Gen­er­ous to a volt

What Car? - - Electric Car Special - Pho­tog­ra­phy: John Brad­shaw

WOULDN’T IT BE great if elec­tric cars had the same range as petrols? You know, sev­eral hun­dred miles be­tween charges so that you could drive around for a few days with­out even the slight­est pang of range anx­i­ety. If that were the case, heck, you might even con­sider buy­ing one.

Well, be­lieve it or not, that day could al­ready be here, be­cause Hyundai reck­ons its new Kona Elec­tric can man­age 300 miles be­tween plug-ins. It’s all down to a whop­ping great 64kwh bat­tery, like those that, un­til re­cently, were found only in ex­pen­sive Teslas.

In fact, it makes the 168-mile claimed range of the Nis­san Leaf, our cur­rent favourite elec­tric car, look rather measly – although the Leaf is cheaper to buy and its larger foot­print should, in the­ory at least, make it roomier in­side.

But which is the bet­ter all-round elec­tric car, and are Hyundai’s stag­ger­ing range claims re­ally achiev­able in ev­ery­day driv­ing?

DRIV­ING Per­for­mance, ride, han­dling, re ne­ment

The Kona Elec­tric is ac­tu­ally avail­able in two forms; the cheaper has a 134bhp elec­tric mo­tor and a 39kwh bat­tery, while the 64kwh ver­sion we’re fo­cus­ing on here packs 201bhp. That’s con­sid­er­ably more than any elec­tric car this side of a £60,000 Jaguar I-pace.

In fact, when pulling away, you have to be del­i­cate with your right foot to avoid wheel­spin, even on dry roads. Once you’re on the move, the Kona builds speed rapidly, and there’s no wait­ing for the revs to rise be­fore max­i­mum per­for­mance is de­liv­ered; sim­ply tread on the ac­cel­er­a­tor and the car im­me­di­ately surges for­ward.

Not that the 148bhp Leaf is in any way slug­gish; it can still hit 60mph from rest in 8.1sec, so even fast mo­tor­way driv­ing isn’t a strug­gle. And be­cause the Leaf has less torque, it’s more com­posed when you boot it, whereas the Kona’s steer­ing wheel some­times feels as if it’s con­nected to the front wheels via an an­gry snake.

Lift off the ac­cel­er­a­tor in ei­ther car and you feel your­self slow­ing down quite quickly as the re­gen­er­a­tive brakes har­vest en­ergy to re­plen­ish the bat­tery. You can in­crease this ef­fect if you wish, while the Leaf goes one step fur­ther with a fea­ture called e-pedal. When it’s ac­ti­vated, the re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing be­comes so pro­nounced that you barely have to use the brake pedal at all. You’ll ei­ther like this one-pedal ap­proach to driv­ing or you won’t; it doesn’t do much to in­crease the range.

The new Hyundai Kona Elec­tric of­fers a lot of power and range for the money. Let’s see if it’s a bet­ter bet than our favourite elec­tric car, the Nis­san Leaf

How­ever, per­for­mance isn’t just about how quickly you can speed up and slow down; it’s about how far you can get be­tween charges. In our own Real Range tests, the Kona man­aged 259 miles – a hugely cred­i­ble re­sult, even if it’s a way be­low the of­fi­cial fig­ure. Me­chan­i­cal grem­lins meant we weren’t able to put the Leaf through the test, but as­sum­ing a sim­i­lar 14% short­fall, a range of 145 miles should be achiev­able if you drive gen­tly in mild weather.

Although the Leaf looks sleeker and squat­ter than the Suv-ap­ing Kona, the for­mer ac­tu­ally leans more through cor­ners. In most

other re­spects, the Leaf is the bet­ter-han­dling car, though; its steer­ing is more ac­cu­rate and there’s more grip to ex­ploit if the mood takes you.

In the Kona, you’re also jos­tled around more by smaller road blem­ishes at all speeds, although it rarely be­comes truly an­noy­ing. The Leaf is more eas­ily upset by big ob­sta­cles, such as speed bumps, but over­all it’s the more com­fort­able car. It’s qui­eter, too; the Kona gen­er­ates a lot more tyre noise, es­pe­cially on the mo­tor­way.

BE­HIND THE WHEEL Driv­ing po­si­tion, vis­i­bil­ity, build qual­ity

One of the Leaf’s big­gest flaws is its driv­ing po­si­tion, mainly be­cause there’s no reach ad­just­ment for the steer­ing wheel. That means there’s a good chance you’ll be forced to sit closer to, or farther away from, the wheel than you’d ideally like.

Not only does the Kona’s steer­ing wheel move in and out as well as up and down, but its seat also comes with ad­justable lum­bar sup­port – some­thing that isn’t even an op­tion on the Leaf. The Kona is the far eas­ier car to see out of, too; the Leaf’s chunky wind­screen pil­lars can re­ally block your view at junc­tions and round­abouts. Over-the-shoul­der vis­i­bil­ity could be bet­ter in both, although you get plenty of aids to help out with park­ing.

You won’t be blown away by the in­te­rior qual­ity of ei­ther car, but the Kona def­i­nitely has the edge. There are fewer lowrent plas­tics in clear sight and ev­ery­thing feels that lit­tle bit more stur­dily screwed to­gether. Most of the Kona’s but­tons and knobs op­er­ate more slickly, too.

Front space, rear space, seat­ing ex­i­bil­ity, boot

If you need a big boot, the Kona EV isn’t the car for you. We man­aged to squeeze just four carry-on suit­cases into the shal­low load bay, whereas the Leaf’s much deeper boot swal­lowed seven cases. Mind you, there’s a big lip at the en­trance to the Leaf’s boot and, on range-top­ping Tekna trim, a Bose sub­woofer bolted to the floor that can re­ally get in the way. Both cars have 60/40 split-fold­ing rear seat­backs, but while the Kona’s lie flat and flush with the boot floor, the Leaf’s leave an an­noy­ing step in the ex­tended load bay.

The Leaf has not only the big­ger boot but also more rear seat space. Yes, there’s frac­tion­ally less head room than in the Kona (any­one much taller than six feet will no­tice there hair brush­ing the roof lin­ing in both cars), but there’s sig­nif­i­cantly more knee room for longer-legged rear pas­sen­gers.

BUY­ING AND OWN­ING Costs, equip­ment, re­li­a­bil­ity, safety and se­cu­rity

Like all pure EVS, these two are el­i­gi­ble for a £4500 gov­ern­ment grant (£3500 from 12 Novem­ber). That’s all you’ll get off the price of the Kona, though, whereas a fur­ther £1478 dis­count is avail­able on the Leaf if you hag­gle.

Over three years, the Kona’s slower pre­dicted de­pre­ci­a­tion nar­rows the gap in to­tal own­er­ship costs, although the Leaf should still work out about £1000 cheaper for pri­vate cash buy­ers. If you’re tak­ing out a PCP fi­nance deal, the Leaf will cost you just £8 less per month, while com­pany car driv­ers will sac­ri­fice about a fiver less a month from their salary.

Both cars can be charged with an in­cluded Type 2 cable us­ing a nor­mal 7kw home charger; the Leaf takes about seven and a half hours to get from empty to full, whereas the big­ger-bat­teried Kona takes nine and a half hours.

If you want to rapid charge the Kona, you’ll need to find a CCS charg­ing point, whereas rapid charg­ing the Leaf is done us­ing the slightly more com­mon Chademo type. A 0-80% rapid charge takes around 75 min­utes in the Kona and 60 min­utes in the Leaf.

HYUNDAI KONA ELEC­TRIC 1 1 In­te­rior qual­ity won’t worry the BMW i3, but ev­ery­thing feels solidly bolted to­gether 2 3 2 Kona has the bet­ter driv­ing po­si­tion, partly be­cause the steer­ing wheel is more ad­justable 3 Pic­ture shows in­te­rior of a Pre­mium SE model; Pre­mium trim does with­out leather seats BEST DRIV­ING PO­SI­TION

1 1 Tweak­ing in­te­rior tem­per­a­ture is a bitddly; a dial would be bet­ter than but­tons 2 2 Steer­ing wheel doesn’t move in and out and there’s no ad­justable lum­bar sup­port 33 Leaf is bet­ter equipped; heated seats and a heated steer­ing wheel are stan­dard NIS­SAN LEAF

Leaf is the qui­eter cruiser, but it doesn’t ac­cel­er­ate as quickly BEST RIDE

Kona Elec­tric’s ride is chop­pier than the Leaf’s at all speeds

950mm 1410mm 1055mmKona is rel­a­tively tight for rear leg room, but there’s still just about enough for a cou­ple of six-foot­ers.two large cuphold­ers be­tween the front seats are at con­ve­nient el­bow height and there’s plenty of stowage space

HYUNDAI KONA ELEC­TRIC 715-1490mm Boot 332-1114 litres Suit­cases 4 410-695mm 1015-1220mm

920mm 1380mm 640mm

950mm 1390mm 1020mmLeaf has slightly less head room in the back but signi cantly more leg room. Boot isn’t the clever­est, due to a big lip at the en­trance and a sub­woofer mounted on the oor, but you’ll still t more in it than you will in the Kona’s

NIS­SAN LEAF 835-1600mm Boot 435-1176 litres Suit­cases 7 595-910mm 945-1225mm BEST BOOT SPACE

900mm 1330mm 695mm BEST REAR SPACE

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