Review: Hyundai Kona Electric e-Plus – Is it time to get an EV?

Shaun · Feb 12, 2022 11:30 AM

Review: Hyundai Kona Electric e-Plus – Is it time to get an EV? 01

  • Mid-range e-Plus variant tested
  • More efficient than Nissan Leaf
  • Buy the petrol variants or EV?

In the automotive world, EVs are probably the durian of cars; it’s potent, and some hate it while some are fanatical about it. Personally, my impression towards EVs, or durians for that matter, is relatively neutral.

Review: Hyundai Kona Electric e-Plus – Is it time to get an EV? 02

But having spent a couple of days with the Hyundai Kona Electric, it’s now tipping towards the favour of EVs.

Also read: 2021 Hyundai Kona Electric launched – Cheapest EV in Malaysia, from RM 149k

Review: Hyundai Kona Electric e-Plus – Is it time to get an EV? 01

Just a quick recap, there are three variants available for the fully-imported (CBU from Korea) Hyundai Kona Electric - e-Lite, e-Plus, and e-Max, priced (without tax) at RM 149,888, RM 169,888, and RM 199,888 respectively. The one we have here is the mid-range e-Plus variant.

Review: Hyundai Kona Electric e-Plus – Is it time to get an EV? 02

Also read: Tax-free EVs? MAA clarifies condition of Sales Tax exemption for EVs in Malaysia

Exterior – The look of judgement

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Feedback on the Hyundai Kona’s design has been rather interesting. Some said that it’s giving off the squint-eyed look of judgement and a friend even said that without a traditional front grille, it looks like a shark.

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The lack of grille is one of the easiest ways to tell if it’s a Kona Electric. That, and the obvious flap for the charging port, which is my only niggle on the exterior design. I’m all for distinctive and unique designs, but a flap like that looks like an afterthought. The pre-facelift Kona Electric actually has a more integrated charging port door/flap design.

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Apart from that, the Kona Electric looks cleaner than its combustion-engine counterparts. There’s no black cladding nor the aggressive N-Line outfit, just a sleeker overall exterior. 

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If you observe closely on its undercarriage, you’d be able to notice the silver protrusion that is the battery pack. Bet you can’t unsee it now.

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Hyundai says it reduces ground clearance by about 1 centimetre and the silver bit is actually the aluminium plate that protects the battery, so buyers needn’t be concerned of damaging the battery.

Interior – Not as distinctive as its exterior

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As one would expect, the Kona Electric’s interior is by and large the same as the regular Kona. So it’s still a well-executed interior, with all the buttons and controls laid out ergonomically.

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Build and material quality are among the best its segment has to offer. Granted, most of the plastics are hard to the touch, but they aren’t the rough/scratchy kind and give off the impression of durability. The middle section of the dashboard does get soft-touch plastic, if it’s any consolation.

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The test unit we had came with the rather attractive light grey interior, which lifts up the otherwise sombre looking cabin. The centre console with silver trims, which is unique to the Kona Electric, gives it a more minimalistic appearance.

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With the new console design, there’s another deck below for more cubby space and charging ports. Bonus points for practicality.

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Negative points? Well, the button-style shift-by-wire for “gear selection” takes more than a while to get used to. Even after a few days, I found myself still looking back and forth when executing three-point turns.

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The raised floor due to the floor-mounted battery pack does compromise the seating position at the rear, and there’s not enough room to slot your feet underneath the front seats. Plus, it's not exactly spacious at the rear.

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Hyundai says the Kona Electric’s boot space is smaller than the regular Kona’s (332-litre vs 361-litre), but our measurements revealed identical absolute numbers in terms of height, width and depth.

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And there’s no electric gubbins underneath the boot floor, so it’s quite peculiar that the Kona Electric has a smaller rated boot space.

Driving Experience – As polished as it gets for the price

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Like most EVs or even PHEVs, the highlight of the driving experience is at parking speeds. No noise, no vibration, just blissful silence.

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Squeeze the accelerator pedal gently and the Kona EV surges forward with its constant wave torque, keeping up with traffic effortlessly in serenity. Though in time, this will wear off when more are used to EVs. For now, it’s still a novelty.

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Steering is well-calibrated; it’s accurate, light at low speeds and progressively weighs up at higher speeds. Brakes can be tricky to judge especially with the regenerative braking on automatic mode.

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0-100 km/h in 8.78 seconds, 100-0 km/h in 42.05 metres

There are three levels of regenerative braking from 1 to 3, 3 being the most aggressive. In case you're wondering, the brake lights do light up in level 2 and level 3. The system defaults to automatically selecting the regen levels in normal driving mode.

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Personally, I find auto regen braking to be counterintuitive as the rate of deceleration is unpredictable, making it somewhat frustrating to be smooth. So what I’d do is to keep it at level 1 or 2 for consistent regen braking.

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Unlike the Nissan Leaf, there’s no one-pedal driving mode and the regen braking will not bring the Kona Electric to a halt. It will slow down to a crawl but you'd have to apply brakes for complete stops.

Some may prefer it this way but having experienced one-pedal driving in the Leaf, I would like to have the option for one-pedal driving.

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Another option I’d like to have would be to mute the blind spot monitors while maintaining the visual warnings, but it’s all systems on or nothing with this.

Ride comfort – Firm and controlled

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Like the regular Kona variants, the Kona Electric has a firm ride. However, the damping is much better tuned and suited to the spring rates. Whereas the regular Kona will oscillate over large undulations at high speeds, the Kona Electric settles quickly and carries on.

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Road imperfections can be felt as a result of the firmness, especially for those seated at the rear. But personally, it’s not uncomfortably firm and the 17-inch wheels with healthy sidewalls do take the edge off slightly.

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Seats are relatively comfortable for those of a smaller build, larger individuals may find shoulder and thigh support to be lacking. 

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Being an EV, one would expect a blissfully silent driving experience, but the Kona Electric suffers from tyre noise. We attribute to the tyres fitted as the regular Kona variants were generally muted from all sources of noise. The Kona Electric uses Nexen Nfera SU1, while the regular ones are on Continental UC6s.

Below is a noise level comparison of the regular Kona against the Kona Electric:

2022 Hyundai Kona Cabin Noise Test
Variant Kona N-Line Kona Electric
Idle, A/C on 43 dB 44 dB
60 km/h 58 dB 59 dB
90 km/h 61 dB 64 dB
110 km/h 66 dB 68 dB

Driving range and charging

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The Hyundai Kona Electric uses a CCS Combo 2 charging port, which is compatible with most charging stations here, so there’s no need for additional adapters.

Also read: What is CHAdeMO and CCS? Everything you need to know about charging EVs

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From a 90 percent charge down to 20 percent, I’ve managed to clock 223 km with an average speed of about 42 km/h. The onboard trip computer indicated a remaining range of about 75 km. Realistically, the Kona Electric with the 39.2-kWh battery is able to achieve a real-world range of 300 km on a full charge.

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This makes the Kona Electric more efficient than the Nissan Leaf with a similar-sized battery, which clocked less than 180 km on a full charge down to 20 percent during our test.

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A 50 kW DC charger took about 45 minutes for the Kona EV to charge from 20 to 80 percent.

Also read: Confused by EV terms? Here's everything you need to know

Conclusion

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Comparing the Hyundai Kona Electric against its closest rival for now, the Nissan Leaf, my vote goes to the Kona Electric. The interior feels like it belongs in the 21st century and it’s more efficient.

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If you’re contemplating on whether to go for an EV, it’s simple – if it’s your only car, don’t buy an EV yet. Pro-durianEV groups will tell you otherwise, but there are times when impromptu trips happen and EVs, at the moment, cannot not give you the peace of mind to complete those trips every single time. All it takes is a broken charger to ruin the day.

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However, if it’s your second, third, or maybe sixth car, and perhaps you’re looking for something to complete those short daily trips to and from the office, then yes, you should absolutely buy one. And for under RM 200k, the Hyundai Kona Electric is currently the one to have.

Also read: Review: 2nd-gen Nissan Leaf – Perfect introduction to EVs

Shaun

Writer

The quest for automotive knowledge began as soon as the earliest memories. Various sources information, even questionable ones, have been explored including video games, television, magazines, or even internet forums. Still stuck in that rabbit hole.

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