Hyundai Kona 2019 highlander electric

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric long-term review: Tyre upgrade

What impact do sporty tyres have?

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Tyres are important! We've fitted our Kona EV long-termer with new rubber, and the difference is stark.
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For all the good things about our long-term Hyundai Kona Electric, and there are plenty, we have one major complaint. The standard-fit tyres are a bit below par, to put it lightly.

Rather than opting for rubber capable of properly harnessing the impressive torque (395Nm) available from standstill, Hyundai fits Nexen N Fera SU1 tyres measuring 215/55R17.

It's easy to understand why: a quick scan of the Nexen website reveals they're relatively inexpensive, and our experience suggests they're very energy efficient.

The trade-off, though, is the fact they battle to put the motor's torque down up to 70km/h in the wet, and contribute to the car's brittle ride over bumps.

Given the Kona EV's impressive power figures, and the fact it has such a low centre of gravity, we decided to swap the factory rubber for something a bit racier.

The Michelin Pilot Sport 4, also available in the Kona's standard 215/55ZR17 configuration, seemed perfect.

The upsides of switching are immediately clear. Although it'll still chirp the fronts from standstill, the Kona finally feels capable of putting its power down at low speed.

It also rides much better than before. Rather than clattering into bumps with a smack, the Michelin-equipped Kona Electric has an extra degree of pliancy about it. The ride feels markedly better.

Handling has improved, too, with more grip inspiring more confidence in the car's chassis.

The new rubber isn't perfect, though.

For one, the Pilot Sport 4 is noisier than the N Fera SU1 above around 50km/h, transmitting more road noise to the cabin. On anything less than perfect blacktop, they're surprisingly uncouth.

You also get a lot more torque steer than before. Whereas the car would spin its wheels under power with the old boots fitted, it now has the grip to put it down.

The result is a steering wheel that tugs determinedly from side to side when you mat the accelerator, in a manner that'd be familiar to Ford Focus ST owners.

But the biggest trade-off is when it comes to energy efficiency.

On a 63km highway loop from our Melbourne office, the Kona averaged 12.3kWh/100km with the Nexen tyres fitted compared to 13.0kWh/100km with the Michelins. That's a not-insignificant 5.7 per cent increase.

With more grip comes more rolling resistance, and more rolling resistance means more battery consumption.

With that said, the Kona still has more than enough range for day-to-day driving, and based on our highway run you'd be able to do 490km on the freeway with a full charge onboard.

All things considered, has the switch been a positive one? Absolutely. The extra road noise is a bit annoying, sure, but finally being able to enjoy the Kona's performance is 100 per cent worth the trade-off – as is the car's improved ride around town.

More broadly, it has us wondering why Hyundai doesn't offer better tyres as a factory-fit option.

The idea of fitting a more performance-oriented tyre to an EV isn't absurd – Tesla runs Pilot Sport 4 rubber on the Model 3. Why not give Kona Electric buyers the choice?

Hyundai Kona Electric Highlander

Odometer: 9325km
Distance since last update: 1325km
Energy consumption since last update: 15.0kWh/100km