Hyundai Kona VS Nissan Juke
- Bold new look
- High spec and safety
- Now actually practical!
- Fiddly dual-clutch auto
- Ride can be crashy
- Annoying lane departure feature
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 original Nissan Juke was the wrong car at the right time.
A small SUV before the trend really kicked off, the Juke which arrived in 2013 was controversially styled, tiny on the inside, and powered by a wacky range of confusing and occasionally infuriating drivetrains.
It was very… Japanese. Not something which always gels well with Australia’s populace.
Enter the new Nissan Juke. This car is critically important to Nissan, because it heralds a crucial new era for the brand, one where it actually shares much of its product development with its alliance partners, Renault and Mitsubishi, but also one which could be make-or-break for the brand.
As such, the new Juke is quite the opposite of its predecessor – a truly global car built for the widest possible audience, designed to appeal to the diverse tastes of Australia, Europe, and Japan. Can it really do all those things and be a stronger competitor in this critical small SUV market segment? I excitedly took the keys to a mid-spec ST-L for a week to find out.
Read More:Nissan Juke 2020 review
|Engine Type||1.0L 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.
Forget everything you know about the Nissan Juke. The new one is a different beast entirely. It’s more globally appealing and ready to take on now-established opponents in the emerging small coupe SUV segment.
Despite some flaws, the Juke is now a fantastic, great looking, and practical little SUV.
The lack of hybrid and all-wheel drive will still make Toyota’s C-HR a tough opponent though, so watch this space for more on how these two compare.
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.
The new Juke looks fantastic. Better in the metal than it ever looks in pictures, the referential-but-futuristic front fascia is a sight to behold with its unorthodox lighting and abundance of striking lines.
Other angles of this car grab the eye too, with the dramatic descending roofline finished nicely with a contrast black spoiler, leading to the sculpted rear, which is much more subtly treated than its bulbous front. There is no doubt – in terms of this car’s design, dimensions, and highlights – that it is out to get the C-HR and its youthful target audience.
Still, although it has such a head-turning futuristic look, all the elements which made the previous Juke eye-catching are still there. Things like the giant concept-car-esque wheels, feature fog lights, raised bonnet, and convex windscreen are all still present and ready to win over any fans of the last-generation car.
Inside has a cool vibe with bucket-style front seats clad in comfy padded trim (a Nissan strong point), and a funky dash with lots of contouring. There’s no lack of attitude with the awesome round air vents, and there are plenty of references to the Juke’s predecessor with the raised plastic-clad centre console.
Thankfully, comfort hasn’t been forgotten in the pursuit of design, with soft claddings working their way down the door trims to your elbow, and a top box finished in padded leather, too. Pride of place in the dash is the new multimedia screen in today’s tablet-style with ergonomic controls and the slick, fast software bringing it all together.
It’s great the Juke can maintain its funky design signatures while bringing the technology and look of 2020 to fans and newcomers alike.
The model featured below is the 2020 Nissan Juke Ti
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.
I know the previous Nissan Juke was a practicality disaster, with a small claustrophobic cabin, tiny boot and sub-par ergonomics. Thankfully, this time around the global focus has helped Nissan design the Juke to be a much better companion.
Up front feels much more spacious than its predecessor, with more light entering the cabin, a lower seating position (relative to the shape of the car), and generally much more room for your arms and legs. The positioning is also fully adjustable with a telescopic steering column and more room for adjustability when it comes to seating.
It’s not all good news though. Front passengers still don’t have heaps of storage to work with, the Juke offering only the standard set of centre cupholders, a tiny binnacle under the climate controls barely suitable for a wallet or phone, as well as a truly tiny glovebox, tiny centre console box, and small bottle-holders in the doors.
There’s also no advanced connectivity in the Juke – no wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless phone-charging, or USB-C to be found in the cabin. In fact, the Juke only has a single USB port for front passengers, and at the ST-L grade, the addition of a second USB port for rear passengers.
On the topic of rear passengers, the Juke has improved out of sight when it comes to usability for more than just front-seaters. There’s far more headroom, legroom and arm-room than before. Even I fit pretty comfortably behind my own seating position, and the seat trim now matches the front. I’m not going to pretend it isn’t a little claustrophobic still, with the descending roofline evident and abundance of dark trim closing it in a little. Such complaints are standard fare in this particular corner of the market, however, and the point is the Juke has gone from being no good for four adults to more than competitive with the C-HR.
Boot space is again a very good story. The previous Juke had embarrassing city-car levels of space. But now with a whopping 422 litres (VDA – seats up, 1305L seats down) on offer it’s a real winner. It’s on par, if not bigger than some SUVs in the segment above.
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).
Our ST-L wears an MSRP of $33,940 and comes packed with massive concept-car style 19-inch alloys, an 8.0-inch multimedia screen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, built-in navigation, and voice recognition, LED head, tail, and fog lights, single-zone climate control, heated front seats with leather accents, leather-trimmed wheel and gear-knob, a 7.0-inch driver display in the instrument cluster, ambient lighting, 360-degree parking camera, electric parking brake, and an extra two drive modes over lower-spec cars.
A very good set of equipment even without mentioning the excellent safety suite, and at this point I must go out of my way to say: finally Nissan’s multimedia suite exceeds expectations, being fast, good looking, and easy to use! This one will be critical for winning the youth vote, and one which some competitors are yet to master.
The overall spec also bodes well for the Juke, keeping in mind you would have paid the same for a high-spec version of the previous car, which didn’t have anywhere near this level of equipment and space. At this ST-L level it is also brilliantly priced between the entry level and top-spec Toyota C-HR, which it most resembles. You’ll pay a little more for an equivalent-spec CX-30 though (G20 Touring - $34,990).
In terms of the other Juke variants, you can get most of the important equipment on a lower spec ST or ST+, but the ST-L here is where it really starts to get impressive. On that alone I’d probably say this one is the pick of the range.
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.
The Juke comes with a single new powerplant. A 1.0-litre three cylinder turbocharged unit, which produces a so-so sounding 84kW/180Nm, about on par with its C-HR rival.
There’s a little more to the story though, much of which is brought about by the Nissan’s seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission which grants it both good and bad characteristics. More on that in the driving section.
You can’t have the Juke as a hybrid like its Toyota rival, and there’s no option for all-wheel drive either.
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 sticker most cars will wear claims the Juke will consume 5.8L/100km on the combined cycle. Pretty good compared to rivals.
Our (mostly urban) test returned a computer-reported figure of 7.2L/100km, which is a fair bit more than the claim, but not outrageous for the segment.
Annoyingly, larger naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engines mated to CVTs or torque converter autos can produce figures not much more than that, which leads us to the real reason the Juke needs all of its whiz-bang dual-clutch transmission and stop-start system – emissions.
If all the tiny turbocharged engine and dual-clutch automatic was sounding very European it’s because the Juke uses it to get under the EU’s strict emissions protocols in order to give it economies of scale across a global market.
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.
Well, the Juke is much better than its predecessor in every way. Let’s get that out of the way immediately. Sadly though, the whiz-bang new drivetrain presents some annoying issues which stop it from being truly excellent.
While the new three-cylinder turbo sounds like it’s about on par with the C-HR’s disappointing 1.2-litre engine, it’s far from it. Like a lot of three-cylinder engines, it’s a little bit exciting with lots of gruff mechanical noises and the peak torque arriving with a massive punch at 2400rpm that makes you question what you read on the spec sheet.
Power then, is not the issue. No, this car’s fundamental problem is its seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. I hear some of you say, “at least it’s not a CVT” and that’s true. It’s quite the opposite. While a CVT is typically dull and lifeless, this dual-clutch has, let’s say, a bit too much life.
It’s busy, at times incoherent when it comes to selecting the correct ratio, and spends a lot of time between, or out of, gears at low speeds.
This means a lot of lurching between first, second, and third gears off-the line and moments of frustration exacerbated by turbo-lag where pushing the pedal further will simply mean you’ll be punished a full second later with a dollop of wheelspin.
This is all quite frustrating because once you’re up at cruising speeds above 60km/h there are no problems at all. This experience is reminiscent of the early days of Volkswagen dual-clutch automatics, and it’s perhaps telling how some VW Group products are now reverting to more traditional torque converter automatics on some of their lower-torque engines.
The rest of the drive experience is very good, mind you, with the Juke’s ride now being well balanced across the front and rear, making it far more fun and definitely more confident than its predecessor in the corners.
While it deals with smaller corrugations and coarse-chip surfaces reasonably well it is on the firm side, a characteristic which conspires with the giant wheels to make for an occasionally harsh and crashy experience over more abrupt bumps.
Dimensionally, the Juke is quite perfect for city-slickers. It's in that Goldilocks zone between too-small-to-be-practical and too big to fit in spaces marked "small car only". As always a 360-degree parking suite and (unlike the previous car) good visibility tips the odds in your favour when it comes to running into ill-placed shopping trolleys or bollards.
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.
Nissan’s big technology jump has been more than just in the cabin, with every Juke sporting a formidable actve safety suite.
By the time you get to the ST-L spec, this includes auto emergency braking (up to freeway speed and includes pedestrians and cyclists) with forward collision warning, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and traffic sign recognition.
Lane departure warning was off when I picked my car up – and I soon found out why. The Juke’s version of the technology vibrates the steering wheel (with alarming vigour) whenever you commit even the thought crime of straying from the very centre of your lane. It became annoying so quickly I had turned it back off within an hour of using it.
Unsurprisingly with all the included tech, the new Juke has hit the Australian market wearing a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating. It’s regular suite of items includes six airbags, as well as the expected electronic brake, stability, and traction controls.
There are also dual ISOFIX and three top-tether child seat mounting points across the rear row.
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.
Nissan offers the Juke with the standard expected of Japanese manufacturers – a five-year and unlimited kilometre warranty promise.
The Juke needs to be serviced once a year or every 20,000km whichever occurs first, and the first six years are capped at between $287 and $477 for a yearly average cost of $382.67. Not bad – especially given its complex Euro-style drivetrain.