Hyundai Kona 2019 highlander electric

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric long-term review: Interior comfort and quality

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Hyundai has built the Kona EV around the bones of a petrol car, but it's made a real effort to differentiate the two from behind the wheel.
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The Hyundai Kona Electric costs $64,490 before on-roads. It's a lot, especially given its bones are shared with a petrol-powered car priced from $23,500 before on-road costs.

Does the interior stack up at that price point? The short answer is depends on how you look at it.

There are some meaningful differences on hand to make the Electric feel a more special than a normal Kona. Standard equipment is generous – given it's the Highlander, our tester comes with everything in Hyundai's kit bag.

The seats are trimmed in leather, the fronts are heated, cooled and electrically adjustable. The heaters will roast your bum, the coolers are a bit noisy but get the job done.

There's single-zone climate control standard, complete with an option to only cool the driver. It's ideal for saving battery, or making your passenger uncomfortable if they're being particularly argumentative.

The front seats themselves are set quite high, in keeping with the Kona Electric's raised ride height. I'd prefer they were set lower and, before you get into the comments and call me a tall freak, it's worth mentioning CarAdvice CEO, Andrew Beecher, also bemoaned how high you sit.

Blame it on the battery pack, blame it on SUV drivers' desire to dominate traffic. Whatever the reason, being able to drop lower would make the car feel more spacious.

Thankfully, the seats slide back enough to accommodate long legs, and the steering wheel telescopes, raises and lowers through a broad range of positions. I haven't done any properly long drives yet, but it's proven comfortable on a couple of airport runs and my day-to-day errands so far.

Rear seat accommodation is fine, without being standout. I've carried a couple of full-sized adults in the back seats, and the only complaints were about our AFL team, not the car itself.

Beecher had no problems getting a child seat into the back, arguing the packaging is "pretty good" given the car's size.

"For somebody who doesn't need a city car, I need a pseudo extra-urban car, I think the packaging is better than I expected," he said.

At 322L with the rear seats in place and 1114L with them folded, the boot is accommodating without matching the compact-SUV class leaders. The flat floor is good, the high loading lip isn't. Unlike the Ioniq, which stores its charge cable in the boot, the Kona has space for it under the boot floor.

It'll comfortably swallow a weekly shop, and has more than enough space for the sort of bags you'd take on a weekend away. How do I know? You'll have to wait for our road trip update to hear more.

Along with the generous array of creature comforts, the Kona Electric's cabin has been tweaked to take advantage of the fact there's no transmission.

There's a huge storage space where the gearbox once sat – comfortably big enough to take a handbag, for example – complete with a 12V outlet and USB fast-charge port. Its base is trimmed in shiny plastic, so slippery items (phones, wallets) slide around when you accelerate. Or brake. Or turn a corner.

A rubber mat would go a long way to solving that problem. You get generous pockets in the doors, a deep bin under the central armrest, and a decent-sized glovebox, so there are plenty of other places to store your junk.

The top of the transmission tunnel has also been redesigned for the Electric. In front of the armrest is a row of buttons for the heated seats, heated steering wheel, auto park-brake hold, and parking sensors, and the shifter has been replaced with a set of four buttons.

Those buttons might look futuristic, but they can be a bit annoying to use. They're not a problem when you're rolling, but three-point turns take more thinking than they would with a conventional shifter because you can't swap from D into R without pressure on the brake, which considerably slows progress.

"About once a day, I've finished a reversing manoeuvre and I go to accelerate in what I think is D, because I'm not looking down, and I'm still in reverse – so I go backwards. I find that, for what is a digital system... it should just work," Beecher said of the system.

The dashboard itself is trimmed in squidgy grey trim, which doesn't do a heap to lift the ambience. An extra splash of colour or some brighter trim wouldn't go astray. With that said, there are some really nice details around the cabin, starting with the digital instrument binnacle.

It's quite simple, but the large central speedo and colour trip computer sitting to its right are easy to read on the fly, and provide the strongest point of visual differentiation between the Electric and regular Kona models. Battery charge is displayed proudly on the right-hand side of the binnacle, while the left is home to a simple power gauge.

Bury your right foot and the power meter will spike, lift off and you can visualise the car harvesting kinetic energy to replenish the battery pack. It's all clear and easy to understand on the move, in perfect keeping with the Kona's accessible driving experience.

I can't use the head-up display, it's set too low, but others have called out how clearly laid-out and informative it is. We'd still prefer a proper, BMW-style system capable of projecting onto the windscreen, but Hyundai has done a good job with its pop-up glass panel nonetheless.

On the whole, the Kona's cabin is a functional, comfortable place to spend time.

It would have been nice to see Hyundai push the envelope a bit, though, especially given the car's $60K starting sticker. At least, that's one way of looking at it. The other way? I'll leave it to our fearless leader to explain.

"You've got an awesome interior for a $30,000 car, with a $35,000 battery strapped underneath," Beecher said.

"I have to look at it that way... while the economic arguments are still at best borderline, and at worst non-existent, I think that the interior is acceptable. My wife, who's a snob, loves it."

Hyundai Kona Electric Highlander

  • Odometer: 3417km
  • Distance since last update: 1373km
  • Battery consumption since last update: 13.8kWh/100km

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