Hyundai Kona EV: When City Traffic is Suddenly Fun
My heart beats for V8 engines. If it drinks like a mule, I don't care. I want the rumble, I want the roar. I want the car to not even pretend to exert itself at 120km/h (75mph, if you do Democracies per Starbucks Units).
I am getting a Hyundai Kona EV.
An electric vehicle (EV). «Surely this is a somewhat lamer version of a Tesla», I think.
I don't think I've ever heard a less sexy name for a car. What's a Kona? Something Hawaiian, sure, but... I mean, look at it. Look at that ugly snout.
Would it have killed them to just add a decorative grill? I mean, come on, that's just sad. And who wants to drive a car that has a front that looks like the depression of some sad, caffeine-deprived car-designer? Not me, nuh-uh.
There you have my thoughts, my first impressions, that held true for all of maybe ten seconds. Because if you live in a busy city, the Kona is quite probably one of the most glorious cars you could wish for. Especially the EV.
Vrooom vs. Whirrrr
The Kona's biggest strength is the fact that it is an EV. Just do us all a favour and ignore all the gas burner versions of it. Because while Hyundai doesn't seem too sure about this new-fangled technology of not having liquefied dinosaurs explode violently many times inside about one and a half tons of metal, you should be.
Do not buy the Kona with internal combustion engines (ICE).
This has nothing to do with performance, because while the ICEs might bang out more range and can brag with 40 more horsepower than the EV, there's one thing that makes the Hyundai Kona EV the perfect city car.
While it's nothing new that EVs pretty much slam every ICE when it comes to torque, torque becomes something amazing in the city. Because there's hardly a gap you can't just simply slip into. Driving in traffic jams becomes something that is suddenly something that you can approach with way more of a relaxed attitude and the Eco Mode will actually greatly extend your battery life due to its regenerative breaking.
For the first time in my life, I actually enjoy city traffic, because usually, I just drive into the city to where I live and out of the city to where I drive. The Kona, however, is friendly to you, the driver, and forgiving towards pretty much everything that rush hour city traffic throws at it.
And have I mentioned parking? I don't quite know how this happens, but parking is an absolute joy. I don't think I ever had to manoeuvre into a parking space or a gap. The Kona seems to find its way into any space it fits into almost instinctively. There's no parking assist I can see or that I've used, but still, I just zoom into places.
The Surprising Luxury of a Cheap Car
The Hyundai Kona offers a quiet and smooth ride, because you don't have exploding dinosaurs with you. So you get to enjoy the shockingly good entertainment system. For that price I wouldn't have expected speakers this good. And while the onboard computer is more or less horrible, just attach your smartphone via the really well-placed USB-port in the dash, throw your phone into the centre console and be done with it.
This is also where you'll find the car's biggest weakness: The gear shifting system. Even though it's an automatic, I would hope that Hyundai would have put at least five seconds of effort into it. The way this has been handled seems to have been done with five minutes to spare until the car had to go into production, but the designers decided to go on a smoke break and just slammed some nonsense system into the centre console area and called it a day.
It's some sort of video game controller inspired contraption. At least imitate a stick shift if you have no smart idea? Or make it like Tesla and re-invent the entire system to integrate it into the steering wheel levers? No! Make it some kind of buttons.
Sure, the buttons are fully functional and you get used to them, but there's a certain haptic feedback that I expect from a car when operating it. The transmission is a massive factor in this, even if it's an automatic. I just prefer to not have to look when I shift gears. You can't do that with the Kona EV.
But you get used to it. Bleh.
This is literally the only thing I hate about the interior. The rest is fine. More than fine, even. Speakers are great, the wheel handles well, seats are comfy if nothing special, the centre console and the glove box are big and spacious and I can see a lot of things out of the windows. Parking assistant works great, rear view camera as well. And I'm not even driving one of the fancied up versions. This is the cheapest model.
So I zoom about the city with the Kona, buy things here and there, give friends a lift and occasionally, I even leave the city. The highways are clearly not the Kona's home. Don't get me wrong, it performs absolutely fine, but acceleration decreases between 80km/h and 120km/h (50mph - 75mph in Cheetos per Imperials). The zooming behaviour that a Tesla maintains all the way up until idiotic speeds is gone. The Kona becomes a lot more lethargic. It's not inexistent, but the city performance does not compare to highways. Bugger.
The Kona EV never stops being fun, though, as long as you stay in cities. Zooming around traffic in cities with an EV has about the same fun factor as roaring down the country roads with a ridiculously overpowered truck or something.
Does it knock off the Tesla? No. Not at all. It's basically a souped up version of these annyoing crossover SUV things that are usually driven by people named Karen. Only that the Kona actually gives meaning to the shape. You have incredible torque, a comfortable interior with some surprisingly luxurious aspects to it.
After 1400km (870 miles), I am driving the last few meters with the Kona. It's going back to the garage where I got it. I suddenly realise that I'll miss the car that I have dismissed as one of these things that nobody asked for but everyone sort of flirts with because not only is it an absolutely sensible buy but also because Hyundai is marketing the hell out of it.
I wish Hyundai would commit more to the idea of EVs, because it's clear that they can do a lot with the concept and create a fun ride that will get you a lot of car for very little money.
Therefore: Give the EV a spin, let the ICE be a relic of the past.