By Sandy Myhre
If you want to understand the progress being made in the development of electric vehicles, a palpable example is the 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric compact SUV.
Just to go back a couple of years to Hyundai’s award-winning electric/hybrid/PHEV family sedan that won the 2017 Women’s World Car of the Year award, among others. The fully electric Ioniq has a battery range of around 200kms. This new 2019 Kona offers a very impressive 400kms of electric driving. That’s evolution for you, especially when you consider the Kona is an SUV and larger and heavier than the Ioniq.
What’s on offer here is real world driving and firmly puts paid to any latent range anxiety. If you live in the regions you know all about that because the pace of providing rapid charging units hasn’t quite caught up with demand from EV owners. Just ask anyone who drives a Nissan Leaf.
Besides which, not every public rapid charger has a canopy over the top so when it’s raining it’s more than nuisance value to spend 15 minutes plugged in. Why canopies aren’t mandatory is a mystery but that’s private enterprise for you.
The solution is to trickle charge the Kona overnight at home to keep the range at optimum levels and there’s a standard three-pin plug for doing exactly that.
You could install a Wall Box at home which gives faster charging than trickle but at around $2000 or so you have to factor that in to your original car investment. Or you charge at a rapid charging station.
But an investment – and that’s what it is – in an electric SUV as competent as the Hyundai Kona isn’t speculative, it’s downright common sense. We’re talking a few hundred a year to fill up.
On the road.
There are three drive modes with Comfort being the default and designed primarily for city travelling although it’s no slug from go, whatever the road conditions. The Kona’s SUV height offers good all-round vision and the steering is wonderfully responsive.
One thing you can do to save electricity is to brake regeneratively. It’s programmed into the car and probably helps those who don’t look at their own driving habits to assist the car and save electrical charge.
It means every time you lift the pedal, the car slows, but you can over-ride that by using the steering wheel paddles to coast, under good conditions of course. The other two driving modes are Eco (function obvious) and Sport which was a surprise given the Kona isn’t really a sports car. It makes the accelerator more responsive and because of this and the SUV’s weight, it affects performance. Really, Comfort mode is fine for just about every condition your ‘normal’ trip would encounter.
One of the many things Hyundai have got very right with this EV SUV is the seat construction. At last (unlike Toyota’s newest Camry and Corolla) there is very adequate padding and the seats are deeply sculptured to suit a variety of body contours.
The multi-variations of push forward and lie back positions of course offer increased storage space and around the front there are plenty of nooks and cranny pockets to stash things into. The Koreans are good at these sorts of things, which must come from living in small city apartments of which, in Seoul, there are thousands. It means Koreans know how to store stuff in a confined space and this is reflected in all Hyundai cars.
Depending on the specification level you get a 7” touchscreen infotainment system or (in the Elite) an 8” screen, both with smart phone compatibility. It’s a simple system to use, unlike some (and more expensive) competitors who have made IT sharing capability so extraordinarily complex.
In some ways, though, it’s a pity about the touchscreen because no matter how hard you try, at the end of the day or the week there are smears across the front. Perhaps the penetrating Antipodean sun just makes the fingerprints look larger than those in Seoul, who knows? But this is a generalisation from someone who doesn’t like touchscreens as much as knobs, if you know what I mean.
SUVs must be fairly hard to make look pretty because they’re high and naturally a little wide. But Hyundai have managed to make the Kona EV look handsome. Dramatic swathes on each side help to make it look slim, like the fit of a well-cut jacket does to a torso.
The exterior front is, of necessity, a bit bulky, it’s an SUV after all but Hyundai have avoided falling into the trap of over-embellishing the grille area with fancy cross-ply metallic bits that don’t do much (or anything) to aid performance.
Fixtures and fittings inside are pleasant to the eye and touch although not as up-market as some of the German electric SUVs. Neither would you expect them to be.
A Bit Of Trivia
The Kona is named after the western district of the island of Hawai’i. Why? Beats me. However, it’s known in Portugal as the Hyundai Kauai, another island in the Hawai’ian archipelago, because, you see, Kona is just too similar to cona which is a taboo Portuguese slang word for female genitalia. And, to further enhance the, um, feminine connection, Kauai is the Hawai’ian word for ‘Lady’.
Who comes up with these things? And will it go down in history as one of those nomenclature clangers that should not have been in the first place, like Pajero is to Peruvians?
That trivia aside, what is special about the Kona, though, is that it was the world’s first fully-electric subcompact crossover SUV.
It’s easy to think of Goldilocks here (and, ahem, bear with me). After tasting something hot, then something cold, she came across something that with the right ingredients is enticing – and so she gobbled it all up.
That pretty much sums up Hyundai Kona EV.