The Hyundai Kona Electric Experience – A review from an EV expert!

The Hyundai Kona Electric is one of the new EVs on the block. It won the New Zealand EV Car of the Year in 2018 and the team at Ecotricity wanted to know more about this zero emissions electric SUV!

Our team reached out to Kathryn Trounson, Chairman of the better NZ trust for a quick review on her experience so far.

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The first thing that you notice about the Kona is the style- a compact SUV, it’s lines and trims ooze a sense of style that people find appealing. To quote many people at their first encounter “That’s a nice looking car!”.

It’s difficult at first glance to tell it apart from its popular petrol alternative. The form factor is the same – and that is part of the appeal; we are entering a new phase where electric vehicles don’t have to shout  “hey look at me, I am different”. The EV is becoming normalised, and with the range of a Tesla in the body of a Hyundai at roughly half the price this car is a game changer! Range anxiety never enters your mind!

The Kona’s range delivers on the promise of 400km plus.  A couple of exceptions I noticed on the recent Better NZ Trust RoadTrip are :-

  1. when you are on uncluttered roads in the South Island where your average speed can be significantly higher than that in more populated areas and
  2. when the outside temperature is such that the heater is on full blast – on the Milford Sound Road, for example, with an outside temperature of +1C the estimated range reduced to 375 km. But that is still excellent.

The boot space is compact in keeping with many smaller SUVs. Two people on a journey with luggage is fine, and I can certainly get the golf clubs in, albeit with one of the back seats folded down. The Kona can carry four people in comfort but they would each be restricted to a smallish suitcase as luggage if you were touring.

When touring we take our BYO charging cable in case we are off the beaten track and need charging overnight at our accommodation – it’s a shame there isn’t a handy place to store it. I put it underneath the boot floor where there is space but to access the cable you have to unpack the entire boot! However for most journeys across NZ there is ready availability of public rapid DC chargers, which means we use our portable 10A charging cable infrequently. We have not yet used the type2 AC charger cable that was provided with the car as we prefer to use the faster charging provided by the network of public DC chargers.

The charging port is at the front of the car, so it is easy to access as you park ‘bonnet in’ to a public charger –a 25 minute stop adds 100km to the range. Like all EV drivers on a road trip we take the opportunity to charge when we are stopping either for a coffee, comfort break or lunch! Back at home we charge the car on a regular 10 amp socket (draws 7A), sometimes overnight at cheap rates, and sometimes during the day if the solar panels are harvesting sunshine!


Over the course of our 6000km, one month, journey with the 2019 BNZT Great EV Roadtrip we discovered that the Kona has a few quirks:

Sometimes the cruise control will refuse to activate

The Navigation system is not easy to work with – input of addresses into the navigation system takes a knack

The speed limit indicator on the maps is frequently incorrect

The pedestrian warning (VESS) safety feature makes an unpleasant sound in the cabin at low speed – it can be turned off, (which you must do every trip)

The lane keep assist is sometimes too intrusive for windy NZ roads – it can be turned off too (on each trip)

The scheduled charging can require several attempts at setup to get it working properly

However, don’t let these things put you off – there are simple ways to deal with all of them.

Overall the Kona is a great vehicle.  I want to get safely from A to B in comfort, and the Kona does that effortlessly. It’s a real pleasure to drive – and that’s the bottom line!

Thanks Kathryn for sharing your EV experience with us! If you would like further information about BetterNZ trust leading the charge, click HERE.