Hyundai Kona VS Haval H2
- Good looking
- Spacious cabin
- Full-size spare
- 'Busy' ride
- Turbo lag
- Lack of cabin refinement
I think it’s just human nature to like explosions.
There’s something fascinating and wonderous about how an internal combustion engine unites the chaos of exploding petrol with a few hundred moving parts to send a car hurtling forward.
So, I should hate the Hyundai Kona Electric. I should hate it for the simple fact that it is the almost undeniable future of motoring, and it has no engine.
But for so many reasons, I can’t hate it. I can’t hate it because for the first time since I first drove a Tesla Model S, the Kona Electric made feel like I’ve had to the opportunity to experience a little slice of the future before we’re really supposed to see it.
So, should we be ready for it? Is this Kona going to be a big part of the proliferation of electric cars in Australia? Importantly, is it a realistic cut-price long-range alternative to the wildly expensive Tesla range?
The answers lie in this review…
The H2 is the littlest vehicle made by the biggest Chinese SUV company, Haval, and it competes against the likes of Honda’s HR-V, the Hyundai Kona, and Mazda's CX-3. Being Chinese, the H2 is more affordable than its rivals, but is it more than just a good price?
That's how big the brand could become in Australia. The company is owned by Great Wall Motors, which is China’s largest maker of SUVs, and anything that's big in Chinese terms is truly massive (have you seen their Wall?).
If you’ve done a bit of research you’ll have noticed that the H2 is more affordable than those rivals, but is it more than just a good price? Do you get what you pay for, and if so what is it you’re getting, and what are you missing?
I drove the H2 Premium 4x2 to find out.
Oh, and you pronounce 'Haval' the same way you say 'travel'. Now you know.
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
On price alone, the Kona Electric is not quite the Volkswagen Beetle or Ford Model T of the electric car world.
It does stand for something, though. It stands as an example that practical and reasonably range-anxiety-free electric vehicles are a realistic ownership proposition, and one which is achievable for automakers a little less volatile than Tesla.
Importantly, the Kona Electric ‘normalises’ the EV powertrain in that it feels so natural to drive, so much like its petrol equivalents that you don’t question it, and you spend far more time marvelling at the cool bits than you do getting frustrated with the compromises.
For now, the key to uptake of these vehicles will be in government incentives (right now there are next to none) and the proliferation of more up-to-date non-Tesla charging points.
What would it take for you to make the switch to electric? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
It’s disappointing that a car which looks so damned good can be let down by its interior refinement and driveability issues. In some areas, the H2 is great and goes further than its rivals – tinted windows, a full-sized spare, sunroof and good rear legroom. But the HR-V, Kona, C-HR and CX-3 have set the standard high for build quality and driving experience, and in this regard the H2’s isn’t at the same level.
The H2 is more affordable that its rivals but is that enough to tempt you out of a CX-3 or HR-V? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Our loan car was fully tricked out with the ‘eco’ look. That includes the Kona Electric’s hero colour of ‘Ceramic Blue’, the two-tone white roof and the airy blue and grey interior trim.
Some will love this aesthetic, to me it was total eco-credential overkill. Regardless, the electric Kona carries most of the styling points which made the original car a bit of a hit.
In fact, in some ways I think the electric Kona improves on the base car by eliminating the overcomplicated grille.
Round the back is less revolutionary, featuring a re-designed lower bumper and a simple ‘electric’ badge to set it apart from the regular range.
Inside has the same symmetrical design which makes the regular Kona and i30 so appealing.
The electric car gets a raised up centre console which offers easy access to the little SUV’s many buttons and functions as well as giving the cabin a slightly more futuristic look.
The centre stack is nicely designed with the climate control functions leading up to a set of vents and the pride-of-place multimedia touchscreen jotting out of the dash. It’s a good look and easy to use for both the driver and front passenger.
Less good is the abundance of matte silver finish everywhere, there’s simply no need for it, anyone who gets behind the wheel will already realise this car is from the near future.
Unfortunately, the interior, as full-on as it looks, is comprised mostly of hard plastics. This is a consistent Kona problem - there’s even more hard surfaces present here than there is in its i30 hatchback sibling.
If you squint, the H2 looks a bit like a BMW SUV and that may be because BMW’s former head of design, Pierre Leclercq, led the H2’s styling team (it's worth pointing out that if you squint hard enough, I look like Robert Downey Jnr).
The H2 is small, at 4335mm long, 1814mm wide and 1695mm tall, but it’s bigger than nearly all of its rivals. The Kona is 4165mm long, the HR-V is 4294mm end-to-end and the CX-3 is 4275. Only the C-HR is longer at 4360mm.
Interior refinement could be better and it’s not on the same level as its Japanese competitors. Still, I like the design of the cockpit with its symmetry, the layout of controls is also considered and easy to reach, the hood over the instrument cluster is cool and I even like the opal-like milky finish on the dashboard trim.
The Kona is already hardly the most practical small SUV out there, as the base car features a decent boot, but middling rear legroom.
The same is true here, only the boot floor has been raised to accommodate batteries. As a result, total boot space has been reduced 39L down to 332L (VDA).
That’s unfortunate, but despite the sacrifice, it's somehow not the smallest boot in the small SUV class (it still bests the Mazda CX-3, for example). The Highlander grade gets a really quite handy luggage net across the boot floor.
Underneath the boot floor, the on-board charging cable packs away neatly into a zipper bag alongside the puncture repair kit.
Rear legroom is a bit of an issue. If you’re any taller than me (182cm) you simply won’t fit and you’ll have your legs jammed up against the front seat.
On my test week I put three adults across the rear row and while they were too polite to complain, it didn’t look particularly comfortable, particularly for the middle occupant.
In terms of amenities the rear seats get small cupholders in the doors and nettings on the back of the seats, but no power outlets or air-conditioning vents.
Up front is a much better story, where the driver and front passenger benefit from deep cupholders in the centre console and doors, a neat little Qi wireless charging point, USB point and 'aux' input in the dash, as well as a huge storage area and 12-volt output underneath the raised centre stack. There’s also a decent console box.
Sure, the electric Kona can’t compete on practicality with something like the brilliantly-packaged Honda HR-V, but it isn’t as compromised as it could have been.
The H2’s 300-litre boot capacity is small in comparison to its rivals. The Honda HR-V has a 437-litre boot, the C-HR’s is 377 litres and the Kona’s is 361 litres, but it does have more luggage space than the CX-3, which can only manage 264 litres.
That said, only the H2 has a full-sized spare wheel under the boot floor – so what you lose in luggage capacity you gain in being able to drive wherever you like without fear of a puncture and having to hobble to the next town 400km away on a wheel which can only handle 80km/h.
Inside storage is good, with bottle holders in all the doors and two cupholders in the back and two in the front. The tiny hidey hole in dash is more ash tray-sized, which makes sense because of the cigarette lighter next to it, and the centre console bin under the front centre armrest is a reasonable size.
The H2’s cabin is spacious, with good head, shoulder and legroom up front and the same goes for the back row, where I can sit behind my driving position with about 40mm to spare between my knees and the seat back.
Price and features
Let’s get the major downside of the Kona Highander electric out of the way right off-the-bat, shall we?
This car costs a whopping $64,490 before on-roads. So, for what is essentially a budget-style small SUV you’ll be punished to the tune of almost $30 grand more than its petrol-powered Highlander equivalent.
In fact, as Richard Berry pointed out in his launch review, this is the most expensive car Hyundai sells in Australia. More than even the top-model seven-seat Santa Fe Highlander diesel, which will set you back a (suddenly cheap-sounding) $60,795.
On the upswing, it is much cheaper than any other electric car with an equivalent range on full charge. The cheapest current Telsa Model S, for example (now simply called the ‘Long Range’), comes in at an even more whopping $123,500.
Sadly, a slice of the future is still limited to those who are wealthy enough to afford it.
Our electric Highlander does come with decent kit to help mitigate the cost a little. Included is the full suite of standard features from the regular Kona, and then some.
There’s an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, built-in sat-nav and Bluetooth connectivity, an eight speaker premium audio system, Qi wireless phone charging pad, full LED front lighting, front & rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, and 17-inch ‘eco-design’ alloy wheels.
Unlike the Elite which sits below it, the Highlander is offered with a choice of either a two-tone roof or sunroof option at no extra cost. All Kona Electrics have leather-appointed interior trims as standard, but the Highlander adds power operated, heated & ventilated front seats.
There's also a head-up display standard on our Highlander, but with all the required information being displayed across the media system and dash cluster I hardly found it useful.
The Kona also has a substantial safety suite (explored in the safety section of this review).
At the time of writing the H2 Premium 4x2 petrol could be had for a driveaway price of $24,990, which is a $3500 discount on the RRP, according to Haval.
You could, of course, be reading this in the year 2089, having just survived another nuclear winter in your impenetrable mountain compound, so it's best to check the Haval website to see if the offer is still valid.
Ignore the word 'Premium', because this 4x2 is the most affordable H2 you can buy, and $24,990 drive-away sounds amazing, but a quick look reveals that many small SUV rivals are also offering deals.
The Honda HR-V VTi 2WD lists for $24,990, but can currently be had for $26,990 driveway; the Toyota C-HR 2WD is $28,990 and $31,990 drive-away, while the Hyundai Kona Active lists for $24,500, or $26,990 drive-away.
So, buy a H2 Premium and you’ll save about $2000 over a Kona or HR-V, which is an attractive prospect for families where every cent counts.
The features list also ticks most of the typical boxes for this end of the segment. There’s a 7.0-inch touchscreen with reversing camera, four-speaker stereo, rear parking sensors, auto halogen headlights, LED DRLs, sunroof, auto wipers, air-conditioning, fabric seats and 18-inch alloy wheels.
So on paper (or on screen) the H2 stacks up well, but in reality I found the quality of the features wasn’t as high as those in the HR-V, Kona or C-HR.
You should know that the H2’s display screen, while largish, feels and looks cheap, and required several finger stabs to select items. The windscreen wipers were overly noisy, the indicators themselves didn’t ‘blink’ in a regular pattern, and the phone system had a delay when a connection was made, which resulted in me saying 'hello' but not being heard at the other end of the line. This caused a few arguments between my wife and I, and no car is worth that. Oh, and the sound of the stereo isn’t great, but there is a cigarette lighter.
Engine & trans
The Kona Electric drives the front wheels via an electric motor producing 150kW/395Nm.
It’s more powerful than any other Kona model, most other small SUVs and even most electric cars around this price.
It’s not as… ahem… ludicrous as a Tesla, with a claimed 7.6 second 0-100km/h time, but it really doesn’t need to be. It has plenty of power for what it is.
Electric motors don’t require a transmission in the traditional sense, and the Kona simply has a single-speed ‘reduction gear’.
The Kona feeds power back into its battery pack via regenerative braking, which has three levels controlled by paddle-shifters on the wheel. More on that in the driving and fuel consumption segments.
Sadly, the motor still juts into the regular engine bay, so there’s no extra storage up front. There’s also a standard battery to power auxiliary functions alongside the gigantic battery pack.
Were you planning to take this off-road? Well, maybe reconsider that because the Haval H2 is only available now in front-wheel drive and comes exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission, so there's no manual gearbox option.
The engine is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol (you can’t get a diesel) which makes 110kW/210Nm.
Turbo lag is my biggest issue with the H2. At revs above 2500rpm you’re fine , but below this if you plant your foot if feels as though you could count to five before the grunt appears.
The Kona consumes precisely zero fuel, due to the whole ‘lack of an engine’ deal. Really, in the future, we’ll have to rename this segment to ‘energy consumption’.
To that end you’re probably used to measuring consumption in terms of litres per hundred kilometres (L/100km), but the new figure against which electric cars are measured is kilowatt hours per hundred kilometres (kWh/100km).
Over my week of testing the Kona produced 14.1kWh/100km. No context for that? Here, I’ll provide some. The Kona has a 64kWh battery pack, which Hyundai claims will give you a “real-world range” of 449km.
If you put the numbers together, it means at the rate I was using power I would have actually scored a greater range than Hyundai’s estimate at 453.9km.
That’s legitimately impressive, because the Nissan Leaf I had on test immediately afterwards couldn’t get below 15.3kWh/100km.
Weirdly, on both tests I found EVs aren’t more efficient on the freeway, producing the same or even better numbers in traffic.
Charging any electric car is a sticky topic. The Kona has a single port, a ‘Type 2’ (Mennekes) European-standard charging port. This is a three-phase standard port which can be charged at stations ‘up to 100kW’.
I couldn’t find a single 100kW charging port in Sydney, but there is a lone NRMA 50kW Mennekes connector in Olympic Park (which will charge from zero to 80 per cent in 75 min) or 22kW versions at ChargeFox stations (which require the ChargeFox app to use).
Unfortunately, you can’t make use of Tesla’s extensive fast charge network, nor can you make use of the ChargePoint network which has 6.6kW ‘J1772’ connectors.
Hyundai offers an optional 7.2kW wall-mounted home charger, which can fill the battery in nine hours and 35 min.
Faced with little option but to charge it from a humble wall socket in the CarsGuide garage (which had a max output of 2.2kW) the Kona informed me a max charge from 29 per cent battery would take 24 hours and 47 minutes…
The Kona Electric is great to drive because it's so natural, so much like a ‘normal’ car. It’s quite literally as though somebody cross-bred a Tesla with a regular Kona Highlander, and that’s a very good thing.
If you’ve never driven an electric car before (and let’s face it, few people have) there are some distinctly different characteristics you should know about. Firstly, the way you slow down is not usual.
Electric cars like to reclaim energy through regenerative braking, which feeds energy back into the battery as the wheels turn. This means instead of coasting, electric cars will actively slow down when you let your foot off the accelerator.
In the Kona, you can control three levels of this braking depending how how comfortable you are with it or turn it off entirely, which I would advise against as it saves a surprising amount of battery, especially in stop-start traffic.
You can also hold down the brake level paddle to bring the car to a full stop with just regeneration. Efficient. This will also prolong the life of your brake pads, a further cost saving over time.
The acceleration is smooth and swift, but not brutal like a Tesla, and you seldom need to hop on the brakes hard if you have the regen braking on, although if you do the pedal has an odd, disconnected, woody kind of feel.
The electric Kona feels heavy thanks to its big battery mounted below the floor. This gives it a weightiness through the corners, but also a solid amount of grip. I never really felt as though the Kona would understeer despite its front-wheel drive disposition.
The suspension, like all Hyundai products now, is well sorted and tuned locally in Australia. Due to the extra weight of the electric components, this Kona has a different tune from its petrol-powered equivalents.
It’s less springy, but still a little sporty, and by nature of the extra weight alone it feels super settled over bumps.
Obviously, the lack of an engine makes the Kona Electric quiet, but it does make a rather strange noise. It’s like a choral ringing noise that’s most evident during low speed acceleration and braking.
You may have heard similar noises from electric trains before. It is undeniably cool and futuristic though, and results in more than a few turned heads from nearby pedestrians.
There’s a fair bit to say here but if you don’t have long the upshot is this: the H2’s driving experience falls short of what has now become the norm in this segment.
I can look past a seating position that feels too high even on the lowest setting. I can ignore indicators which don’t ‘blink’ in a regular rhythmn or windscreen wipers that clunk loudly. Or even headlights that aren’t as bright as LED or Xenon, but the turbo lag, uncomfortable ride and less than impressive braking response are a deal breaker for me.
First, the turbo lag at low revs is frustrating. A right turn at a T-intersection needed me to move quickly from a standstill, but planting my right foot saw the H2 dawdling out into the middle of the junction and me waiting frantically for the grunt to arrive as traffic approached.
While handling isn’t bad for a small SUV, the ride is overly busy; a jiggly feeling that suggests the spring and damper set-up is less than great. Other car companies tune their vehicle suspension for Australian roads.
And while emergency braking tests show the H2 had automatic activated hazard lights, I feel the brake response to be weaker than its rivals.
Steep hills are not the H2’s friend, either, and it struggled to climb an incline other SUVs in this class have scampered up easily.
Both electric Kona variants come with Hyundai’s full suite of active safety items, including auto emergency braking with pedestrian detection (AEB – works up to 65km/h for pedestrians or 80km/h for vehicles), forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring (BSM), driver attention alert (DAA), lane keep assist (LKAS) with lane departure warning (LDW), high beam assist, rear cross traffic alert and active cruise control.
That’s an impressive suite of features, placing the Kona among the best equipped in the small SUV segment.
Regular safety refinements include six airbags, the expected electronic stability and brake controls as well as two ISOFIX child seat mounting points on the outer rear seats.
All Konas including the electric variants carry a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as of December 2017.
Haval wants you to know its H2 scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating and while it has disc brakes, traction and stability control and airbags galore, I want you to know that it was tested last year and doesn’t come with advanced safety equipment such as AEB.
A full-sized spare wheel is also safety equipment in my eyes – the H2 has one under the boot floor, something its rivals can’t claim.
The Kona Electric is covered by Hyundai’s competitive five-year unlimited kilometre warranty offering, sitting on-par with most competitors.
It came as a surprise to find Hyundai actually guarantees the battery for longer than the car itself, with an eight-year/160,000km warranty.
The lack of moving parts in the Kona Electric’s drivetrain means (theoretically) less to service and less to go wrong. As such, Hyundai has capped electric Kona servicing at $165 per 12-monthly 15,000km visit for the length of the warranty.
Services have capped prices beyond that with Hyundai’s 'iCare' packages, although we're waiting for confirmation on pricing.
Whether any long-term issues will show up with electric drivetrains is yet to be seen.
The H2 is covered by Haval’s five-year/100,000km warranty. There’s also a five-year, 24-hour roadside assistance service, which is covered in the cost of the vehicle.
The first service is recommended at the six-month mark, and then every 12 months thereafter. Prices are capped at $255 for the first, $385 for the next, $415 for the third, $385 for the fourth and $490 for fifth.