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        Hyundai Kona Electric First Drive Review

        Santosh Nair

        Santosh Nair

        Why would I buy it?

        • Interesting looks
        • Unique driving experience
        • My chance to save the planet

        Why would I avoid it?

        • Expensive to buy 
        • Charging infrastructure yet to be sorted

        Engine and Performance

        Left Front Three Quarter

        Under the hood of the Kona is a 134bhp/395Nm electric motor that’s hooked up to a high voltage 39.2kWh lithium-ion polymer battery. It has driving modes such as Eco+, Eco, Comfort, and Sport. Since we’re at the Buddh International Circuit, a race track, it makes sense to skip straight to the Sport mode. Hmm, how exciting is that? Now, getting off the mark in an electric vehicle means there’s zero drama and zero lag. With the Kona’s throttle pumped down, the response is immediate, leading to some brisk acceleration where 100kmph comes up in a rather hurried 9.7 seconds, as our test gear depicted. Mind you, this is clearly in the fast hatch/sedan territory. 

        Right Front Three Quarter

        What’s more, the absolute dearth of NVH masks the feeling of speed that we are all so used to from combustion engines. Plus, there are no hiccups while the Kona flashes past 100kmph and crosses 150kmph in the blink of an eye. It only slows down post that. We’d say these feats are commendable for what essentially is an electric city runabout. As for the range, Hyundai claims its Kona can do 452km on a single charge. Although we weren’t able to confirm this, even after going berserk at the race track (the deprived journalists, we) there was a lot of juice left in it. So, if Hyundai’s claims are anything to go by, this figure is certainly adequate since the Kona will predominantly be a city dweller. Charging wise, while the DC quick charger can charge the Kona to 80 per cent in 57 minutes, the 7.2kW Level-II charger takes about 6 hours and 10 minutes.

        Ride Quality and Handling

        Right Side View

        From the little that we drove outside the race track, we can say that Kona’s ride is slightly on the firmer side. At the same time, it was able to absorb some bumpy road sections quite well too. However, it surely remains to be seen how the Kona will behave over tall speed breakers and potholes. In terms of handling, the Kona’s compact footprint combined with the rather taut suspension setup meant it went flat around the bends. The steering itself isn’t exactly feelsome so to say, but if you look on the brighter side, Sport mode adds some artificial heft, and that’s certainly welcome.

        Comfort, Convenience, and Features

        Dashboard

        The all-black inside of the Kona portrays an otherwise uncluttered layout with extravagant use of silver trim to highlight the centre console; it sure can be blinding on a sunny day! I get it; the carmaker intended to do something different in this electric vehicle, but a little less bling with a less shiny shade would have worked. Also, this section has a unique slanting bridge layout that’s completed with some storage space beneath. Sitting high up on the dash is a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system that offers loads of connectivity functions, information regarding the vehicle’s energy flow, and battery-related data. 

        Second Row Seats

        In terms of seating, the front seats are large and comfy due to proper cushioning and adequate support. Even knee-room at the rear is adequate. However, seating three abreast can be uncomfortable, more so due to the tall floor (battery-pack placement) which robs the occupants of decent thigh support. When it comes to the 334-litre boot space, the fact that it’s quite average means some space management planning will come in handy to carry along more items.

        EV Car Charging Input Plug

        The Kona comes loaded to the teeth with features like auto headlamps with DRLs and cornering lamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, an electric driver’s seat with ventilation and heating, and an infotainment system with Bluetooth, USB, AUX, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto/voice recognition. It also gets steering mounted audio controls, a sunroof, electric parking brake, paddle shifters, smart key with a push-button start, wireless charging, tilt/telescopic steering, and cruise control. In terms of ownership, there’s a three-year warranty on the car and a very impressive eight year/1.6 lakh kilometres warranty for the battery.

        Safety Features

        Infotainment System

        Talking about the safety features in the Hyundai Kona, it comes with six airbags, ABS with EBD, electronic stability control, vehicle management system, hill assist, rear parking sensors, rear camera with guidelines, and tyre pressure monitoring. That’s not all, it also gets disc brakes on all four wheels, impact sensing door unlock, speed sensing auto door lock, high-speed alert, immobiliser, and ISOFIX mounts. 

        Exterior

        Left Front Three Quarter

        On the whole, the Kona looks good. Although it has a visually compact footprint, it shows off a wide track and wheelbase which makes for an unmistakably sporty stance. The ultra-sleek DRLs and air dams together make for a rather aggressive fascia; what we’d term as an almost perfect nose. It’s only let down is by the closed grille with a charging port at a corner which ironically gives it the appearance of a toy. Otherwise, the shapely black cladding, skid plates, and large wheels lend this vehicle its much-needed SUV character to stand out from the regular crowd.

        Conclusion

        Left Rear Three Quarter

        The Hyundai Kona can’t be your only car, if that’s what’s crossed your mind. It’s apparent that with the current state of charging affairs/infrastructure, it would not seem prudent to venture out of city limits with an EV. Things could however take a different turn when the government steps-in in the future to add more charging outlets or the related infrastructure. Nevertheless, if you can dish out Rs 25.20 lakh (OTR Mumbai) for a city runabout that’s not just unique, but also an absolute tech-fest, then we feel the Hyundai Kona Electric will have you covered all bases. Ownership included. Way to go, Hyundai!

        Pictures by Kapil Angane

        Hyundai Kona Electric
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