Hyundai’s range-topping Kona EV.
Hyundai’s range-topping Kona EV.

Watts not to like about electric car with 450km range?

Confidence was sky-high when getting behind the wheel of Hyundai’s pure electric Kona.

Over the past year our appreciation for EVs has accelerated.

Having lived this year with the electric Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Ioniq (including the plug-in hybrid) and their circa 230km ranges from one charge, both bolstered confidence and reduced range anxiety. When it comes to the latter, the Kona’s battery-fuelled offshoot banishes any lingering worries.

With an ability to travel 450km courtesy of a 64kWh battery, this is one of Australia’s most capable electric cars.

But the added peace of mind comes at a cost. The range-topping Kona EV Highlander is priced at nearly $70,000 drive-away.

Among the benefits of Hyundai’s battery-powered SUV is the conventional styling. Apart from the futuristic closed grille and aero-styled 17-inch alloys, it looks like an upmarket version of the standard Kona which starts from less than $26,000 — but the equiviliant in a petrol model is more than $40,000.

The Hyundai Kona EV features aerodynamic alloys and grille.
The Hyundai Kona EV features aerodynamic alloys and grille.

VALUE

While there is an Elite EV variant, Highlander models come with all feature boxes ticked. The pair share leather trim, an eight-inch colour touchscreen, smartphone mirroring applications Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an eight-speaker Infinity stereo and digital radio, but the Highlander also gets a glass sunroof, LED headlights and tail-lights, wireless smartphone charging, power-operated heated/ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel.

Externally, a two-tone roof is available as a no-cost option, but you go without the glass sunroof. There are six paint colours; black roof with white, silver and red, while a white lid is applied to grey and blue; and “dark knight” teams with black. Metallic options add $595.

Two leather-appointed interior trims are on offer, black or stone grey/blue depending on external colours.

Warranty coverage mirrors the deal for combustion engine cars at five years and unlimited kilometres, although the battery is covered for eight years or 160,000km.

One bugbear for owners in the past has been satnav, and the map updates are now covered for 10 years.

Servicing is $165 annually or every 15,000km for the first five maintenance trips, whereas a 2.0-litre petrol-powered Kona costs about $285 on average.

Most buyers opt for Hyundai’s home charger, which costs $1950 and can recharge the battery in just under 10 hours.

The Hyundai Kona EV was the first electric car to be crash tested in Australia. It achieved five stars.
The Hyundai Kona EV was the first electric car to be crash tested in Australia. It achieved five stars.

SAFETY

Five stars were awarded last year, recognising an impressive array of technical features .

As you would expect for a vehicle in this price range, it features emergency braking to help avoid or lessen a frontal accident (even with pedestrians), radar cruise control to maintain set distances from other vehicles, blind spot warning, headlights that automatically shift between high and low beam, and lane-keeping assist to help steer within the designated lines, along with front and rear parking sensors.

While there is rear cross-traffic warning, it doesn’t engage the brakes if a collision is imminent like some other vehicles.

The Highlander has a range of high-end inclusions.
The Highlander has a range of high-end inclusions.

COMFORT

With no gear shifter, the centre console and dash are a combination of buttons, dials and conventional functions.

The driver simply selects drive, park, neutral or reverse buttons, and there is also a toggle for the park brake.

Well labelled and clear, there is little complexity and the primary touchscreen is easily navigated.

There’s only single-zone air con, rather than a dual-zone system you’d expect in a Highlander (it’s the same in petrol-powered models), while vents for the back are floor- mounted. No power tailgate either.

Boot space of 332 litres — about 40 litres less than your run-of-the-mill Kona, due to additional space required for the battery — had our weekly grocery shop spilling over between the kids in the back.

Common-sense storage comes via dual cup holders front and back. There is also an interesting nook below the centre console — the wife found it useful for handbags and other gear, although it can be awkward to access.

Prices for the Highlander version start from just below $70,000.
Prices for the Highlander version start from just below $70,000.

DRIVING

After hitting the drive button there is ample firepower that can be unleashed by the right foot.

It’s quick off the mark, courtesy of peak torque being available from standstill. The official figures say the Kona can reach 100km/h in less than eight seconds from a standing start, but in the metal it feels quicker.

Low speeds feature an artificial Star Wars- inspired whir to warn pedestrians of an otherwise silent approach.

Flex acceleration muscle with enthusiasm and the rubber, designed for fuel efficiency, struggles for grip. You’ll get the same result with overzealous cornering.

Yet the Kona remains a fun car to drive, with accurate steering and underfloor batteries offering a low centre of gravity. The ability to shift between comfort, economy and sport drive modes offers fluctuating levels of driver engagement.

There are also varying levels of regeneration. Using the steering wheel paddle shifters enables energy to be harvested from the car during braking. Level three is the greatest, and as soon as you lift your foot off the accelerator the Kona rapidly decelerates. Level zero it coasts. Downhill you can add a few kilometres to the range.

The second-most popular question asked about EVs after range is charging time. Use a 100kW DC charger and it will refill in less than an hour. These chargers aren’t in too many locations, and the 50kW DC charger takes about 75 minutes.

Using a 7.2kW charger, charging takes nine hours and 35 minutes.

When it was plugged into a standard power point using the on-board charger, a two-hour stint using solar power at home delivered 33km of additional range. Expect it to take more than 30 hours to fully recharge using a 10amp plug.

We covered more than 530km over a week in varying conditions. Turning the aircon and other operations off improved the range, and overall we averaged just over 14kWh for every 100km. Had we paid for all the electricity, that would have cost $3.64 per 100km at a rate of 26 cents per kWh.

The driver doesn’t have a conventional shifter, rather buttons which offer the traditional drive, park, neutral or reverse options.
The driver doesn’t have a conventional shifter, rather buttons which offer the traditional drive, park, neutral or reverse options.

HEAD SAYS

The Kona EV provides a range more suited to my lifestyle, in a package that doesn’t look like I’m saving the world one drive at a time.

HEART SAYS

Electric power is the future and I’m ready to take the plunge and a hit to the bank balance.

The Hyundai Kona EV, which has a range of about 450km.
The Hyundai Kona EV, which has a range of about 450km.

ALTERNATIVES

TESLA MODEL 3 STANDARD PLUS $77,640 D/A

While there is conjecture about the brand’s future and the product quality, there’s no doubting Tesla has put electric cars on the map. The most affordable model, the 3, has a range of 460km and 225kW of power, good for 0-100km/h in 5.6 seconds.

JAGUAR I-PACE SE AWD $139,900 D/A

One very cool cat, powered by two electric motors, with a 90kWh battery, 294kW/696Nm, which rips 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds and has a range of about 470km. Truly loveable with spectacular looks inside and out. Currently has savings equivalent to the GST.

The Hyundai Kona EV, which has a range of about 450km.
The Hyundai Kona EV, which has a range of about 450km.

AT A GLANCE

HYUNDAI KONA EV HIGHLANDER

PRICE $69,350 drive-away (expensive, new tech)

WARRANTY/SERVICING 5 yrs/u’ltd km (battery 8 yrs), 5 services $165ea (good)

MOTOR Electric motor 150kW/395Nm, FWD (quick), 64kWh battery (massive)

SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, radar cruise, rear camera, rear and front sensors, forward collision warning (excellent)

SPARE None; repair kit (not good but expected)

BOOT 332L, 1114L seats folded (reasonable)

CONSUMPTION 14.3kWh/100km (14.1 kWh/100km on test)


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