Hyundai Kona 2019 highlander electric

Hyundai Kona Electric long-term review: Road trip range test

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Electric cars aren't meant to be good at this. Highway driving, long distances, air conditioning, multiple passengers... you get the idea.
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Every easter my family packs heads down the highway to Moggs Creek, at the start of the Great Ocean Road. Surf, time to read, plenty of nice wine – as traditions go, it's a pretty good one.

It's also a neat test of the Kona Electric's range on the highway. Although the claimed real-world range is 450km, we know range stickers can be like fuel economy stickers (ahem, optimistic) in some conditions.

At 150km from home to Moggs, that's a 300km round trip. Add a 30km round trip to/from Lorne, factor in a few runs to the general store for morning newspapers, and we're looking at more like 350-360km of driving. How long before range anxiety kicks in?

Forget anxiety, frustration generally accompanies any long-weekend drive. This time was no different.

Traffic to the start of the Westgate Bridge was surprisingly clear, but the second we crossed the bridge until beyond Little River, around 45 agonising kilometres, the speedo didn't creep past 50km/h.

I'm not a patient man, but the Kona Electric isn't a bad place to kill time. The stereo pumps out Triple J with impressive clarity, and the fact there's no transmission means there are few smoother, quieter places to take on traffic.

The integration between regenerative braking and the mechanical brakes is a bit clunky as the crowd of cars starts and stops, though.

Regenerative braking cuts out at about 15km/h when you lift, and the car relies on pads and discs to reach a full standstill. The balance between the two systems, and the point at which handover occurs in the pedal's travel, can be tricky to modulate.

Lane-keeping assist is well-tuned most of the time, but it's confused by roadworks or blacked-out markings, and can be very pushy in its attempts to get you back on (off) track. It's also annoying on windier rural roads, but more on that to come.

With traffic clearing around Little River, we set the cruise control to 100km/h and relaxed. The system is quick to respond when cars pull in front and adjusts smoothly with traffic, but it can get jerky if you try to override it with the throttle.

On light throttle inputs – say you want to maintain a tight gap to the car in front in anticipation of an overtake – cruise gets confused, cycling power in and out as it tries to decide whether the on-board computer or driver is in control.

It's a mild annoyance like a driver feathering the throttle at best, and a downright pain at its worst.

The cruise also creeps above the speed limit too much for my liking. You might be able to get away with it some places, but Australia's focus on 'every km over' means it can get you in trouble.

It's annoying in an internal-combustion car, but it's inexcusable in an EV, where regenerative braking, precise power modulation and the fact there's no transmission should make it easy for the car to match your selected speed.

Rant over. There's no engine noise to ruin the serenity in the Kona, and there isn't much wind rustle from the mirrors at speed. But less-than-perfect surfaces, the likes of which grace most rural Aussie highways, elicit a fair bit of road roar from the skinny eco-tyres.

It's never deafening, but it is enough to force you to turn up the radio a couple of notches. While we're talking noise, bumps and expansion joints make their presence felt in the cabin thanks to an array of thwack, thud and thumping sounds.

We've since swapped the Nexen rubber here for a set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres. A full rundown is in the works, but let's just say they're noisier than the standard tyres, but do great things for the ride quality.

The plug-in Kona has been in the CarAdvice garage for more than five months now, but there's still something exciting (and unnerving) about the way it scoots between 60km/h and 100km/h after each roadworks zone. Overtaking is effortless, and doesn't appear to have a huge impact on the car's range readout.

In fact, nothing does. Having started with a claimed 468km of range we arrived with 324km remaining, having covered 154.2km. That's with two people on board, a weekend's worth of gear in the boot, air conditioning running, driving normally.

And then we drove four-up to Lorne and back, and the range remained mostly accurate – 315km claimed to start and 280km to finish. Let's blame the Great Ocean Road's hills for the discrepancy there.

Finally we left Moggs Creek with 276km on the range readout and arrived home with 153km, after covering 144.4km.

For those of you playing along at home, here are the range readings before and after each trip, along with the actual distance travelled:

DriveStarting range Finishing rangeActual distance covered
Highett to Moggs Creek468km324km154.2km
Moggs Creek to Lorne315km296km14.2km
Lorne to Moggs Creek295km280km14.2km
Moggs Creek to Highett276km153km144.4km

So in response to the question of whether you're able to comfortably take the Kona EV on a normal road trip, the answer is a resounding yes.

In fact, not having to pay through the nose for petrol was an absolute blessing.

"A lot of Victorians drive to either coast in summer, and you've have to really bank on at least a 250, 300km charge range, plus air-con and all those issues. You're needing a 400km plus car," one CarAdvice staffer said.

"And this car is a genuine, more than 400km plus – I'm finding it up there around the 460km, 470km range."

We've since replicated this road test with near identical results. A MUCH longer one relying on public charge infrastructure is coming – the Kona is now with CarAdvice until early 2020.

Hyundai Kona Electric Highlander

  • Odometer: 8000km
  • Distance since last update: 1561km
  • Battery consumption since last update: 15.1kWh/100km

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