Hyundai Kona Electric review

Category: Small Electric

Section: Performance & drive

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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

If you go for the Hyundai Kona Electric with a 39kWh battery, you'll get a 134bhp electric motor, which gives it lively performance. We shattered the claimed acceleration time and managed 0-60mph in 7.9sec, faster than an MG ZS EV, Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe and Vauxhall Mokka-e.

Our pick is the 64kWh version, though, which gets you a 201bhp motor and acceleration that's really rather rapid. In fact, on a wet road the front wheels really struggle for traction – you need to be jolly delicate with your right foot to avoid the traction control light winking endlessly as the system tries to manage all the power. The lesser 39kWh model is a little less lairy, although you can still spin the front tyres with surprising ease.

Once you’re on the move, the 64kWh Kona Electric builds speed almost as quickly as a Ford Fiesta ST hot hatch, with 0-60mph in our tests ticked off in around 7.0 seconds. As it's electric, there’s no waiting for the engine revs to rise before maximum thrust is delivered – simply squeeze your right foot and the car sets off with the immediacy of one of Elon Musk’s space rockets.

Indeed, the 64kWh Kona Electric is quicker just as quick as a Kia e-Niro or VW ID.3, so you’d need to step up to a Tesla Model 3 to go faster. When it comes to electric cars, though, performance isn’t just about how quickly you can speed up – it’s also about how far you can travel between charges.

In our Real Range tests, the smaller 39kWh battery managed 158 miles. That’s competitive, but the 64kWh version kept going for a mega 259 miles – a few miles further than the Kia e-Niro, which shares the same battery and motor as the Kona. It also puts the 64kWh well ahead of other small electric SUVs such as the DS 3 Crossback E-Tense, Mazda MX-30, Peugeot e-2008 and Vauxhall Mokka-e.

When you lift off the accelerator pedal, you feel the car slowing down quite quickly thanks to the regenerative braking, a system that allows the car to harvest energy that would otherwise be wasted to replenish the battery. You can increase that braking effect using the paddles on the steering wheel, and you can even make it so strong that it will bring the car to a complete stop without touching the brake pedal. Regardless of how it's set, the brakes are predictable, allowing you to stop more smoothly than most rivals, including the ID.3.

In corners, the Kona Electric leans less than a ZS EV or Leaf. In most other respects, though, it's not great to drive spiritedly. The ID.3 and Kia e-Niro are better handling cars that offer more accurate steering and have more grip to exploit if the mood takes you.

Those rivals are more comfortable, too. Whatever speed you’re doing, the Kona Electric jostles around over smaller road imperfections, something that can become quite annoying after you've been driving for a while.

Naturally, being an electric car, the Kona Electric is as peaceful as a cathedral at town speeds. Once you pick up the pace, road and wind noise start to increase, and by the time you’re cruising at 70mph there’s more of both than there is in the Peugeot e-208 and Vauxhall Mokka-e.

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