Electric vehicles have been the centre of debate in the Indian automotive industry lately. While we open-heartedly welcome the shift to EVs over ICE (internal combustion engines), a lot of groundwork is still left to be done. This includes uniform incentives by the government across various states. In the middle of this commotion, Hyundai has silently been working on launching what can be termed as India’s first true electric car, one that is assembled right here in the country.
Say hello to the Kona. Its priced at Rs 25.3 lakh and promises to shatter all myths associated with electric cars. We drove one around the Mecca of motorsports in the country, the Buddh International Circuit and came back impressed. So will this pave the future of motoring in the country? Read on…
It looks good!
The Hyundai Kona is being marketed as an electric SUV but truth be told. It does not offer generous dimensions and will find it hard to get its share of road presence. But where it truly shines is in the design department. It has an unconventional design language and that seems to work well in my opinion. The lack of a front grille, the sharp and stretched DRLs, the matt black cladding all around et al, everything gels together to make it a futuristic-looking vehicle. It will attract eyeballs and does look good in blue too.
The large 17-inch alloy wheels too don’t try too hard to impress you. It’s a subtle way to say that there’s more to the Kona than its design and I agree. Nevertheless, I will talk about the rising shoulder line, the mass of black cladding that stretches into the rear bumper and even the oh-so-cool LED taillights that do steal the show. There is no exhaust outlet at the back but you do notice the ‘electric’ badge below the rear light.
In all, the Kona will keep its customers’ ego high by getting a fair share of attraction on the road. We promise you that!
Interiors done right!
Step inside and the first thing that hits you is the amount of space and airiness on offer. This is primarily due to the absence of gear and hand brake levers. Yep, you read that right. The Kona makes use of drive-by-wire and has buttons to pick from in terms of the transmission. These include D for Drive, P for Parking, N for Neutral and R for Reserve. Likewise, you have an electronic hand brake button! All this just makes the central console feel spacious without anything getting in your way.
This also frees up space under the central fascia where you can keep additional items. Practical this car is for sure! Moving on, the fit and finish of the cabin is spot-on for a vehicle of this price and Hyundai is loaded up the Kona with a long list of features. This includes ventilated seats (cooling and heating function), heated outside mirrors, climate control with driver only cooling feature, powered driver’s seat, wireless charging and a full net of safety aids. And while the front seats are comfortable, the high seating ensures good visibility, even for short drivers.
Getting into the back is easy but you do notice the lack of leg and knee room here. The Kona in fact has less rear space than the Creta and this could be a deal-breaker for families. The lack of space aside, the rear seat is comfortable for even three adults and though there are no air-con vents, the front climate control works hard to keep rear passengers cool.
The heart of the matter
The Kona is a fully electric vehicle which means it comes without an engine. It gets a 39+ KW motor that has enough juice to put out as much as 136 PS of peak power and 395 Nm of torque. These figures are definitely very impressive and because this is an electric motor, all that torque is available from the word go. What does this mean? At lower speeds, if you do gown hard on the right pedal, the Kona pushes you back with a lot of force. In fact, if you steer the car a bit while doing this, you can even indulge in wheelspin antics. On an EV!
To drive the Kona, you need to press the brake pedal, push the start button and shift into D via the buttons on the central console. Liftoff the brake, gentle tab on the right pedal and the Kona moves ahead in a creepy manner. Why? There are simply no NVH or noise, vibration and harshness levels and the world moves by in a silent manner.
There are three driving modes to pick from and this being a race track, we stuck to the Sport mode which brings out the best from the motor but of course at the cost of efficiency. For that, you can have the Eco mode and this car can run for as much as 452km on a single charge as per certification. Even in typical city traffic, I believe the Kona will have a realistic range of 350+km which is more than ample. A typical customer then would require to charge his Kona every 4-6 days.
On the track, the Kona felt like a good tool to bring in grinning moments. It does accelerate hard and the company claims a 0-100 run in just over 9 seconds. It does get to 60 or so very fast and this is where commutes will be fun. Outright punch is good but the car is limited to 160 km/h and we did hit this figure multiple times.
The charging bit
Every customer who purchases a Kona will be given two free chargers. The first one is a home-based 7.2 kW Level-II charger that takes 6 hours and 10 minutes to charge the battery from 0 to 80%. This means you can park the car at the end of the day and have the battery full when you hit the road in the morning. The second is an emergency trickle charger cable that can be put into any normal electric socket and can come handy during emergencies.
The third way to charge the Kona is via DC fast charging. For this, Hyundai will be installing charging stations in key cities and the battery will take less than an hour for the 0-80% charge cycle. Impressive!
In terms of running cost, the Kona is about 1/5th the cost of a conventional vehicle of that size.
Ride and handling
EVs aren’t supposed to be good around a set of fast-flowing curves and tight corners but Hyundai thinks otherwise. Their plan of getting us to experience the Kona around the Buddh International Circuit had us scratching our heads initially but ten mins into the drive and I personally was enjoying this silent drive experience. Though the Kona hits a wall at 160, using all that torque to go around the corners is an experience that makes you want to do it again and again.
The steering is what needs a mention here – its good for city usage and yet has enough feedback to make sure you end up taking the line you intend too.
Brakes are your perfect back-up and this is where I need to mention a thing or two about the recuperation function. Using the shifting paddle under the steering wheel, you can select recuperation levels and this can be used to your benefit, even on a track! However, I must say, it takes time getting used to this function.
In terms of suspension abilities, I intentionally drove on the bumpy curbs next to the tarmac and was pleasantly surprised with the way the Kona handles such sections. Inspite of 17-inch wheels, comfort levels inside the cabin remained high. Top marks here.
Summing it up.
Rs 25.3 lakh is a lot of money for a country like India I agree. However, this is a premium EV and will be on the radar of those who are looking at a Rs 15-20 lakh SUV. The extra premium you would pay over a conventional vehicle will be recovered in terms of savings, bragging rights and the sheer silent pleasure of driving the Kona. It is quick, frugal, feature-loaded and stands out among the crowd of everyday vehicles.
Hyundai isn’t looking at volumes but I am sure the targets will be met easily. Plus this gets me thinking – is the day too near when we can see a Rs 10-12 lakh EV that has a top whack of 120km/h and a certified range of 300km? Yes!