearance of 172mm, which is not that high but neither is it low enough to scrape easily on tall speed breakers.

The 7.0-inch touchscreen has a crisp display and a very intuitive user interface. It doesn’t have built-in navigation but it gets Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, both of which now support Google Maps. The touch sensitivity is also good and the screen is readable, even under direct sunlight.

 

Surprisingly, it doesn’t get Hyundai’s Blue Link SIM card-based connectivity tech. However, it displays a lot of car information, like battery status, range, power consumption by various systems (including the motor), driving efficiency on previous trips, and even the reduction in CO2 emissions while driving as compared to a similar-sized conventional petrol-powered car! This isn’t very accurate, though. You can also control various charging aspects from the infotainment unit, like setting the percentage till which you want the battery to be charged or even set the appropriate charging current for AC chargers.

Hyundai is offering the Kona EV in just one variant and has made sure it is loaded with features to compete with other cars in this price range. Safety-wise, you have six airbags, ABS with EBD, electronic stability control (ESC), electric parking brake with auto hold, hill-start assist, all-wheel disc brakes, tyre-pressure monitoring system, virtual engine sound system (it generates engine sound while in motion to alert pedestrians of the car’s presence), Isofix child-seat anchors, and rear parking sensors with camera.

Bi-functional LED projector lamps are placed below the DRLs.

For your comfort and convenience, there’s automatic LED lights, 17-inch alloys, a sunroof, 10-way adjustable powered driver’s seat, heated and cooled front seats, 60:40 split rear seat, auto-dimming inside mirror, heated outside mirrors, cruise control, drive modes, three regenerative braking modes and a wireless phone charger.

Buying and owning 

The reduction in GST dropped the price of the Kona to Rs 23.72 lakh (ex-showroom, India). Hyundai is also offering a three-year/unlimited km standard warranty and three years road side assistance. For the battery pack, you get an eight-year/1,60,000km warranty as well.

The Kona Electric, like any other EV, is a step towards the ideal goal of environment-friendly vehicles by bringing emissions to nil. Even though India still relies on fossil fuels for electricity production, EV adoption goes a long way towards reducing carbon emissions.

If that isn’t motivation enough, people also expect the cost of electricity for running an EV to be much lower than what they’d spend on fuel for a regular car. Let’s break that down. The battery capacity of the Kona EV is 39.2kWh, which means it needs approximately 40 units of electricity for a full charge (1kWh = 1 unit). In India, a single unit of electricity costs around Rs 8 (for residential areas) depending on the service provider. So the cost for a full charge is around 40 units X Rs 8 = Rs 320. Going by our tests, in realistic driving conditions, it is quite easy to get a range of 300km. That makes the cost of driving the Kona 320/300 = Rs 1.1 per km. A diesel- or petrol-powered Elantra automatic, which is almost in the same price bracket, would cost you Rs 5 per km (diesel price = Rs 65 per litre) and Rs 6.8 per km (petrol price = Rs 72 per litre), respectively.

Verdict

Electric vehicles (and the infrastructure to support them) are still in their infancy in India. Still, it’s clear that the Kona is easily the most complete EV to go on sale in India today. It has a powerful motor that provides good performance; and once you install your own charger at home, provided you can, the Kona Electric even becomes practical. The battery allows you to travel 250-300km between charges in the city and charging it costs next to nothing.

 

It is, admittedly, lacking in a few areas. The interiors don’t feel very premium, especially for a Rs 25 lakh car – it’s cramped on the inside. The backseat is not comfortable and while it feels nippy around corners, the steering lacks feel and feedback. The Kona’s biggest challenge however is that Rs 25 lakh can alternatively get you one of the best SUVs on sale in India; something like a fully loaded Kia Seltos or even a Jeep Compass. Still, if you want to be an early adopter of the electric technology and are willing to overlook a lack of size, space, comfort and the added conveniences that petrol and diesel cars still have over EVs, The Hyundai Kona Electric could very well be your first electric. It sets very high standards for the future EVs coming our way.

Click here for Hyundai India models, prices, reviews, images, videos and more details

PRICE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Ex-showroom - Delhi Rs 23.72 lakh
ENGINE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Max Power (hp @ rpm) 136hp
Max Torque (Nm @ rpm) 395Nm
Power to Weight Ratio (hp/tonne) 88.6hp per tonne (estimated)
Torque to Weight Ratio (Nm/tonne) 257.3Nm per tonne (estimated)
Motor Permanent-magnet synchronous
Installation Front axle
Battery capacity 39.2kWh
Battery type Lithium-ion polymer
Battery Voltage 327V
TRANSMISSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Drive Layout Front-wheel drive
Gearbox Type Single-speed reduction
BRAKING Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
80 - 0 kph (mts, sec) 26.97m, 2.62s
ACCELERATION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
0 - 10 kph (sec) 0.58s
0 - 20 kph (sec) 1.21s
0 - 30 kph (sec) 1.82s
0 - 40 kph (sec) 2.44s
0 - 50 kph (sec) 3.13s
0 - 60 kph (sec) 4.00s
0 - 70 kph (sec) 4.99s
0 - 80 kph (sec) 6.16s
0 - 90 kph (sec) 7.53s
0 - 100 kph (sec) 9.09s
0 - 110 kph (sec) 10.86s
0 - 120 kph (sec) 12.92s
0 - 130 kph (sec) 15.28s
0 - 140 kph (sec) 18.09s
1/4 mile (sec) 16.79s
NOISE LEVEL Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Idle (dB) 31.2dB
Idle with AC blower at half (dB) 51.3dB
BODY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Construction Five-door crossover, monocoque
Weight (kg) 1535kg (estimated)
Front Tyre 215/55 R17
Rear Tyre 215/55 R17
Spare Tyre 135/80 D17
SUSPENSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Front Independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs
Rear Independent, multi-link, coil springs
STEERING Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Type Rack and pinion
Type of power assist Electric
Turning Circle Diameter (mts) 10.6m
BRAKES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Front Ventilated discs
Rear Solid discs
Dimensions Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Length 4180mm
Width (mm) 1800mm
Height 1570mm
Wheel base 2600mm
Front Track (mm) 1564mm
Rear Track (mm) 1575mm
Ground Clearance (mm) 172mm
Boot Capacity (Lts) 332 litres
INTERIOR Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Cruise control Available
Drive modes Available
Wireless phone charging Available
Auto dimming inner rear view mirror Available
Sunroof Available
SAFETY FEATURES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Airbags 6
Tyre Pressure monitoring system Available
Range Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
City 324km
Highway 295km
Claimed 452km
2019 Hyundai Kona Electric review, road test
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