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2019 Hyundai Kona Electric India First Drive Review


India’s first long-range electric vehicle is here. But is the Hyundai Kona practical enough to be your primary vehicle?

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2019 Hyundai Kona India First Drive ZigWheels

The crossover you see here in the pictures is India’s first long-range EV, the Hyundai Kona Electric. Being the first mover in the long-range EV space, there are a lot of high expectations from the Kona. Obviously, being an EV, there are other questions like maintenance, running costs, how quickly you can charge it, and can it do the duty of being the only car in the family?

We got behind the wheel of Hyundai’s EV at the Buddh International circuit to find the answers.

Does it justify its high asking price?

2019 Hyundai Kona India First Drive ZigWheels

Priced at Rs 25.30 lakh ex-showroom, the Hyundai Kona isn’t cheap. And if you look at the prize-to-size ratio, you will be a bit disappointed. In terms of dimensions, it falls in between the Venue and the Creta. It is longer and wider than the Venue but also 20mm shorter in height, which makes it look more like a crossover than an SUV. When compared to the Creta, except for the wheelbase, the Kona is dimensionally smaller. So if you are expecting road presence from your almost-30-lakh SUV, you will be disappointed.

2019 Hyundai Kona India First Drive ZigWheels

But on the other hand, it does have its own charm. Design elements like the slim LED headlamps and the shapely tail lamps look stylish. Then there is the grille, or the lack of it, which gives the Kona a unique look and helps it stand out from the crowd. Even the 17-inch wheels are designed to be aerodynamic and elegant -- and even when standing still, the Kona’s aerodynamic shape helps it look athletic and sporty.

2019 Hyundai Kona India First Drive ZigWheels



While the Kona doesn’t deliver in terms of road presence, you won’t feel the same once you see the features list. It comes loaded with features like an automatic climate control, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, 10-way powered driver seat, cooled front seats, electric sunroof, electronic parking brake with auto hold, paddle shifters for adjustable regenerative braking, keyless go, heated wing mirrors, wireless charging and rear wash and wipe.

2019 Hyundai Kona India First Drive ZigWheels

The small exterior dimensions reflect once you get in the rear seat too. Be it in terms of dimensions, headroom or width, the Kona Electric feels a bit cramped, especially when two six-footers are sitting one behind the other. Even under-thigh support is poor because of the high floor (thanks to the lithium-ion battery stacked under the floor) and the short squab. There are no such issues once you are sitting up front as the seats feel wide enough with a good amount of lateral support that helps you stay in place even while hard cornering.

2019 Hyundai Kona India First Drive ZigWheels

The dash design has an understated European feel to it as the layout is dominated by horizontal lines, which help the cabin appear wider than it is. Quality, too, is impressive for the most part. The dashboard graining looks premium and things like the knurled finish of the aircon controls feel top-notch. Except for the panel above the glovebox, there aren’t any soft-touch plastics, however, and the door pad material, especially, looks and feels a bit cheap.

2019 Hyundai Kona India First Drive ZigWheels

When it comes to boot space the Kona offers 334 litres, which is good enough for two suitcases and a soft bag. Although adequate, it falls way short of something like the Tucson, which offers a humongous 530-litre boot.

Has Hyundai made any India-specific changes?

2019 Hyundai Kona India First Drive ZigWheels

Where there are no changes to the drivetrain, the exterior design or the interior of the Kona, Hyundai has made some adjustments to help it better adapt to Indian road conditions. The main changes are to the suspension, which has been softened to help it deal with our bumpy road conditions better. The Kona is also slightly raised compared to the international car as it now gets 172mm of ground clearance when unladen. To keep costs in check, interior parts like the seats and some interior plastic panels have been locally sourced.

How does it drive?

2019 Hyundai Kona India First Drive ZigWheels

The Hyundai Kona is powered by a permanent-magnet synchronous electric motor that makes 136PS of power. Although the power output isn’t that high, the headline figure of 395Nm of torque defines the way this car drives. As with all electric motors, max torque is available from the word go, which gives the Kona exciting performance.

2019 Hyundai Kona India First Drive ZigWheels

At first, the idea of driving an electric car on a racetrack wasn’t very exciting, but the performance of the Kona came as a real surprise. Right from the time you step on the accelerator, the Kona moves forward with surprising enthusiasm. And in Sport mode, the acceleration remains relentless as this electric vehicle goes past three-digit figures with ease. Even in Comfort mode, performance remains effortless and you can cruise at around 120-130kmph with ease. In Eco mode, throttle response is a bit laidback but for day to day driving, even this mode will work just fine. In fact, when in Sport mode the power delivery can feel a bit too enthusiastic as you experience wheelspin even at 50kmph!

2019 Hyundai Kona India First Drive ZigWheels

Apart from the drive modes you also get paddle shifters that control the intensity of the brake energy regeneration system. Pulling the paddles behind the steering wheel allow the driver to adjust the level of regen, which in turn acts like engine braking. It works surprisingly well and functions seamlessly even at the highest setting, giving you a good sense of control over the car. And along with helping you slow down the car, it also charges the batteries.

2019 Hyundai Kona India First Drive ZigWheels

When it comes to handling the Kona felt a bit heavy when pushed around corners. Even the steering, although precise, is lifeless and this car is best enjoyed when driven in a relaxed manner. How much the softer suspension has affected the ride is something we will only know once we drive this car out on public roads.

What about the driving range?

2019 Hyundai Kona India First Drive ZigWheels

If you go by the official ARAI figure, the Kona will do 452km. But let's be realistic: in the ARAI test cycle, the maximum speed cap is 50kmph, which in the real world is a bit too low -- except for maybe when you are stuck in heavy traffic. So the realistic driving range will be in the region of 310-320km, which is still great. So the Kona will easily last a whole week on a single charge if your daily office commute is around 30km so thereabouts.

How long does it take to charge?

2019 Hyundai Kona India First Drive ZigWheels



You get three charging options with the Kona. The most basic one is the portable charging, with which you can charge the car off a normal 15-amp three-phase connection. Fully charging the 39kWh battery with this will take a whopping 19 hours. So it’s best to use this mode as a backup if you don’t have any other option.

2019 Hyundai Kona India First Drive ZigWheels

The second one is the wall charger that Hyundai will assemble in your parking area for free. This 7.2 kW charger will take around 6 hours and 10 minutes to fully replenish the batteries, making it practical for daily usage.

2019 Hyundai Kona India First Drive ZigWheels

The third option is the fast charger which you will find at select Indian Oil petrol pumps. With this 50 kW socket, you can charge up to 80 per cent in 57 minutes. On the downside, it will be available only at select outlets initially, and we still don’t know how much IOCL will charge for this service.

What about water wading?

2019 Hyundai Kona India First Drive ZigWheels

With the constant news of waterlogging in major cities like Mumbai, how well will the Kona survive in such conditions? Although the Kona’s water wading ability remains a question mark, the fact that the lithium-ion battery pack is sealed and is IP67-certified makes it capable of surviving being submerged in metre-deep water for half an hour. On top of that, the electric motor is designed to cut off in case of water ingestion, to prevent it from getting damaged. As a result, at least on paper, the Kona should survive mild waterlogging with ease.

What about maintenance?

2019 Hyundai Kona India First Drive ZigWheels



To build confidence among buyers, Hyundai is offering a comprehensive 3-year unlimited km warranty on the Kona along with roadside assistance. The roadside assistance will also cover instances like when you run out of charge, where Hyundai will send a mobile charging station. The Kona also comes with a car to car charging feature, where a Kona can be charged using another Kona!

You also don’t have to worry about the life of the batteries for a very long time as Hyundai is offering an 8-year/1,60,000 km warranty on it. According to Hyundai, the battery is capable of 2000 cycles of charging. So even if you charge the Kona every alternate day, the batteries can last up to 11 years.

2019 Hyundai Kona India First Drive ZigWheels

As the Kona has very few moving parts and you don’t have to replace things like engine oil, oil filter, fuel filter or air filter it promises low service costs. According to our calculation, a paid service for the Kona shouldn’t exceed Rs 10,000, which is brilliant for a car that costs almost Rs 30 lakh.

Verdict

2019 Hyundai Kona India First Drive ZigWheels

So is the Hyundai Kona practical enough to be your only vehicle? Not quite. Although you get a long-range with this electric vehicle, it still isn’t practical enough it comes to long drives or even weekend trips. Then there is the rear seat space and the tiny boot, which doesn’t make it an ideal family car. So, the Kona is perfect for people who want a car for daily city commutes, that is cheap to run, easy on the environment and want to make a statement. Sure, it still isn’t practical enough to be your only car, but as far as EVs go it does come extremely close to delivering just that. This car marks nothing less than a landmark moment for the Indian car industry.

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  • Bala | 12 hours ago I live in an apartment with a basement. How complicated is it to obtain permissions to install a charging point? 0 Reply
    Makeoos | 3 months ago Overpriced. Servicing frequency is unknown that's a source of income for the dealers. Instead they will find new impositions to force the owner to bring the car for unnecessary services threatening to ...Read More 1 Reply
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