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Hyundai Kona Electric Highlander Review

Hyundai’s Kona EV makes a strong case for electric motoring in Australia, reducing range anxiety with almost 500kms from a single charge.

Range anxiety is noted as a significant and, frankly warranted, concern around the electrification of motoring across Australia. As places are spread so far apart, knowing you can go from A to B and stop at any of several petrol stations along the route is comforting. With relatively few EV chargers by comparison, it has hindered the uptake of electric cars.

Coated in Surfy Blue with a Phantom Black roof, this schmick-looking Kona electric vehicle (does anyone else agree that it looks better than its petrol counterpart?) from Hyundai is pushing the competition in the market with an excellent driving range, especially given its price.

The range is priced from $54,400 for the Kona Elite Standard Range and extends to $66,000 before on-road costs for the car before you, the Hyundai Kona EV Highlander Extended Range.

That is a fair chunk of change when you consider that you can pick up a Tesla Model 3 for around $4,000 less.

So, should you consider the Kona before opening the cheque book for an electric car?

What’s it like inside?

Hyundai has done a good job of ensuring that all the basics are covered and the interior of the vehicle is easy to interact with. However, and I hate to say it, it is just a little bit boring. More so when you consider the inside of the company's latest, futuristic-looking Ioniq 5.

The 2-tone interior does breathe some life into it and from a functionality perspective, it can’t be faulted.

Take a look at the photo below and let us know what you think in the comments.

Hopping inside, you first see the big digital instrument cluster and lack of a traditional drive selector, in its place are buttons for neutral, park, reverse and drive. The lighter trim in this particular vehicle helps to make the cabin feel much bigger too. In use though, you will feel that the doors are lined with hard plastic, as is the top of the dashboard.

However, passenger-facing materials do get a diamond-patterned soft-touch covering to help smooth over the scratchy stuff.

Seating is comfortable with electric adjustment for the front row. Being the range-topping Kona EV Highlander, they are heated and ventilated. They work well as the temperatures slowly creep up around Sydney and the Central Coast (in between the torrential rain, of course).

The top of the line Highlander gets a Head-Up Display, which is implemented in old school perspex that projects out of the dash. I don’t mean that negatively though, as, to its credit, it is very clear and you don't have the issue of not being able to see them with sunglasses like you do when information is shot up onto the windscreen.

You can also change the height, angle and tilt of the perspex screen to make sure that you can see the display no matter your driving set-up. I couldn't see when I first stepped in but was later able to adjust it.

In terms of infotainment and media, you get a 10.25-inch touchscreen that runs Hyundai’s native operating system and skin. It is straightforward and easy to use with most things being generally no more than 3 swipes (or taps) away.

Satellite navigation is standard and works well through the native system. However, the lack of pre-emptive suggestions makes using the system a bit more time consuming. For instance, typing a location like Macquarie Park, you have to sit and type the entire thing; there are no autocomplete suggestions like Macquarie Fields, Macquarie Links and Macquarie Park.

Another option is connecting up your phone via USB and you will also have access to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, unlocking the wireless commands of Google Assistant and Siri.

The whole infotainment system hooks into a premium Harmon Kardon sound system, which is more than perfect for a virtually silent electric vehicle like this. Crisp audio and no engine noise is the perfect combo, so you can just sit and enjoy your favourites.

You only get single-zone air conditioning, which is perhaps not what you would expect from a $66,000 vehicle (before on-roads).

Moving to the back, and one unexpected but welcome feature is heated seats. Not a widely implemented feature at this level of vehicle, but they help to make the rear seats a bit nicer for travelling in.

Space is quite limited in the back. I struggled to get in behind my driving position. The room that is available does make it suitable for young children and teenagers, but you’ll be keeping trips shorter with adults in the back.

Apart from drink holders, a single USB port, pockets in the back of the front seats and some small door storage in the back, that is all that's really going on there.

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Hyundai Kona EV Highlander Boot

332 litres of space is available in the boot, which is on the smaller side for the current crop of electric vehicles. A Nissan Leaf, for instance, will hold 405 litres, while a cheaper MG ZS EV will carry a slightly larger 359 litres.

In the boot, we only have a DC type 2 charger, which is difficult because we couldn’t charge it up on a public charger.

There is no spare wheel, space-saver or otherwise, instead, a tyre repair kit is provided.

What’s it like on the road?

We’ll get this out of the way now. The calling card for the Kona EV is its really impressive range. When I picked up the Highlander Extended Range it had no less than 511kms of juice displayed on the dash.

In real-world terms, you’re looking at 484kms per charge. That sort of range at this price point is eyebrow-raising. Our time with the vehicle saw us confidently doing 300km+ round trips, something that would perhaps have caused a bit of anxiety were we in any other electric vehicle at a similar price point.

Being electric, power is instantaneous, but there is also plenty of it. The electric motor produces 165kW, a satisfying amount for this vehicle. If you bury your foot off the mark there is enough there to get the front wheels scratching around for traction. In fact, if you bury your foot at any speed until about 30km/h it will do that.

The ride is comfortable and the EV Highlander makes a great daily driver. However, on longer trips you can tell there has been a little bit of a comfort trade-off by fitting the low friction tires. Obviously they’re a necessity to get the longer mileage out of the vehicle, which is more than you get from the similarly priced Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus.

Steering is quite light, making it ideal for city driving. Reversing cameras and sensors mean the Kona is a cinch to park and manoeuvre in tight spaces.

There are 3 levels of regenerative braking available, accessed via the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. As you would expect, they range from mild to aggressive and we found that we preferred the mild setting to having it turned off all together.

Level 3 is essentially akin to “brake-free” driving in other EV vehicles.

With regenerative braking switched off, the vehicle felt, to me anyway, noticeably more potent.

Topping up

You’re able to top the Kona EV Highlander up at home with a standard DC socket. It will take some time to achieve a full charge, given the large range it is capable of. Worthy of note is that the average commuter will only need to top it up once a week. Keeping it charged up overnight is just as easy though, and will save you having to wait for a 20+ hour charge in a single go.

It is fast charger safe too, so if you are living closer to one of these or they happen to be on your route, it should take roughly an hour to juice back up.

Hyundai offers a wall box for the Kona EV which promises a full charge in 9.5 hours, for a price of $1,950, which is actually quite reasonable when you consider the time saved for a full charge.

How safe is the Hyundai Kona EV Highlander?

Being the top of the line model, it comes with all the trimmings and has scored a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.

The Hyundai SmartSense safety system houses several technologies aimed at keeping you and your passengers safe and your vehicle's panels straight. Included is:

  • Forward collision-avoidance assist
  • Lane keep assist
  • Adaptive cruise control with stop and go
  • Driver attention warning
  • Blind-spot collision-avoidance assist
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Safe exit warning
  • Reversing cameras

Kona EV Warranty

When purchasing the Kona EV Highlander you are protected by a 5-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, complimentary roadside assistance for the first 12 months and a 160,000km battery warranty.

Verdict on the Kona EV Highlander

When you weigh up the price and range, a Kona EV makes a strong case, especially in this Extended Range guise. One charge should keep the average Aussie on the road for more than a week and with almost 500kms of range, it makes those longer weekend trips more achievable.

As $66,000 is a significant amount of money, it is worth weighing up the range and creature comforts of some competitors. If range is most important to you, the Kona EV is hard to pass up.

Thinking about a new car? Check out our comprehensive car reviews to see if your dream vehicle is up to scratch. And compare car loans and car insurance to make sure you're not paying too much.

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