Introduction: Hyundai launched the much-awaited Kona EV (electric-vehicle) in India earlier this week at a price of Rs 25.3 lakh and we got a chance to get behind its wheel at the Mecca of Indian Motorsports, the Buddh International Circuit. The Kona has been a highly anticipated vehicle and for the right reasons. Can this pave the way for the future of motoring in India?
The Kona is an unconventional looking vehicle and this is mainly due to its front design. There is no grille as such and this omission takes time getting used to. The narrow DRLs (daytime running lights) on either ends look nice and the actual headlamps sit below, in the bumper. We have seen this execution on other SUVs and the end result is striking.
Design: The side profile is dominated by the large 17-inch alloy wheels, matt black cladding and the rising shoulder line that does less to help visibility for back seat passengers. In fact, even the C pillar is thick and this could be an issue while reserving out of tight spots. At the back, the Kona gets LED treatment for the slim tail lights and what sets the design apart is the positioning of the lower lights in matt black cladding. This is the same cladding that covers the wheel arches.
Overall, the design is ‘different’ and though it does not have generous dimensions, it manages to turn quite a few heads on the road. The media fleet had two colors on display and we definitely liked the one in blue. Customers can also pay extra for a dual tone option that will further raise quite a few eyebrows on the road.
Interiors: Step inside the Kona and the smile remains on your face. The cabin design isn’t very modern or unconventional but the lack of both gear and hand brake levers is what takes you by surprise. Yes, the Kona gets drive-by-wire and there are four buttons you need to make use to get going. These include the D (Drive), P (Park), R (Reverse) and N (Neutral) and further, you get drive modes to play with. These alter the power delivery and in turn control the efficiency of the motor.
Touch and feel of panels is good and Hyundai has loaded up the Kona with lot of features. These include a sunroof, keyless entry with start-stop, climate control, full kit of safety aids including six airbags, wireless charging and even ventilated seats. That said, while space up front is excellent, the second row suffers from knee room and leg space. This is one area where the Kona falls short and will be a deal breaker for families.
Motor: However, all this takes a back seat the moment you get behind the wheel. Press the brake pedal, push the start button and the Kona comes to life. Press the D button and you set go. The Kona moves forward in a creepy way as there are no signs of NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) and the world seems to go back in a silent manner. In the Eco mode, the Kona ensures every little juice of the battery is used effectively but we being on the a race track, did use the Sport mode a lot. Trust me, pedal to metal at lower speeds, you are pushed back into the seat with a good force. This is due to the 39+ KW motor that pushes out the equivalent of 136 PS of power and as much as 400 Nm of torque. All this torque is available from the word go while means this EV will even offer wheel-spin starts!
Handling: Outright acceleration is very impressive and the Kona takes less than 10 seconds to hit 100 km/h. Given the road, it will hit an indicated 160 km/h and that’s more than ample for Indian roads. Yes, Hyundai has limited the top speed to 160 but we aren’t complaining as its the torque flow that keeps you grinning from ear to ear. The Kona also has regenerative braking and you can control the levels of recuperation via the paddles on the steering. Level 3 of this stage even allows you to power out or brake the Kona with just the accelerator pedal!
In terms of ride, the Kona gets 17-inch wheels and yet the ride felt comfortable. Yes, this was a race track but I intentionally drove on the bumpy curbs next to the track and the suspension was about to absorb undulations nicely. In terms of handling, well, this is a zero-emission car and expecting it to chew up corners will be wrong. Yet, I would say that the car handled the entire 5km+ track rather well. The steering itself isn’t too heavy and I am assuming the Kona will be a delight to use in traffic.
Conclusion: Now the biggest USP of the car - the driving range. Hyundai claims this one will go just over 450 km on a full charge as per ARAI certification. This means a typical customer will have to charge it every 5-7 days. From a DC fast charger, the battery can be charged to 80% of its capacity in less than 1 hour whereas from a home-based charger (Hyundai will do free of cost), it takes about 6 hours for the same charge level. And then there is an emergency charger than you can connect to any normal electricity socket. It's called a trickle charger but does the job when there is an emergency.
Rs 25.3 lakh. This is the ex-showroom price and the on-road figure won’t be much different in running costs will be peanuts and the car comes with a warranty of up to 8 years for the battery, the Kona comes across as a surprise and recommended package. Well done Hyundai!