Generous to a volt
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