Review: Hyundai Kona electric car shows petrol, diesel vehicles their place in history

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Published: June 15, 2019 1:50:49 AM

The Kona Electric is lightning quick from any speed to any speed, because the massive 395Nm of torque is delivered instantly by the electric motor, unlike a petrol/diesel vehicle where the engine needs to reach a particular RPM to deliver similar power

Kona is one of the company’s newest global SUVsKona is one of the company’s newest global SUVs

On July 9, Hyundai Motor India will launch its first fully-electric car in the country, and the first that appears to negate all the negatives usually associated with an electric car—limited driving range, in particular—at least on paper. The Kona Electric, the world’s first electric compact SUV, combines the characteristics of a bold, roomy SUV, with an impressive electric driving range. We drive it in Seoul, South Korea.

What is the Kona?
Also available in petrol and diesel engine options, the Kona is one of the company’s newest global SUVs. Therefore, the Kona Electric is not a ‘born-electric’ car—like Nissan Leaf or any of the Tesla vehicles—but is instead ‘turned-electric’. It’s available in a choice of two powertrains: ‘Electric’ with a battery capacity of 64 kWh and and ‘Electric Lite’ rated at 39.2 kWh. India is likely to get the ‘Electric Lite’ trim.

What defines its design?
The design is more or less similar to its petrol/diesel engine variants, and yet Hyundai has tried to make it look unique, especially by adding the characteristic full-LED twin headlights—which make it look like a Tesla from a distance. Also, because electric motors don’t need to be cooled in the same way as petrol/diesel engines do, there is no need for a conventional radiator and thus the front grille has been closed.

How is the cabin?
The Kona Electric isn’t roomier than its petrol/diesel variants—a reason could be that Hyundai engineers didn’t tinker enough under the front hood. But it has plenty of room for five passengers and cargo with a trunk capacity of 373 litres.

What makes the cabin special is attention to detail. Once you get inside, you’ll discover exceptional levels of comfort with high quality materials used for a refined feel. And the cabin does look futuristic—with all that electric car paraphernalia used.

What powers the Kona?
The Kona Electric gets a 64 kWh battery that gives it a driving range of 449 km. It can go from 0-100 kph in 7.6 seconds and has a maximum speed of 167 kph. Because it has a big battery pack, it takes more than 9 hours to fully charge, but with a fast charger you can top up 80% of the battery in 54 minutes (in India, you will take far more time finding a fast charger than charging the Kona fast.)

The Kona Electric Lite gets a 39.2 kWh battery pack that has a range of 289 km. It goes from 0-100 kph in 9.7 seconds.

How does it drive?
We drove the more powerful version, and it drives like the future of mobility should do. It’s lightning quick from any speed to any speed, because the massive 395Nm of torque is delivered instantly by the electric motor, unlike a petrol/diesel vehicle where the engine needs to reach a particular RPM to deliver similar power.

And then there are technologies that make petrol/diesel engines look prehistoric. For instance, braking is optimised to get the most out of the regenerative braking system, helping the car maintain a healthy state of charge. The driver can also adjust the level of regenerative braking through the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. Also, you can switch between forward, neutral, reverse and parking by simply using the buttons conveniently located within the centre console. The electric parking brake can be found here as well. The centre console with the central shift-by-wire controls is the biggest change inside the Kona Electric compared to the conventional Kona.

To be launched in India on July 9
Hyundai India is expected to launch the ‘Electric Lite’ trim, and not the more powerful, and more expensive, variant of this car that we drove for this review. It will be assembled at its manufacturing plant in Chennai, and will be sold in 16 cities initially. Hyundai says that the broader objective is to make electric vehicles popular and bring in a change in customer mindset.

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