What Car? says...
We’d love to have been flies on the wall in Hyundai’s design department when ideas for this new Hyundai Kona Electric SUV were being bandied around.
The conversation must have gone something a little like this: “Well, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 – with its 8-bit videogame looks – is winning over premium buyers, and the Hyundai Ioniq 6 – modelled on a 1950s streamliner – has won numerous design awards, so let's go all in and style the second-generation Kona Electric after RoboCop.”
It practically shouts, "Hey, I’m an electric car!" And that makes sense when you consider that this second-generation model has been developed as an electric vehicle (EV) first and a combustion car second. The more traditionally styled first-generation car was the other way around.
On top of new styling and drivetrain options, the Kona Electric has an all-new interior, lots of new technology and equipment, and a simplified range of trim levels. Better still, Hyundai has made it bigger and increased interior space.
The Kona Electric remains one of the few sub-£40k EVs to offer an official range of more than 300 miles, but is that enough to beat its electric SUV rivals? They include the Peugeot e-2008 and the Smart #1. If you can do without the increased ride height of an SUV, there are other models to put on your list, including the Cupra Born and the VW ID 3.
In this review, we'll tell you how we rate the Hyundai Kona Electric and which version we recommend. If you're not looking to go electric just yet, have a look at our Hyundai Kona review.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
There are two battery and motor options for the Hyundai Kona Electric. The standard version has a 48.4kWh battery and a 154bhp electric motor, while the long-range version gets a 65.4kWh (usable) battery and a more powerful 215bhp motor.
We’ve yet to drive the entry-level car, but as you would expect from a car with 215bhp, the long-range Kona Electric feels genuinely sprightly, accelerating from 0-60mph in 7.8 seconds during our tests.
That’s a fair bit quicker than the Peugeot e-2008 (8.5 seconds) and the Jeep Avenger (8.7sec). 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.
Officially, the smaller battery yields an official range of 234 miles and the larger one 319 miles. That's a small increase on the previous Kona Electric and is impressive by the standards of the class, putting the long-range well ahead of the BYD Atto 3, the Kia Niro EV and the Smart #1.
When you lift off the accelerator pedal, you feel the car slowing down quite quickly thanks to the regenerative braking.
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 e-2008.
The Kona Electric is ultimately a pretty relaxing car to cover miles in. The suspension is quite soft, which soaks up most bumps and potholes more deftly than a #1 at low speeds – even when fitted with the biggest 19in wheels. However, the Kona struggles more at motorway speeds, with occupants feeling abrupt impacts (such as expansion joints) more than they would in an e-2008 or #1.
The Kona’s light steering makes it effortless to pilot around towns and cities, but the lack of weighting means it doesn’t inspire much confidence when cornering at higher speeds. A Smart #1 feels more precise.
Up the speed on an undulating road and the soft suspension could do better at keeping the body under control, with a bouncing motion that can make it tricky to keep a steady course through corners. The firmer #1 is more composed and offers slightly more grip.
Pulling away from a standstill, you hear a slight whine from the Kona Electric’s motor, which is something you won’t notice in the e-2008 and #1. Still, it’s much quieter than a petrol or diesel engine buzzing away. There’s a fair amount of wind noise on the motorway, with less road noise than a #1. The e-2008 is a more peaceful cruiser, though, if only by a small margin.
Strengths Impressive range; decent performance; comfortable low speed ride
Weaknesses Slightly choppy high speed ride; light steering and plenty of body lean means it’s not the most fun to drive
The interior layout, fit and finish
When you're behind the wheel of the Hyundai Kona Electric, you know you’re in an SUV because you sit nice and high, with a more elevated seating position than inside a Peugeot e-2008.
There's plenty of electric seat adjustment to help you find your ideal driving position easily. Every version comes with adjustable lumbar support, to keep you comfortable on long drives, while going for N-Line S trim or above adds electric seat adjustment.
Unlike almost all the Kona’s rivals, the front and rear seats of all but the entry-level Advance model are heated, while top-spec versions get ventilated front seats.
What's more, the fundamental driving position is mostly sound – the pedals line up neatly with a steering wheel that offers plenty of height adjustment. Taller drivers might find the wheel can’t be pulled out far enough for them to get a comfortable distance back from the pedals though.
Seeing out of the front and side of the Kona isn't too difficult, because of its tall windows and relatively narrow pillars that don’t impede your view. That's really helpful when you're pulling out of T-junctions and on to roundabouts.
When you look back over your shoulder, the Kona’s broad rear pillars restrict your view, although it’s no worse than in the Kia Niro EV or the Smart #1. You have a clearer out the back than in the e-2008, thanks to a taller rear window. Happily, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera are standard across the range.
The logical menu layout and quick response to inputs makes it one of the most user-friendly systems to us in the class. The graphics are sharp, too. Even so, the best thing about it is the sheer amount of physical shortcut buttons you can use to skip to each of the different menus.
We much prefer it to the touch-sensitive controls you’ll find in the #1. What’s more, there are big, easy-to-find buttons further down to adjust every single aspect of the climate control system without having to go anywhere near the touchscreen.
Only entry-level Advance models miss out on a wireless charging pad, while opting for N Line S or above also adds an upgraded Bose stereo system with seven speakers. Its sound quality won't blow you away, but it lets you crank up the volume without too much fear of distortion.
The Kona's interior doesn’t feel quite as robust as the Smart #1’s but it’s not far behind. All the buttons, switches and dials feel robust and have a satisfying click whenever you use them.
Even though the Kona’s interior doesn’t feel quite as upmarket as the #1’s, you still get plenty of soft-touch materials and it does a good job of disguising the hard, scratchy plastics below eye level and on the insides of the doors.
Strengths Easy to use dashboard; user-friendly infotainment system; good forwards visibility
Weaknesses Doesn’t look or feel as upmarket as a Smart #1; could benefit from more steering wheel reach adjustment
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The new Hyundai Kona Electric is a bit bigger than the outgoing version, so you get even more front space. There’s plenty of head and leg room, and it's wide enough that you don't rub shoulders with your passenger.
Storage space includes a couple of cupholders between the seats and a large cubby hidden below the front centre armrest. All versions bar entry-level Advance have a wireless charging pad by the USB ports, while the door pockets are big enough for a couple of small water bottles.
There's loads of head and leg room in the back too. A six-footer with long legs will have no trouble sitting behind an equally tall front-seat passenger.
That means rear-seat passengers will be able to stretch out more than in a Jeep Avenger or Peugeot e-2008. Even middle-seat occupants get impressive shoulder room, and the floor is flat, so they get just as much foot space as people either side of them.
As with many of the Kona’s rivals, there’s not much space for feet under the front seat. To boost comfort, the backrest can tilt back by a few degrees, plus there’s a centre armrest.
All versions get versatile 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats, allowing you to slide longer items through from the boot while still having two outer rear seats. That’s better than you’ll find in an Avenger, an e-2008 and a Smart #1.
The boot is a handy size and shape, with easy access through the broad opening. With an overall capacity of 466 litres, it absolutely trounces the Avenger (380 litres), the e-2008 (434 litres) and the #1’s 273 litres, but isn’t quite as big as a Niro EV (475 litres). We managed to squeeze in six carry-on suitcases, compared with five in the e-2008 and three in the #1.
Strengths Generous space for occupants; big boot; height-adjustable boot floor is standard; additional storage area under the bonnet
Weaknesses Doesn’t offer rear sliding seats as found in the Smart #1
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Because you can get the Hyundai Kona Electric with a small battery option, its starting price undercuts the BYD Atto 3, the Kia Niro EV and the Smart #1. However, we suspect most buyers will go for the long-range car, which is priced more in line with those rivals.
And even if you go for the cheapest version, called the Advance, you get plenty of kit as standard, including 17in alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control and keyless entry. All models also come with a heat pump, something that costs extra on the Niro EV and the Smart #1.
N Line adds sportier-looking bumpers, larger 19in alloy wheels and rear privacy glass, a heated steering wheel and a powered tailgate.
N Line S adds the full width front LED light strip and part leather seats.
Ultimate trim is similarly equipped to N Line S but adds a sunroof and doesn’t include the sportier styling.
There’s plenty of safety kit on all versions, including automatic emergency braking (AEB) that senses cars, bikes and pedestrians. If you want blind-spot monitoring, a rear-cross collision avoidance system and a safe exit system then you’ll need to step up to N Line S or Ultimate trim.
The Kona Electric achieved a four star rating in 2023 when tested by safety experts, Euro NCAP. The level of protection for occupants in a frontal impact wasn’t as strong what’s offered in a Smart #1.
When it comes to charging speeds, you’ll be pleased to learn that with a maximum charging rate of 102kW, a 10-80% charge will take around 40 minutes, which is quicker than a BYD Atto 3 (88kW), the Honda e:NY1 (78kW) and the Kia Niro EV (80kW), but a little slower than a Smart #1 (150kW).
A full 0-100% charge from a 7kW home wallbox in the Kona Electric takes around 10 hours and 30 minutes.
The Kona Electric was too new to feature in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey but Hyundai as a brand claimed seventh place (out of the 32 car makers included) in the overall league table. To give you extra peace of mind, Hyundai offers a five-year, unlimited mile warranty. That’s said, Kia offers a seven-year warranty.
Strengths Heat pump comes as standard; Hyundai performed well in latest reliability survey
Weaknesses Smart #1 charges a little quicker; Niro Electric has a better warranty
A full 0-100% charge from a 7kW home wallbox in the Kona Electric takes around 10hr 30min, but on a fast charger a 10-80% charge will take around 40 minutes.
|RRP price range
|£25,725 - £39,195
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|electric, hybrid, petrol
|MPG range across all versions
|47.1 - 60.1
|Available doors options
|5 years / No mileage cap
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£70 / £2,310
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£140 / £4,619