kona - 2019 Hyundai Kona Highlander Electric front quarter - Hyundai Kona Electric: Hit and miss

What is it?

With somewhat overdone styling, Hyundai Kona Electric is one of two fully battery powered vehicles from the Korean goliath.  

As used as we are to quoting litres per kilometre for consumption, electric cars such as the Kona Electric bring kW/h usage and charge rates.

The battery pack is rated as 64 kW/h. When charging from a standard home plug, charge rate is rated as 7.2kW/h, and will take a full 28 hours from empty.

Engine power is rated as 150kW. Torque is quoted at 395Nm.

Recharge times and to what level vary; Kona Electric can recharge to 80 per cent in 54 minutes when connected to a 100kW DC charging station, or 75 minutes when connected to a 50kW charging station. 

Driving range is a claimed 449km from a full charge. Consumption itself is measured in Wh/km (Watt hour per kilometre).

Although aluminium and plastics are used extensively, Kona Electric still tips the scales at close to 1700kg — more than 270kg heavier than a standard Kona.

There are three grades: Elite, Launch Edition, and Highlander.

kona - 2019 Hyundai Kona Highlander Electric rear quarter - Hyundai Kona Electric: Hit and miss

What’s it cost?

A minimum $59,990 plus on roads. The Launch Edition is $63,600 driveaway, while top of the range Highlander is, wait for it . . . $70,520 driveaway.

Colour choice is interesting. There are 12 colours and combinations to choose from, with the Highlander as tested coming in a Ceramic Blue and Chalk White roof combo.

Wheels are designed to reflect the front of the Kona Electric, with a heavily dimpled look. Rubber is Nexen N Fera, with a 215/55/17 profile.

The body is different in obvious and subtle ways from the rest of the Kona family.

Front and rear bumpers have horizontal ribbing. The rear lights and indicator clusters have subtle changes.

But the most obvious difference is the removal of the radiator grille which has been replaced with a solid plate with a dimpled effect.

To the left side of the front is the charge port. This is accessed by a simple push and reveals a dual-layer plug. Designed to provide flexibility for charging, it’s a Type 2 or Mennekes style charger.

Inside the changes are more noticeable.

The driver has a full colour LCD screen slap bang in the middle of an analogue dial.

Three drive modes (Sport/Eco/Comfort) are accessed via a console button.

The screen changes and lights around the semi-circular dial light up, while there are different looks for battery usage depending on mode selected.

The centre console is a floating design. A lower storage area sits under a separate plate that has four buttons for engaging drive (Neutral, Park, Drive, Reverse), heating and ventilation for the seats, heated steering wheel, drive modes, parking sensors, and auto hold.

There are paddles on the steering column, but they aren’t used to select gear. They’re there to adjust the amount of regenerative braking force that adds power back into the battery system.

The dash is different from petrol cars too. The centre dial has three different looks for Eco, Sport, and Comfort.

The dial itself is a mix of analogue and digital. One selection has LEDs light up around the rim, another removes the lights. The digital screen also shows different types of information in different ways.

In the centre console screen, there are presets for the three drive modes. These can be changed for items such as how much regenerative charge gets added.

As mentioned, the car uses a Type 2 or Mennekes type charge port, which begs the question: why hasn’t a standard been settled upon around the world?

Thankfully the satnav, like Tesla, shows charge points.

At home, it’s pretty much a standard 7km/hour charge for range.

Safety isn’t an issue, with mandated systems on board plus auto emergency braking (AEB), Blind Spot Alert, and Lane Keep Assist.

kona - 2019 Hyundai Kona Highlander Electric front seat - Hyundai Kona Electric: Hit and miss

What’s it go like?

Weirdly, a standout, if it can be called that, is the eerie, subliminal, almost ethereal whine from the electric drivetrain. It’s a real science fiction kind of sound.

Acceleration is rapid, as is typical with electric vehicles. Although not in the same ballpark as Tesla when it comes to outright pace, it’s still pretty quick off the line.

That last statement comes with a caveat, however, because there is a lag from a standing start, almost akin to a diesel.

It’s momentary, but enough to ask: what’s missing in the connection between pedal and power. Plant it, wait that blink or so, and kapow —  you’re away.

Steering is on the lighter side of heavy, and oddly this car isn’t AWD. This means when you accelerate hard, there’s torque steer.

Ride quality needs attention. Although well damped, the body’s up and down movement is too soft.

Drive up a driveway, go over a speed hump, hit the (excellent) brakes too hard, and the suspension has far too much play.

A reworking of the calibrations would deliver a better ride.

There is also substantial road noise from the tyres, and a weird rumble from behind the driver. Think of a light breeze, amplified through a cardboard box.

The brakes are on the fine side of balanced feedback. As the regenerative facility is adjustable, it’s a matter of playing with the settings to suit personal taste.

It’s also kind of cool to watch the dash when slowing to see how much energy is being fed back to the batteries.

With a claimed range of around 460km, this range is dependent on driving conditions.

It’s also worth noting that switching on the seat warmers or steering wheel heating will eat into this range.

kona - 2019 Hyundai Kona Highlander Electric dash 03 - Hyundai Kona Electric: Hit and miss

What we like?

  • Cool looking dash display
  • No need for petrol
  • Easy charge cable usage

kona - 2019 Hyundai Kona Highlander Electric rear seats - Hyundai Kona Electric: Hit and miss

What we don’t like?

  • Sci-fi looks not for everyone’s tastes
  • Overdone styling is unnecessary
  • Wafty, overly soft, ride

kona - 2019 Hyundai Kona Highlander Electric charge port - Hyundai Kona Electric: Hit and miss

The bottom line?

Unlike the tongue-in-cheek looks of the Kona Iron Man Edition, Hyundai’s gone too far into the future for the interior, and to a fine point, the exterior.

There are many reasons why electric cars haven’t really captured the public’s imagination. Cost is certainly one, availability of charge facilities is another.

But there really isn’t a need to electrify a normal car, then restyle it so that it looks too different — or whack in a shouty “I’m An Electric Car” styling.  

The soft ride may put off some drivers too, and the tyre chirp was unexpected.

Kona Electric is unfortunately more miss than hit.

kona - 2019 Hyundai Kona Highlander Electric boot - Hyundai Kona Electric: Hit and miss

CHECKOUT: Hyundai Kona Iron Man Edition: take me to funkytown

CHECKOUT: Kona Electric: cutting edge but bleeding expensive

 

Kona Electric Highlander, priced from $70,520 driveaway
  • 6.5/10
    Looks - 6.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Safety - 8.5/10
  • 9/10
    Thirst - 9/10
  • 7.5/10
    Practicality - 7.5/10
  • 7/10
    Comfort - 7/10
  • 8.5/10
    Tech - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Value - 8.5/10
7.9/10

Conole

Dave Conole hails from Perth where he co-hosted a car show on one of the city's major community radio stations. Although he's had formal training in stage, TV, and film, it's his face for radio that gave him his start in the automotive field, both reviewing and motorsport commentary. After moving to Sydney in 2004, Dave has worked for some of Australia's biggest media groups and is the anchor commentator at Sydney Motorsport Park. This has lead to anchoring major events such as the Top Gear Festival (and, no, he didn't get punched by Jeremy).