Hyundai Kona EV Review New Zealand

Okay, yes I admit it, I’m a fan of the Marvel-created Iron Man series. It’s witty, fun, adventurous and more than a little extravagant - let’s face it, with his lavish lifestyle, fine foods and wines, international travel, fast cars, mansions (I could go on), Tony Stark lives the life that many of us dream about (that reminds me, must buy a Lotto ticket).

In 1968, a lesser-known (but to the younger me, equally important) Iron Man character was created (five years after Tony made his first appearance), in author Ted Hughes’s novel The Iron Man (a title that was later changed to the Iron Giant to avoid confusion) - the lead protagonist was an Iron robot that appeared on our planet from nowhere and proceeded to eat farm equipment. I won’t spoil the story but it became our friend and entered into a massive fight with a being from outer space. It’s well worth the read.

Anyway, last week I drove a vehicle that in my mind, instantly merged the above two characters together, that vehicle was the Hyundai Kona EV. One look at the face of the Kona and you’ll see the ‘Marvellous’ face of Stark’s Iron Man shining back, it’s uncanny and just as with the ‘Iron Giant,’ (and Tony Stark for that matter), the Kona had a heartbeat that’s electric.

This was my first time behind the wheel of Hyundai’s new small SUV and I have to admit to looking forward to it. The brand makes very ‘family friendly’ SUVs that come loaded with technology and the Kona model is all that and some. Although the Kona comes with three different powertrains, I was left in no doubt as to which model I was testing, thanks to the GIANT EV ‘400+km range’ billboard decals emblazoned all over the vehicle - I guess if you’ve got it, flaunt it.

Iron man face aside, up front, the Kona sports a camouflaged Hyundai grille, (that also hides the charging flap), twin LED headlight design, LED Daytime Running Lamps, lower air vents and fog lights. The wheel arches have been flared and the SUV’s profile lines were hard to define thanks to the aforementioned graphics - it does sit well on the kerbside appeal scale though. The Aerodynamic department has run amok, with the Kona portraying a sleek look front to back and even the 17’’alloy wheels have been optimized for aerodynamics (although when it comes to their style the jury is still out for me personally).

Inside, the Kona has ‘leather-appointed’ (read man-made leather here) fixtures and fittings. It feels quite premium especially when you add in the chrome and aluminium looking switches and highlights. Then there’s the tech I promised you.

The 8-inch infotainment touchscreen gives you access to a myriad of entertainment and information options and will also handshake your smartphone with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which of course extends your ‘connected world’ even further. The Kona Electric’s 7 inch TFT colour LCD instrumentation cluster is bright and clear during daytime and the ‘cool blue’ lighting makes it easy on the eye at night.

It’s got a pop-up HUD (head up display) system that shows you the usual information like the all-important but will also display alerts such as Lane Departure Warning & Blind-Spot Detection notifications.

Claims of 400+km range are impressive and I must admit that I was a little sceptical, but according to the Kona’s digital instrument cluster that greeted me once inside, confirmed that I would have 440km to play with before plugging in.

Hidden somewhere down low, well within the Kona’s sturdy frame is a 64.0 kWh Lithium Ion Polymer Battery and it’s this increased power density that supports the SUV’s claim of over 400km’s of real-world driving range. This battery is strapped to a 150 kW high voltage Electric Motor that delivers a maximum torque of 395Nm and that instant acceleration that is synonymous with EVs and of course, since it’s 100% electric, zero emissions.

Seating position is good, the slightly raised ride height offers clear visibility all round and the comfort level is just as high. All driving controls are well within easy reach and once you get over the initial confusion of ‘push button’ driving, it’s a relaxed and simple ride. So, with everything under control, I pushed the button marked D and headed towards the motorway.

The Kona has ECO, COMFORT and SPORT drive modes plus an extra ECO+ one, which reduces energy consumption and extends the driving range in an emergency situation. It also comes with four level Smart Brake Regeneration System that is controlled by the steering wheel paddles or an auto setting which uses the Kona’s camera & radar technology to work out the best brake regeneration setting for the situation.

We used the Kona for just under a week and made it perform our everyday family tasks. From school runs and shopping to trips to the city and weekend jaunts to the extended Auckland regions. The Kona ‘quietly’ went about its business and really endeared itself to the wife, she enjoyed its size, looks and handling.

We ended up returning the Kona EV still boasting a shade under 180km of range left in the tank and hadn’t needed to hook up to the grid once. I hadn’t nursed the ride, in fact quite the opposite, AC had been on full blast and I had tested out the acceleration on several occasions.

The debate on which ‘fuel’ to use in order to satisfy our transport needs continues to flourish, and being the dinosaur that I am, I still worry about EVs running out juice, but with the Kona’s extensive range, the need to ‘feed’ it so often is proven to certainly be severely reduced.

So, whether it’s Almas Baluga Caviar and Black Truffle, Tractors and Combine Harvesters, a bowl of Nutri-Grain or in the case of the Hyundai Kona EV, pure, naturally resourced, renewable NZ energy, it would appear that there are many ways to feed your favourite Iron Man.

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