Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Powered by a 64kWh battery, the Kona Electric packs 201bhp, which is considerably more than any electric car this side of the £60,000 Jaguar I-Pace. It’s enough to make this electric SUV really quite rapid; you have to be delicate with your right foot to avoid embarrassing wheelspin when pulling away on bone-dry roads, let alone when it's been raining.
Once you’re on the move, the Kona Electric builds speed almost as quickly as the Ford Fiesta ST hot hatch. And, being electric, there’s no waiting for the engine revs to rises before maximum performance is delivered; simply tread on the accelerator pedal and the car immediately surges forward.
Lift off the accelerator and you feel yourself slowing down quite quickly, thanks to the regenerative braking – a system that allows the car to harvest otherwise wasted energy to replenish the battery. You can increase this braking effect if you wish, although not quite to an extent that allows the one-pedal style of driving that’s possible in the rival Nissan Leaf.
Turn the steering wheel as you approach a corner and you’ll notice that the Kona Electric leans less markedly than the Leaf. In most other respects, though, the Leaf is a better handling car; its steering is more accurate and there’s more grip to exploit if the mood takes you.
However, when it comes to electric cars, performance isn’t just about how quickly you can speed up, slow down or take corners; it’s about how far you can get between charges. In our Real Range tests, the Kona Electric managed 259 miles; that’s a lot farther than the Leaf can manage and a hugely credible figure, even if it is well below the 300-mile official rating.
The Leaf wins a few points back on ride comfort, though; whatever speed you’re doing, the Kona Electric jostles its occupants around over smaller road imperfections, although never to the point that it becomes truly annoying. Likewise, there’s more road noise than there is in the Leaf or Volkswagen e-Golf. It's a shame because the closely related Kia e-Niro (our 2019 Car of the Year) handles more tidily and is more comfortable than the Kona Electric.