8 years or 100,000 miles
Contrary perhaps to appearances, Hyundai's second generation Kona Electric is a very different proposition to its predecessor. And contrary perhaps to expectations, it's also quite different to its close Hyundai Motor Group cousin, the car you might expect it to merely clone, the Kia Niro EV. In short, as far as it can, this larger, smarter, more sophisticated MK2 Kona Electric wants to set itself apart in the segment for compact EV Crossovers.
Hyundai didn't invent the mainstream EV market but back in 2018, it introduced one of the two models usually credited with popularising it, the Kona Electric. That first generation version, updated in 2020, was a clone of the other key EV of the time, the similarly-sized Kia e-Niro, a fellow Hyundai Group model that shared all the same engineering. Like that full-battery Niro, the original Kona Electric was a derivative of the combustion model. This second generation Kona Electric though, is now the design core around which entire Kona range is these days based. Hybrid versions still exist: but they'll be out-sold by this full-battery variant this time round - in ever-increasing numbers. Even the old EV model accounted for four in every ten Konas sold in Europe, so hopes are high for this 'upscaled' MK2 version. Hyundai says the car was developed based on lessons learnt from their larger avant-garde IONIQ 5 and IONIQ 6 EVs, though unfortunately, it doesn't get the advanced ultra-rapid charging 800V electrical architecture that sets those two models apart in their respective segments. This is because the new K3 platform this second generation Kona Electric runs on (shared with the current Niro EV) wasn't developed for that. Much else about this car though, is satisfyingly avant-garde. Let's take a closer look.
Though this second generation Kona Electric shares its new K3 platform with its close cousin and nearest class rival, the Kia Niro EV, surprisingly it doesn't share that car's electric motor and battery system. The differences aren't huge mind you: a 65.4kWh battery (0.6kWh bigger than the one in the Kia) and an electric motor with 214bhp (it's 201bhp in the Niro EV). But it's enough to make acceleration feel a tad more urgent. And crucially, for the driving range to be raised to a class-leading 319 miles with 17-inch wheels (36 miles more than the Niro EV). If you don't need to go that far between charges, Hyundai also offers the Kona Electric with a smaller 48.4kWh battery, a feebler 154bhp electric motor and a reduced range of 212 miles. With both versions, a standard heat pump should preserve those range figures in really cold weather. 0-62mph in the 65.4kWh version takes 7.8s en route to 107mph. As with the combustion mild hybrid and full-Hybrid Kona variants, you can expect a big refinement improvement thanks to the sleek aerodynamics and lessons Hyundai says it's learned from the slippery IONIQ 6. And this improvement is matched by a higher standard of ride quality, which is supple and aided by the stiffer platform with its greater use of high-strength steels. Hyundai has developed a new version of its 'i-Pedal' system, which allows selectable amounts of brake energy recuperation via steering wheel-mounted paddles. With the highest level of brake regen selected ('Max i-PEDAL'), the car will slow very noticeably off-throttle, almost down to a stop. There's a 'N Line' trim package available, but Hyundai says it has no plans for a full high-performance N version like the one it's developed for the larger IONIQ 5.
Designing a car from scratch primarily as electric vehicle ought to make it significantly different from a model created for combustion. On an EV, the wheelbase is usually longer, so passenger space can be greater, particularly in the rear seat where there can be a flatter floor. Another common mark of a full EV platform is a 'frunk' - the use of under-bonnet space for extra cargo storage. Because, unlike its predecessor, this MK2 Kona was primarily designed as an EV, all these hallmarks are in evidence. And they make this second generation Kona electric considerably easier to live with than the first. The looks here have evolved too, though not perhaps by quite as much as you would expect given the more sophisticatedly electrified K3 underpinnings. This full-electric Kona hasn't been visually differentiated from its combustion mild and full-Hybrid stablemates in any significant way. So, as with those variants, this is now significantly larger car. True, it's still slightly smaller than its Kia Niro EV close cousin but compared to the original Kona Electric, this 4.35-metre-long version is 175mm longer and 25mm wider, sitting 20mm higher. It's also far more aerodynamic and, in its own way, quite eye-catching thanks to expensive touches like the full-width front light bar. Big 17, 18 or 19-inch wheels add the finishing touch. Inside, the cabin is vastly different from the rather cramped, plasticky affair served up before. Material quality has taken a big step forward and it all feels a lot more spacious, helped by the relocation of the main driving controls from the centre console to a steering column stalk. Upper-spec models feature a pair of joined 12.3-inch screens and a head-up display. The things you regularly interact with like the door handles, the switchgear and the steering wheel now feel considerably more solid. Where you really notice the extra space of this MK2 model (and its 60mm wheelbase length increase) though, is in the rear. Head room and knee room, both restricted with the previous Kona Electric (even by modest class standards) are now far more acceptable. And as you'd hope, there's more boot space too, luggage capacity for this Electric version having jumped from 332 to 466-litres (extendable to 1,300-litres if you fold the rear bench). Plus as we said earlier, with this EV variant, there's an extra compartment under the bonnet (27-litres in size) to store the charging leads.
For this second generation Kona Electric, you'll need to budget from just under £35,000 to just over £43,000. There's a choice of four trim levels - base 'Advance', mid-level 'N Line', then 'N Line S' and top 'Ultimate'. If you want the smaller 48kWh battery, you'll need 'Advance' trim; that smaller battery (only projected to take about 10% of sales) will save you around £3,500 over the larger 65kWh battery pack that features elsewhere in the range. Whatever version you choose, you should find it to be very well equipped. All variants get large alloy wheels with rims at least 18-inches in size, as well as roof rails and front and rear LED lights. Interior features include air conditioning, tinted glass, cruise control with a speed limiter and 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto 'smartphone-mirroring. But you'll need to buy in at the top of the range to get the sophisticated joined twin 12.3-inch dashboard screens that the brand makes so much of. This media system features over-the-air updates and has built-in technology that in future could allow the brand to launch a subscription-based service for things like heated seats and a heated steering wheel. You can add a household socket in the back which will allow you to do things like charge your laptop as you drive to work. Safety features are well up to class standards, all models getting 'Forward Collision Avoidance with pedestrian detection', 'Lane Keep Assist', 'Driver Attention Alert' and the brand's clever 'Lane Follow Assist' and 'Leading Vehicle Departure Warning' alert systems. Plus there's Tyre Pressure Monitoring and an 'eCall' emergency button that'll activate automatically to inform the rescue services should any of the front, front side and curtain airbags inflate.
We gave you the top 65.4kWh battery version's class-leading 319 mile range figure in our 'Driving' section (that's with 17-inch wheels; it's 269 miles with 19-inch wheels). We also gave you the 212 mile figure for the lesser 48.4kWh variant. There's a claimed energy efficiency of 4.1 miles per kWh if you select the car's 'Long Range' driving mode. In its second generation form, this Kona Electric offers an increased DC fast charging capability of 102.3kW, compared to the previous generation's 75kW maximum. For this 65.4kWh version, battery recharging times are pretty much the same as the rival Kia Niro EV. So recharging from 10 to 80% at a public rapid charger takes as little as 43 minutes. And topping up the 65.4kWh battery from empty to full using a typical 7.4kW garage wallbox takes nine hours 15 minutes - or six hours 30 minutes with the 48kWh battery model. What else might you need to know? Well as you might know, EV owners now have to pay road tax but you'll still be exempt from the London Congestion Charge until 2025. For company car users, electric vehicles offer potentially huge tax savings as they incur Benefit-in-Kind taxation fixed at just 2%. Maintenance should be cheaper than it would be for a combustion-engined model: an electric vehicle does, after all, have 20% fewer moving parts. And servicing intervals are less frequent than the Hybrids, every 24,000 miles or at least once every two years. And as usual with a Hyundai, you can budget ahead with pre-paid servicing plans. All Kona Electric models come with Hyundai's 5 Year Unlimited Mileage Warranty, an 8 Year/100,000 Mile High Voltage Battery Warranty, a 5 Year Annual Health Check, a 3 year MapCare navigation update program, a Roadside Assistance package, and a 12 Year Anti Corrosion Warranty.
A class-leading level of electric driving range ought to be enough to sell any EV and this one, as promised, backs that up with a design 'upscaled' in both size and quality. Hyundai's decision not to merely clone what's available from this model's Niro EV close cousin is interesting (unlike that Kia, there's an entry-level battery option, a larger main battery and no Plug-in Hybrid variant). It's a rather sensible approach on this Korean maker's part. From an electric car that this time combines sense with a good deal more style. Enough to bring this Kona Electric onto the wish lists of people who'd never have considered its blander predecessor. Compact EVs are getting better and to get a feel for just how quickly that's happening, you've only to try this one.