The art of listening
What the customer wants in 2023 is a compact SUV (Sports Utility Vehcile) that is functional and offers value for money. Given its intended use and budget, interior space and streamline are more important than off-road performance. So while the Kona has the basic shape of an off-road vehicle, its lines are sleek and futuristic. In fact, the Kona is so progressively drawn that the competition looks old-fashioned at first glance!
How modern the interior is depends heavily on the chosen trim. With a cabin in off-white and beige, the Kona almost looks like a vehicle from the future. In contrast, the test car with a dark grey interior looks conventional. Thanks to its tall build, entry is easy and the high seating position gives a slightly better view of traffic than a standard hatchback. Space in the front is good, that in the rear is average for a car of this size.
On top of the dashboard is a large display panel that extends from behind the steering wheel to halfway down the dashboard. The left speaker is integrated into this panel, creating a special look. The layout of the display is logical, but sometimes Hyundai wants to show too much information at once, which still makes it cluttered.
Hyundai worked with hi-fi specialist Krell until recently, but as customers had never heard of this absolute top brand, they did not want to pay for it. By customer request, the over-known Bose is therefore back. It does mean that pure hi-fi has been traded for a strongly coloured sound with an emphasis on thrills at the expense of clarity and quiet.
Hyundai is one of the first manufacturers to implement all the safety systems that will be mandatory in the European Union from 2024. It means Hyundai interprets the rules first, and when in doubt, the Korean manufacturer opts for strict. A moment above the speed limit is immediately punished. Even minor mistakes are cautioned and the sound for "navigation system recalculates route" and "brake now to avoid a fatal accident" are the same. Therefore, the driver has to look to see what is being warned about on the screen. Anyone who then looks at the screen for too long will be told to keep their eyes on the road! If, while steering, the driver blocks the camera on the steering column for a moment, this is again warned about. In short: all help is good, but this needs to be clearer and with a bit more leeway.
To cater to a variety of needs, the Hyundai Kona is available with a conventional petrol engine, as a hybrid and as an electric car (depending on the country). Since the all-electric variant is by far the most popular, the new Kona was designed as an electric car first, before making way for the petrol and hybrid versions. Hyundai also has a line of so-called "IONIQ" models. These are always electric and use 800-volt technology. That allows for better performance, higher charging speeds and greater endurance. However, it is much more expensive than the more common 400-volt technology, which is why it was chosen for the Kona.
The battery pack is physically about the same size as the one in the previous Kona. However, thanks to different cell chemistry, the capacity is larger. The maximum charge rate has remained roughly the same, but the average charge rate has become much higher, allowing faster charging at a fast charger on balance. Although the same electric motor is used as in the previous Kona, consumption has still been reduced thanks to improved aerodynamics. During the test, 415 km could be covered on a full battery (test consumption: 15.3 kWh / 100 km).
Hyundai chooses to maximise all the benefits electric driving offers. Those not keen on that can drive the Kona Electric like a regular car with an automatic transmission. Those who do want to take advantage of the extra features have a choice of regular, economy and sport modes with which performance ranges from "very ordinary" to "amazingly fast for a family car". In the latter case, the electric motor packs so much power that the front wheels' grip is the limiting factor. In three steps, you can choose how much speed decreases when releasing the accelerator and how much energy is recovered. In the most extreme mode, this effect is so great that one pedal drive is available.
During this test drive, handling was perceived as the biggest gain over the previous Kona. Hyundai has clearly learned in recent years to mask the battery weight, as the Kona Electric is as dynamic as the recently tested Kona Hybrid. Not only is handling fine for an electric car, the handling is at par to that of a conventional low hatchback.
All this is thanks to the upcoming N-Line version. That should approximate the sporty handling of Hyundai's "N" sports cars. And to achieve that, that top-end version was taken as a starting point and thus the bar was raised.
It is now a tradition at Hyundai: it asks new customers what they are looking for in a car and existing customers how things could be better. The result is always a tailor-made car, and the Kona Electric is a textbook example. The Kona is a compact family car that is nevertheless spacious and functional. The equipment is modern and complete, without turning the Kona into a toy for computer freaks. Hyundai is one of the first manufacturers to implement all the safety requirements set by the European Union from 2024, but interprets them very strictly.
To meet a variety of needs, the Kona comes as a petrol, hybrid and electric car. The Kona Electric takes full advantage of all the benefits electric driving offers. The Kona is fast, quiet, comfortable, economical to drive and can be driven with one pedal. As this is the second generation of the Kona Electric, problems such as limited range or poor dynamics due to heavy batteries have been solved even more effectively.
This balance between functionality and technology, comfort and dynamics, price and performance make the Hyundai Kona the car customers want.
- Excellent handling
- Modern, usable technology
- Quiet, strong and comfortable
- Safety features tuned too sharply
- Bombastic sound Bose audio system