Hyundai’s Kona Electric is the first mainstream electric SUV that claims you can drive across Singapore nine times on one charge – does that make it the most practical EV around?
As a Millenial, it’s no surprise I’m a tree-hugger. And in my daily life, I do what I can to reduce, re-use, and recycle (you’re welcome, National Environment Agency!).
Electric vehicles have always appealed to me, due to the many purported ways they can help the environment. I say ‘purported’ because Grinch/fellow writer Jonathan Lim (and Thomson Reuters) says EVs are not all they’re cut out to be, but my latest test-drive in Hyundai’s newest EV showed me a few more reasons to take another serious look at EVs.
Enter the Hyundai Kona Electric, or as our test unit is officially known in the press release, the ‘2019 Hyundai Kona Electric Sunroof (Long Range)’.
With EVs being very new to the market, there have been, and will continue to be a lot of firsts.
The Nissan Leaf is the first Japanese EV (read about it in this issue), while the Kona is the first mainstream SUV EV (Jaguar’s I-Pace is the first luxury one), and with it, Hyundai becomes the only brand to have two battery-powered (BEVs) on sale here right now.
Now EVs have their fair share of naysayers (find out more about the pros and cons in Carbuyer’s dummie’s guide to owning an EV in Singapore), but after two days with the Kona, the last thing you can say about it is that it’s boring and simply not feasible, range-wise, for Singapore.
Firstly, it’s a blue SUV, which automatically means that it’s ‘lit’ or ‘woke’, since blue soft-roaders seem to be the rage now, be it a Smurf-y Porsche Macan S or a Transformer-y Toyota RAV4. That’s not a bad thing at all (by my own questionable standards), so this ‘Blue Ceramic’ Kona Electric is really worth more than one glance.
It’s different from its petrol brother, both inside and out. A closed front grille is the easiest way to identify the Kona Electric, while the inside takes a more radical departure. The gearshift area has been replaced by a high-rise centre ‘stack’, with gear buttons like in the Ioniq Electric, and there’s added space under the centre console for storage, thanks to the lack of a transmission.
Despite the literally-breathtaking name, the ‘Long Range’ tag is a big deal. The Hyundai Kona Electric has a range unheard of in the current environment of EVs (yes, yes, a Tesla can give you more but you won’t be broke after buying the Hyundai Kona Electric), promising up to 482 km of driving per full charge – in other words you could drive from Changi to Tuas nine times.
That’s a more-than-50 percent increase over the 234 km-range of its cousin the Hyundai Ioniq Electric and the roughly-220 km-range a Renault Zoe can give you (the two other mainstream electric cars here).
There wasn’t enough time for me to drive a full 500 km in one charge, but I did pretty well with 85 km clocked, with the battery level more than ¾ full after that and that’s with the car coming to me with around 90 percent charge level. Given the performance of the Ioniq Electric, we do have confidence in Hyundai’s quoted EV range figures thus far.
While I did not use the vehicle long enough to require a charge, Hyundai says the battery can be recharged up to 80 percent in less than an hour with a DC fast charger, just about enough time for a meal – or a coffee with a talkative friend.
Buyers will receive a Schneider electric wallbox, which is best for overnight charging claiming 9 hours and 35 minutes for a full charge.
Both variants of the Hyundai Kona Electric come with 395 Nm of maximum torque, but the long range version gives you 203 hp while the standard Kona Electric comes in at 135 hp.
The long range version also has a higher maximum speed of 167 km/h, unfortunately, the vehicle struggles with stability at speeds above 130 km/h (but who’s cruising at 130 km/h in a small family battery-powered SUV?).
Meanwhile, the Kona Electric takes just 7.6-seconds to go from 0-100km/h, a much better time than its gasoline-fueled competitors, the Honda HRV (11.8-seconds) and the Toyota C-HR (11-seconds). That need for speed, however, will cost you nearly twice as much.
The cost can be partly rationalised by big additions to safety. Along with six airbags, the vehicle also contains all the safety features Hyundai has to offer, most notably Blind-Spot Collision Warning (BCW) and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning (RCCW).
BCW alerts you through the exterior mirrors if there’s danger of collision between you and another vehicle in your blind spot, and RCCW reduces the risk of colliding with approaching traffic when reversing out of narrow areas with low visibility by scanning a 180-degree area behind the car. Surely that’s bang for your buck (hopefully not literally).
Paddle shifters behind the steering wheel allow you to control the level regenerative braking in the car, with three levels of braking intensity. Level three seemed a bit too jerky and abrupt, but levels one and two should suffice for most.
On the Nissan Leaf we test drove in Hong Kong, the ePedal also allowed for single pedal driving, albeit with no recuperative levels to choose from. And despite promising “harder regenerative braking”, the Leaf’s B mode seemed to be a smoother solution for all-around driving, in comparison to max level three in the Kona Electric.
For what it brings, the long-range Hyundai Kona Electric with sunroof (our review model) will cost you S$162,999 with COE. Honestly that’s pretty expensive, it’s on the border of ‘mainstream’ considering you could buy a mid-sized European SUV like a VW Tiguan instead, or Hyundai’s own rather comfy Santa Fe.
But it’s not a surprising price for an EV. And if the value doesn’t sit well with you, you could go with the sunroof-less standard 39.2kWh Kona Electric – with 312km quoted range – will net you S$28,000 in savings.
And since we’re on the topics of savings, how about those expensive trips to the petrol station?
A typical 1.6-litre petrol car with a 55-litre fuel tank would cost you $122.10 (95 Octane as of March 5) before discount. But the 64kWh Kona Electric will be recharged with a value of approximately S$16*.
Granted it might take you a lot more visits to the charging station for your cost savings to match the EV premium, but the absolute reduction local pollution might matter more to this tree-hugger than others.
With the price in mind, hesitance is to be expected when it comes to purchasing EVs.
But the Hyundai Kona Electric continues to prove that EVs are a viable solution, even if it’s not typically Korean-affordable. With companies like SP Group deciding to add 1,000 charging ports into Singapore by 2020, range anxiety will be a thing of the past here too.
If it doesn’t go too well, at least you’ve done your part saving the world, and if your gasoline-addicted friends don’t believe you, just ask them to stand behind their own cars while it’s running for more than five minutes. That, we all know, is not sustainable in the long run.
Hyundai Kona Electric Long Range (sunroof)
|Electric Motor||203hp, 395Nm|
|Battery||Lithium ion, 64kWh|
|Charge Time / Type||9 hours / Wallbox|
|VES Band / CO2||A1/ 0 gkm|
|Price||S$162,999 with COE|
*Calculated at 25.52 cents/kWh, as per electricity tariff quoted by SP Group on 7 March 2019