Electric vehicles are a global buzz today and India too is looking at ways of increasing EV penetration. The Indian government has been quite vocal about its desire to electrify vehicles in the country but not much has happened on the ground yet. That is mainly due to three problems - High purchase cost of EVs, limited range leading to range anxiety and lack of charging infrastructure. Hyundai Kona is the latest EV to hit the Indian roads and the company believes it addresses these problems effectively. We tried to find out if the Hyundai Kona lives up to the company's claim by driving it around the Buddh International Circuit.
Hyundai Kona Design
Hyundai Kona is the country's first electric SUV but look at it and it's tough to find the SUV traits. It instead looks like a large hatchback or a compact crossover. That said, the Kona does sport a pleasing and impressive design. The covered grille houses the charging port and also aids aerodynamics. The sleek LED and turn signal lights along with the headlamp cluster lend the Kona a sleek and youthful appearance. A strong shoulder line along with the dynamic-looking alloy wheels add to the futuristic design of the vehicle. The roofline tapers a bit after the C-pillar adding some sportiness to the overall design. At the rear also there's a dual cluster layout for the tail lamps and along with the lines on the tailgate and the bumper, the rear does look premium and modern.
Hyundai Kona Driving Experience
So now let's get down to the most interesting bit about the Kona - it's driving experience. The Kona is powered by a 39.2 kWh lithium-ion battery, which provides a power output of 136 ps and 395 Nm of torque. Since this is an electric vehicle all of this torque is available right from the start and that means that the Kona sprints off the line like an athlete. Acceleration is quite strong and power is channelled through a single-speed reduction gear transmission. On the track, the Kona accelerated quickly to about 165 kmph but beyond this point, progress slows down.
The biggest highlight of the powertrain though is the range it offers. The ARAI certified range is 452 km but in the real world, you should be able to get more than 300 km on a full charge. We couldn't check the range on the track but we will find that out soon in our road test. Charging the Kona also isn't a problem as the car comes with a normal charger and a free wall charger for fast charging.
Using fast charging will juice up the battery from 0 to 80 % in just 57 minutes whereas a level 2 7.2 kW charger will take 6 hours 10 minutes for the same job. Using a normal socket in our homes will charge the car in about 20 hours. The car also comes with Eco+, Eco, Comfort and Sport modes so you always have the option of extending the range using the eco modes when needed. The Kona electric also has brake energy regeneration so every time you brake the battery gets charged a bit adding to the range. Overall, we think the Kona is genuinely impressive as far as its driving capabilities and practicality are concerned.
In terms of handling too, the Kona did impress us a lot although the track wasn't a natural habitat for it. Straight-line stability is flawless and the vehicle doesn't mind quick directional changes too. However, at track speeds, there was a fair bit of understeer but it's hard to imagine someone pushing the Kona this hard on public roads so this won't be an issue for almost all buyers. Braking is also impressive and the initial bite is quite strong. However, pedal feel and steering feedback could have been better to provide a more engaging drive considering there's no engine sound anyway.
Hyundai Kona Interior & Features
Inside the cabin too the Hyundai Kona continued to impress us and the dashboard design and material quality were top notch. The 17.77 cm touchscreen has a crisp resolution and features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The front seats are well-cushioned and get an electrical adjustment for driver side and ventilation for both. Space in the rear seat is decent but vehicles in similar price segment do offer more. Being a track review we weren't able to test more parameters inside the cabin but we'll do that soon. Safety features are at par with the price bracket with six airbags, ABS with EBD, ESC, Hill-start Assist, tyre pressure monitoring system and disc brakes on all four wheels.
Hyundai Kona Price and Round-Up
There are a lot of questions still waiting to be answered regarding the Kona and for that, we'll soon do a detailed road test review. From this short track drive though, I can tell you that the Hyundai Kona is the first practical and user-friendly electric vehicle in India. It has enough range to cover up daily commutes for most people with just one charge a week. It has comfort and safety features at par with vehicles in the same price segment and most of all it isn't priced to drive you away from the thought of an electric car. At Rs 25.3 lakh the Hyundai Kona is certainly an electric vehicle that has the ability to change the way we Indians look at electric vehicles and pave the way for electrification.