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Review: Hyundai Kona Electric 2024

HYUNDAI’S FIRST-GENERATION KONA Electric was something of a darling. It was efficient, looked good, and made electric motoring a little more accessible for those without Tesla money to play with. Now 2023’s new Kona Electric (2024 for US punters) aims to keep the good times rolling with a new look, fresh tech, and more luxury than you’d expect from a B-segment crossover.

Since the first Kona Electric’s debut in 2018 (in Europe, 2019 in the US), Hyundai’s been working hard on its EV game. The launch of the Ioniq 5 and 6 have taught the company valuable lessons that, it says, informed the development of its latest electric baby. As a consequence, this promises to be a far more complete package than before, at a keen price point.

In the UK the range kicks off at £34,995, and under $35,000 in the US. That’ll get you a “standard” car packing a 48.4-kWh battery with a claimed 234-mile range, a 154-bhp motor capable of getting from 0 to 62 mph in 8.8 seconds, and up to 101 mph. A Long Range Kona Electric sits above it in the lineup, boasting a 65.4-kWh battery, claimed 319-mile range, a perkier 215-bhp motor that’ll crack 0-62 mph in a brisker 7.8 seconds, and then on to 107 mph. Both cars get the same 188 lb ft of torque.

Hyundai’s 400-volt architecture is sadly not the 800 volt you get in the Ioniq 5 or 6, but more than a little amusingly it's the same as that in the Rolls-Royce Spectre EV. It allows the Kona Electric to charge from 10 to 80 percent in a little over 40 minutes. No matter which battery you go for, you get handy vehicle-to-load tech to power anything you can plug into a household wall socket on the fly.

2024 Hyundai Kona Electric side view

Hyundai’s design team has (once again) played a blinder with the car’s look. It cuts a fine figure and will no doubt be the darling of supermarket parking lots all over the world. The firm’s latest design language is delightfully futuristic (if a little First Order Stormtrooper chic), and it comes with tech to match. Its body-width light bar at the front draws the eye neatly, and the car’s assorted sensors are hidden unobtrusively in the front bumper.

Those sensors are host to a comprehensive suite of active safety technology to keep you on the straight and narrow. There’s lane-keep assists, highway driving assists, forward collision avoidance assists, a blind-spot collision avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic assists, a 360-degree parking set up … and much more. The Kona also reads road signs to check the speed limit, watches you to make sure your eyes are on the road, monitors your driving to see if you’re drowsy, and checks to make sure both of your hands are on the wheel. You’d have to work mighty hard to crash.

Sensory Overload

The safety kit on board is comprehensive—it needs to be to adhere to various regulations—but it’s also incredibly irritating and in some cases flawed. Pull up to a junction and dare to look away from dead straight down the road for more than a few seconds—to, say, make sure you’re not about to drive into the path of a lorry—and you’re treated to an angry “bong” with a flashing light telling you that you’re not paying enough attention.

Rest your hands too lightly on the wheel and it thinks you’re going hands-free, so you get another bong. If it thinks you’re sleepy, it’ll bong at you and tell you to take a break. Indicate to change lane with a car nearby? That’s right, a big ol' bong, because it thinks you might hit something. Every time the speed limit changes, the car will bong, exceed the limit by a single mile per hour … bong.

2024 Hyundai Kona Electric driving over a bridge

When it comes to speed limit changes, it relies on being able to see road signs, but it doesn’t necessarily pick up on the right ones—and, of course, if there’s no sign at all it can’t adjust. This led to the system at one point being convinced that the speed limit on a motorway was 70 kph, some way short of the 130 kph other traffic was traveling at. That’s possibly more an infrastructure issue than a Kona issue, but irksome all the same.

Yes, you can turn all that stuff off (go to the car’s infotainment home screen, head to Settings > Vehicle > Driver Assistance), but it’ll only stay off for as long as you’re driving the car. When your journey is done and you turn the car off, these setting will magically reset for your next journey.

Now, in truth this is not entirely Hyundai's fault; all car companies must employ similar measures now to comply with EU regulations. But the company's implementation of the system here is more than a little irritating.

Buttons Are Back
2024 Hyundai Kona electric interior buttons

Its “Panoramic Display Area” (what the rest of us will call the instrument cluster and infotainment panels) is made up of two 12.3-inch screens. The driver is treated to a crystal clear, simple display showing speed, range, state of charge, journey information, and other key stats. The infotainment side of things is a slick touchscreen with a quick UI, easy-to-understand interface, and pleasing graphics. A 12-inch head-up display sits in the driver’s eyeline to give key information like speed, speed limit, and nav directions too. Be aware that if you’re wearing polarized sunglasses it can be tricky to see from some angles.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard (wired still, not wireless—come on, Hyundai Motor Group, sort it out), and they work as you’d expect, but they do come with a catch. Connecting your phone to the car via USB-C, you’d expect it to fire up CarPlay/Android Auto immediately. It doesn’t.
2024 Hyundai Kona Electric engine storage

There are two sockets up front, one for charge only, and one for charge and data transfer. The latter, on the drivers’ side, won’t send data to the car unless you press the graphic next to it—a button that blends in seamlessly with the trim. It’s not a world-ending issue, but unless dealers explain this to customers on handover, you can bet there’ll be a flurry of miffed Kona drivers on the phone wondering why they can’t use Waze.

While some things are controlled via the touchscreen, Hyundai has not fallen in with the “touchscreen everything” crowd. Things like air-conditioning, seat heating and cooling, and hot keys to jump to various media functions are all proper buttons.

Sprightly Performance

Soundtrack of bongs aside, when you’re on the move the Kona Electric is a delightfully calm place to be. It’s quiet, with minimal intrusion from the outside world. The seats are supportive and comfortable and are a pleasing shape. Its dashboard hasn’t been visited by the cheap-plastic fairy, either. Luxury—well, affordable luxury—is the name of the game here, and with that comes space. Its front seats are 85-millimeters (3.3 inches) thick, giving rear seat passengers more legroom, while the 466-liter trunk comes with a flat-load floor for ease of use.

additional storage in Hyundai vehicle
To drive, the Kona Electric is a good time. There are four drive modes: Eco, Normal, Sport, and Snow. Eco does its best to up efficiency; Normal is set up to give sprightly performance without draining the battery; Sport gives sharper performance and turns the instruments red; and Snow is designed to keep the car in check when the white stuff falls.

It steers sweetly too, though feedback is a little on the light side, and over all but the roughest roads it rides smoothly. How it’ll cope with rutted British B roads remains to be seen, as when the going gets lumpy it can feel firm.

Performance from the Long Range car that WIRED tested was good in all modes—215 bhp in a 1,795-kg (3,957-lb) car isn’t going to melt your face, but it’s plenty for a brisk overtake. Sport mode provides decent entertainment, and meant the car dealt with twisty country lanes trouble-free. Once you’ve had your fun, you’re best sticking the car in Eco mode and forgetting about the Normal setting. The difference between the two isn’t huge, and the former promises improved efficiency.

Regen and Range
2024 Hyundai Kona Electric front seat and dashboard view

There are steering-wheel-mounted paddles that control the ferocity of the Kona Electric’s energy recuperation. You can set it to none, up three levels, or to “i-Pedal,” which allows for one-pedal driving and adjusts energy regeneration based on your driving and the traffic ahead. The i-Pedal option works well, and it makes the job of grabbing electricity back from your drive easy, though it does take some time to get used to.

On that front, Hyundai’s promised 319-mile range from the Long Range car’s 65.4-kWh battery suggests it’ll manage 4.8 miles per kWh—a strong number. After varied driving on mixed roads, we saw closer to 4.1. It's not a huge gap, but it suggests a range closer to 270 miles than 319. How this compares to regular driving in normal conditions remains to be seen.

The new Kona Electric feels like a grown-up car, a step above a simple small SUV. It drives well, comes with smart tech (you can even unlock it with your phone or smartwatch if you fancy), and the makeover is a certain success. Its enthusiastic bonging will annoy some, but it can be useful if you are weapons-grade dozy. Though, if you want to get on with just driving the damn thing, you may end up screaming at it. A loud fly in an otherwise rather fine ointment.

Source: Wired

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