I wrote an article for the January issue of Boundless Magazine, (published in the online version), where I gave my views on the Hyundai Kona Electric. I had been loaned the car for a weekend by a local dealer, West Riding Hyundai, in Colne Lancashire and drove it from my home in Lancashire to my daughter’s place in Glasgow.
At the time, I was driving an Audi Q2 which I had purchased from new in 2018 and was more than happy with the comfort, performance and economy, (ignoring the initial cost obviously!), of the car but always had an inkling that I should try an electric before I die. In January, I had narrowed my choice to two cars, the Kona and the Kia e-Niro, both of which sat on a similar platform to the Q2 and had class leading range to boot.
Of course, the second coming of the Great Plague seriously curtailed my electrification ambitions and plans to change were delayed somewhat as a result.
In a biblical sense, when stars align, decisions can be forced upon you. In September, the dealer called and “wondered” if I was still thinking of a change. “Maybe we have some cars available from stock”, he volunteered? As someone who can smell the sweet essence of a deal from 100 yards, I hinted that I may be interested. “Would you be concerned if you weren’t the first owner of the car?” “Not if you shared the pre-registration discount I wouldn’t”, I ventured. Cutting a long, partially painful negotiation story short in respect of the trade in value, I effectively got the car I wanted for the price I was prepared to pay.
Since taking delivery of the car in September, I have driven over 1,500 miles. One trip to Glasgow (and around) from Burnley and a longer break from Burnley to Tenby, Aberystwyth, Portmeirion, Conwy and home. On both trips, the range claimed by Hyundai was exceeded, and to say I am thrilled with the car would probably be an understatement.
The photograph of the display readout shows the anticipated range based on the use of the car since delivery. As you can see, it is well in excess of the official Hyundai figure of 278 miles at the displayed 304 miles. On some trips, the actual range was nearer 330 miles. Motorway driving tends to diminish the overall range by a margin due to the fact that you are rarely “regenerating” on such journeys. I would suggest manufacturers’ range claims are reasonable not like the claimed MPG performance of petrol and diesel cars, which are notoriously, ahem, misleading.
What, you may be asking, is the purpose of this review? Instead of the usual YouTube style reviews of electric cars, I thought something in layman’s terms without too much technical nonsense might help. You may be considering buying or leasing/PCP an electric car. NOT a hybrid, NOT a plug-in EV, but a purely electric car. What are the pluses and minuses?
Here’s the thing. Anyone can go out one day and decide to buy a car. It isn’t rocket science. A car needs fuel. Turn most corners and you will come upon a fuel supplier. Simple. Not so with a car that runs on something which you can’t just buy at the local garage or supermarket. There follows a few pointers to consider before taking the plunge and going electric.
At the outset, if you are not prepared to undertake a substantial amount of research, to prepare yourself for a unique driving experience, stick with a normal car. Partaking of a lengthy journey needs planning and I would venture that it would not be everyone’s cup of tea. I spent months researching all the available cars, narrowing it down based on cost and range before making the decision. Just as crucial, all the charging options need to be considered such as charger availability, types of charger, payment methods for fuel, phone apps and RFID card requirements for each supplier. Only buy an electric car if you think you can cope with all of this. If you walk into this blindly, you will more than likely be very disappointed.
In my limited, two month’s experience, I have been pleasantly surprised with the availability of charging points, both locally and on long journeys. Zap Map is my map of choice on my phone, as it is reasonably real time in terms of whether or not chargers are working, in use or available for charge. You can apply filters to remove chargers which do not suit your car. Hyundai, on 2020 models, have now provided an app, (Bluelink), which effectively controls your car from your phone. This was something I complained about a lack of in my test drive in 2019.
In my Kona, the satnav and mapping are markedly improved this year with real time searches for nearest available chargers with detailed guidance to each one. Many people I have spoken to have opined that it must be terrible having to constantly worry about chargers and range anxiety. I can confidently report that neither, in my experience, need be an issue if you use the available gizmos sensibly.
Another complaint which people use as an excuse not to have an electric car is that your wallet is hopelessly weighed down with cards needed to charge up at the myriad of suppliers and your phone is overloaded with apps. Again, this is an issue which is being dealt with on an ongoing basis. All new charging points should now provide contactless service without the need for an RFID card or an app.
I have 3 cards which I keep in the car, one for local formerly free use of NHS sites, (Hubsta) but still fairly cheap, one for European travel, (Shell) and my Chargeplace Scotland card for free use of many of the public chargers in Scotland, although charging in some areas, such as The Western Isles and Fife are slowly creeping in. In many ways, it is similar to flying these days. You download the provider’s app to fly and delete it after the journey. On my Welsh trip, there were some chargers unique to Wales. I downloaded the apps, filled up and deleted them on my return. No big deal in my view.
As far as the Kona is concerned, I couldn’t be happier. On the grounds that “you can’t take it with you”, I opted for the top of the range Premium SE 64kW. The overall spec is fabulous, it is a joy to drive and the range and comfort are exceptional. It is virtually a “one pedal” car once you get used to the steering wheel regeneration paddles. Motorway driving is effortless with smart cruise control and what is almost self-steering. To assist with range, heated and ventilated seats coupled with a driver only setting for everything save you having to heat or cool the whole car. The Kona may not have the space of the more luxurious marques, but it has the equivalent spec at half the price. This was a no-brainer for me.
I will maybe revisit this next year as we are planning our first foray into Europe early next spring. I am hoping that it will be as smooth a trip as those undertaken so far in the UK.