Hyundai Kona Electric Review: First Drive

By Ishan Raghava | on August 17, 2019

The government is determined to introduce electric vehicles in India. So, Hyundai has fired the first shot in the EV race with the launch of the Kona Electric. But can it really change the face of electric motoring in India? 

Electric mobility, whether in India or globally, has become a bit of a thorny issue. With politicians and policymakers committed to the idea that electric mobility is the panacea for all our woes, the debate surrounding environmental pollution has become somewhat lopsided. However, policy issues aside, there are many positives emerging from the automotive industry in its attempt to tackle this challenge. 

A new benchmark 
One of those positives for the Indian automotive industry is the launch of the Kona Electric. To understand why, and how, the Kona is likely to revolutionise the Indian market, we first need to understand the biggest limitation of all the other electric options currently available – the lack of a practical driving range on a single charge. Besides, most of them were never designed to be electric platforms – they’re simply afterthoughts – and that’s why they fall short in terms of dynamics and practicality. 

Hyundai Kona Electric Front Dynamic

The Kona Electric, with its 39.2kWh battery, radically changes all this. Specially designed for an electric powertrain, the Kona feels like a proper electric vehicle. Not only does the large battery pack promise a respectable range to tackle range anxiety – 452kms is the ARAI certification, but we’ll come to that number later – but it also offers various fast charging options, which drastically reduce its charging time and make it a very practical car to use every day. 

Instant torque
We tested the Kona Electric at the Buddh International Circuit, which is a strange place to test an EV. But given the infrastructural challenges of charging an EV, it was perhaps the best place for Hyundai to set up the temporary charging infrastructure needed for our test drives. 

One of the most interesting highlights of the Kona is its 395Nm of torque that’s available from zero rpm. This instant push enables the Kona to scoot off the line and offer reasonably quick performance – from 0 to 100km/h in under 10 seconds. It also allows the Kona to get up to high three-digit speeds with ease. 

The handling too is well settled, but the steering is a bit of a disappointment – as the electrically powered system offers no feel and seems rather disconnected. The other aspect of the car that I’ve been wanting to test was its ride quality in Indian conditions, but that, of course, is something that we’ll have to wait for. 

Hyundai Kona Electric Interiors

Pin drop silence
The one radical change in the Kona for Indian customers is going to be the in-cabin refinement. With virtually no noise from the electric power plant, the Kona’s cabin is eerily quiet – the loudest noise being from the tyres. In fact, it makes for a rather pleasant experience, which is amplified by the fact that music inside the Kona sounds far better than a car with an internal combustion engine – for the music system doesn’t have to also work to cancel out the noise generated by an internal combustion engine.

Also, the Kona’s list of standard equipment is quite long. It comes with a touchscreen multimedia system, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, cooled and heated front seats, a fully-digital instrument cluster, and much more. Interestingly, the Kona comes equipped with two different types of chargers as standard.

Charging challenge
The slowest of all is a portable charger, which sits in the boot and can be plugged into any three-plug socket. It takes 19 hours to fully charge the vehicle. The second charger that comes as standard with the Kona is a 7.2kW AC Wall Box, which charges the Kona’s battery from 0 to 100% in just over 6 hours. 

The quickest charging is done by a 50kW Fast Charger, which can charge the Kona from 0 to 80% in just under an hour. To enable the fastest charging infrastructure, Hyundai has tied up with IOCL to offer charging options at certain outlets in select cities. 

Hyundai Kona EV Motor
However, there are a couple of challenges with the Kona. First, the 452kms of range certified by ARAI is certainly a very generous figure. In reality, with the same battery pack, the Kona is rated at 288kms of range in developed markets. And, in India, given our temperature fluctuations and usage conditions, my estimate of the reliable range on a single charge is around 250kms. 

And, then, there’s the concern that charging infrastructure is non-existent in India, so with the Kona or any other electric vehicle, you’re dependent on making your own arrangements for charging your car. Hyundai has done its bit by building a limited charging infrastructure in certain key cities, which include not only IOCL outlets but also their dealers. Of course, they also offer free road-side assistance. 

While all this is great, there’s no doubt that a larger push in terms of a comprehensive charging infrastructure needs to come from the government, who seem either unwilling or unable to do what’s needed – at least for the moment. 

Honestly, though, with its reasonable range and the fact that it feels like a regular car, along with its torque surge and quiet cabin, the Kona makes a great case for the EV. It’s a good start, in that we finally have a well-engineered electric vehicle in the Indian market, but the success of the electric vehicle sector relies on more than just a couple of good products. 

Overall, the Kona definitely is a fantastic poster boy for Hyundai to project itself as a brand with cutting-edge technology, irrespective of the future fuel choice of the automotive industry. Also, at `25.3 Lakh (ex-showroom), it’s the first EV that’s reasonably priced for the size and the range it offers – making it by far the best electric vehicle on the Indian market today.  

Hyundai Kona Electric Rear Three Quarter Action

The Kona’s list of standard equipment is quite long. It comes with a touchscreen multimedia system, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, cooled and heated front seats, a fully-digital instrument cluster, and much more.

  • Hyundai Kona EV

Motor : Permanent-Magnet Synchronous AC Motor

Battery : Lithium-ion Polymer, 39.2kWh

Transmission : Front-Wheel Drive, 1-Speed Direct Drive

Power : 134bhp

Torque : 395Nm

Charging Time: DC II Charging 7.2kWh - 6h 10mins, Fast Charging (50kW) - 57mins (Up to 80%)

Range: 452kms (ARAI Certified)

Also read - 

Hyundai Kona Electric price reduced by Rs 1.59 lakh after GST revision

Kia Soul EV Review

Tags: Hyundai Kona EV Hyundai Hyundai Kona

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Hyundai Kona Electric Model Image
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