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Hyundai Kona Electric 2021 review

The electric Kona features a funky plastic panel in place of the petrol versions's front grille

My girls are all about recycling at the moment. To be honest, it is probably because of their bulging bank accounts courtesy of the container deposit scheme, but hey, you have to take your green wins where you can.

They were thrilled to be spending a week in a car that is 100 per cent electrically driven, although we had to put a quick stop to plans to sell rides in it to the neighbours.

The Kona Electric joins the Ioniq as Hyundai’s all-electric offerings in Australia, and the small SUV is eliciting all sorts of interest from EV faithfuls in part to its extended range. We put it to the family test.

The Kona Electric joins the Ioniq as Hyundai’s all-electric offerings in Australia. The Kona Electric joins the Ioniq as Hyundai’s all-electric offerings in Australia.

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✅ What does it look like?

The most striking exterior difference between the petrol and electric Kona is the front grille, with the electric car featuring a funky textured plastic panel in its stead.

It also has a reshaped rear bumper and wheels to help prevent resistance through the air and electric badges to call out the difference. It may not be the scream for attention that some drivers want but we prefer the more subtle 'look at me'.

Featuring a reshaped rear bumper and wheels. Featuring a reshaped rear bumper and wheels.

The interior, too, is a touch more reserved than you would expect with the lack of a traditional gear lever and electric motor readouts in the instrument panels the only real reminder that you are doing your bit for the environment.

It's also clear that the price tag reflects the underlying tech rather than plush internals, for while the fit and finish is hard to fault, the materials used are underwhelming.

While the seats are contoured and comfortable, and the dials and knobs look good and feel robust, the metal look on the buttons doesn’t hide the plastics underneath and the door panels also lack that soft touch.

✅ How does it drive?

One of the great advantages of electric motors is the instant pulling power available from standstill and the Kona Electric does not disappoint.

Of course, it’s up to you how much range you want to sacrifice for performance, but we liked the instant power hit especially while overtaking and climbing up hills.

It feels solid and grounded (probably the extra weight there) and although the steering is a bit light there is confidence around its delivery. It is easy to manoeuvre and park with the raised seating position and large windscreen offering good visibility.

The Kona electric feels solid and grounded. The Kona electric feels solid and grounded.

The Kona Electric is a competent little unit offering a relaxed, comfortable drive whether you are on the highway or within the confines of the city.

The nuances of electric motoring, like the regenerative braking for example, which allows you to charge the battery on the go, are pretty easy to get used to in this car.

You can change the settings on the regen so that it is stronger on drives that have more stops/starts and require more braking or adjust it so you can coast freely at highway speeds.

Like me, egged on by the kids, you may enjoy having a crack at getting through the trip without diminishing any battery power, using the regenerative braking as your power broker.

It’s a fun game and was pretty achievable in a Queensland winter where cold temperatures don’t hamper performance. The quest also meant we had to drive with the climate control off but the seat warmers made up for that.

At slower speeds the Kona Electric is as quiet as a mouse bar the hum that lets pedestrians and cyclists know you are around. At higher speeds, without an engine to drown it out, you may encounter some road or wind noise, but that’s par for the course.

✅ How spacious is it?

Look, this is a small SUV so naturally space will be at a premium. Those in the front seat are better catered for than rear seat passengers with good head and legroom and seats that take even wide husband shoulders.

Babies and toddlers will not complain about back seat accommodations but it won’t hurt to check the height of their car seats as we found the tallest setting on the extendable booster seat was pretty close to the top. 

Front seat passengers are better catered for than rear seat passengers. Front seat passengers are better catered for than rear seat passengers.

Older kids with long legs, like the little giants who live in my house, are more inclined to complain about the lack of a USB plug back there than the legroom, so the Kona Electric can work as a green family choice.

The boot, at 332 litres, is slightly smaller than the petrol Kona, ceding 31 litres to the space needed for the battery, but that is still quite handy. We were able to fit in a decent shop and the school and sports bags (not all at the same time, mind you) but if you carry a stroller it will need to be rather compact.
The boot is slightly smaller than the petrol Kona. The boot is slightly smaller than the petrol Kona.

✅ How easy is it to use every day?

The 449km (WLTP) range of the Kona Electric gives it the sort of versatility that helps quell some of that range anxiety which is so often a challenge for electric car purchasers.

It means you can do the short trips you need during the week without having to charge it daily, and longer trips on the weekend if your family likes to be out and about.

Charging the Kona is a cinch, too. The charge port is diagonally above the left headlight and you can have a 7.2kW charging station installed at home which will require you to plug in for nine hours 35 mins for a full battery.

Charging the Kona is a cinch. Charging the Kona is a cinch.

I plugged the Kona in to 100kW charger at the shopping centre which gave me 80 per cent in just under an hour, or you can get a similar outcome in 75 minutes with a 50kW fast charger.

In an emergency, you can plug into a standard home power point. That will take more than 24 hours for a full charge but it may give you enough of a boost to get to the nearest fast charger.

The charging cords fit neatly away under the floor of the boot along with the tyre repair kit, a nifty storage system echoed elsewhere in the cabin.

The charging cords fit neatly away under the floor of the boot. The charging cords fit neatly away under the floor of the boot.

Up front there are a couple of cupholders, a covered centre console bin and a storage for keys, phone etc. There is also a second storage shelf where the transmission bits and bobs would usually go and bottle holders in the door panels.

Back seats passengers get cupholders, door storage and net pockets behind the front seats.

✅ How safe is it?

The Kona received a maximum five-star ANCAP rating in 2017 with an audit test in 2019 supporting that rating in the Kona Electric.

Our top-of-the-range Highlander spec was equipped with a full suite of safety gear including autonomous emergency braking (pedestrian protection), lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, driver-attention alert and high beam assist.

The Kona Electric Highlander comes with six airbags (dual front, front side and full-length curtain), reverse camera, and front and rear parking sensors. There are two ISOFIX points and three top tethers.

✅ What’s the tech like?

The operation of satellite navigation, audio options and energy consumption is done through a large 10.25-inch colour touchscreen that sits atop the dash.

It is intuitive, making it super easy to navigate with good graphic quality and pretty nifty energy monitoring and analysis displays including the distance to empty, which is especially handy to keep an eye on when you are being solely powered by electricity.

The 10.25-inch touchscreen is intuitive to use. The 10.25-inch touchscreen is intuitive to use.

I like that there are still dials below the screen for volume, and tuning with buttons, to control the heating and cooling, which makes it much easier for changes on the go.

The Kona Electric has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, an eight-speaker audio system and digital radio. The Qi (chi) wireless phone charging pad is a useful touch and worked well for us.

✅ How much does it cost to own?

Doing your bit to save the planet doesn’t come cheap, especially with the distance you are able to enjoy with the Kona Electric. The Highlander will see you handing over around $65,290 before on road costs.

The Kona Electric comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with an eight-year/160,000km warranty plan on the battery.

Service intervals are at 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first.

The Kona Electric comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. The Kona Electric comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

Naturally, given the electric motor, there is less to maintain so service costs are low. You can pre-purchase a range of service plans – three years/45,000km for $495, four years/60,000km ($660), five years/75,000km ($825). Service-by-service costs are around $165 each.

The Kona Electric claims a 15.3kWh per 100 kilometres. Over our 700km of highway and suburban driving we recorded 15.7kWh/100km which I reckon is a pretty good outcome.


The Wrap

The Kona Electric is an easy car to spend time with. It offers a responsive drive, excellent tech and good inclusions. Yes, it’s a bit pricey but the long-term benefits may just be worth it. There are some space constraints, this is a small SUV after all, but it can work well enough as a family car, especially for younger kids. 

Likes

Range
Safety package
Green hue

Dislikes

A bit pricey
Conventional interior
Rear legroom

Scores

Vani:

3.8

The Kids:

3.5

$65,290

Based on new car retail price