Kona EV is very much the regular compact sports utility vehicle in terms of design and performance despite its battery-motor powertrain
Many international publications and news wires already have a section for electric vehicles and there is news everyday in India too about electrics. In the start-up space and amongst OEMs, in the two-wheeler and in the passenger vehicle segments, the buzz around electrics is reaching a crescendo. The numbers are still too small to even mention and the charging infrastructure for supporting an ecosystem of electrics is even less worthy of mention. But, let us hope that the government will match its targets and promises with action on that front in the years to come.
In the meantime, manufacturers like Maruti, Hyundai, MG Motors, Ford, and Kia Motors have announced plans to launch electrics in the future. Mahindra and Tata already have electrics on our roads. The success of electrics in India will depend on two important factors — one will be the availability of an easily accessible public charging infrastructure and the second will be the car itself mustn’t seem like a compromise in any department when compared to its internal combustion engine (ICE) equivalent. An electric that will fit that profile perfectly is the Hyundai Kona and it is coming to a showroom near you by the second week of July. To get a first-hand experience of how the Kona EV actually feels on the road, I travelled to Seoul last week to sample the car before it lands on our shores.
Design and build
The Kona will potentially be the first electric sports utility vehicle to be launched in India. At about 4.2 metres in length and 1.8 metres in width, the Kona is nearly as big as the Creta. It’s design is not the classic boxy-SUV style. Instead it is more a curvy crossover with a few modern flourishes like the slim LED DRLs at the headlamp position and the pronounced rear haunches, which pair well with the black plastic side cladding to give the Kona a squat SUV look. The Kona’s proportions are just right — not like just an oversized hatch and not as unwieldy as a big SUV, which will be important to keep it practical in its EV avatar. Range anxiety will be an issue that needs to be addressed by any vehicle attempting to convince buyers to loosen their purse strings. The Kona’s design is quite aerodynamically optimised for its size and segment. It gets a pleasing mix of features that involve brand identity and character, and also elements specific to the model. The Kona is also offered as a conventional ICE model. It design is pleasing and that works for an electric, though the fact that it is not really exciting makes the ICE version less attractive compared to peers. Some identification of the Kona EV comes from the solid bonnet grille — in the absence of an IC engine, there is no need to feed cold air into the bonnet. The charging port is hidden behind a small panel just above the front fender.
Like many other EVs, the Kona EV’s body is also based on a skate-board platform construction with the batteries spread out below the floor of the car. The proportions of the car enable it to have an upright SUV-style stance, above average ground clearance for its size segment and at the same time gives the cabin a decent leverage in terms of occupant room. The interior of the Kona is a mix of quality materials with a very premium finish and feel. The design and layout of the dashboard has a European minimalist touch. With the gear stick being replaced by buttons, the centre console has been given a steep gradient. It houses other control buttons including the drive mode selector and other seat controls. The centre stack features the climate control buttons and at the top is the Kona’s infotainment screen with menu options in the form of an array of buttons on either side.
Unlike other EVs with their exaggerated screens taking up most of the mind space inside the cabin, the Kona’s compact screen means that the centre console isn’t overwhelming. The Hyundai EV also gets other regular premium features such as a head-up display, sunroof and seat cooling and heating. The seats themselves are quite comfortable and the trim variant I was driving in Seoul sported a mix of materials for upholstery. There is enough legroom at the rear seat even for tall passengers. But the boot volume is only average for a compact SUV, though it is more than you would get in a B+ segment hatch.
Internationally, the Kona EV is offered with two different lithium-ion battery rating options to choose from, which are paired with a permanent magnet, synchronous motor powering the front wheels. I was driving the one with the larger 64 kWh battery rating that delivers a peak output of 204 PS and peak torque of 395 Nm.