SEOUL - What were you driving in 2003? If you were in the market for a new and affordable family car, something like the Hyundai Matrix would have been on the list.
In that year, more than 4,000 units were registered, making the five-seater Matrix the bestselling mini-multipurpose vehicle in Singapore, and putting the Korean brand in the collective consciousness of car buyers here.
Not unlike the Matrix, the Hyundai Kona promises a bit more utility than conventional hatchbacks. At the same time, its crossover styling makes it somewhat more stylish than the traditional boxy people-mover.
Hyundai has further refined the second-generation Kona.
At 4,355mm long, the new Kona is 175mm longer than its predecessor. At 1,825mm side to side and standing at 1,575mm, it is 25mm wider and 20mm taller. To the benefit of occupants, there is 60mm more length between the wheel axles
The boot is wide and usefully square-shaped, with a low loading edge, making it easy to use. In the full-electric version tested here, there is an additional shallow storage space under the bonnet.
The sharp lines of the 2018 Kona have been softened slightly. Some of the cues on the new car, like the dramatic slash that runs across the doors, seem to be inspired by the bigger Hyundai Tucson sport utility vehicle.
The car has a “face” like the half-man, half-robot character in the 1987 RoboCop film, thanks to a continuous LED strip that serves as daytime-running lights.
The main headlights are actually on the lower half of the car, at the corners of the front bumper.
The interior has taken the biggest leap over its predecessor, especially in terms of how the hightech features are presented.
For example, the Kona has two 12.3-inch digital displays for various driving and infotainment functions. This is bigger than what is offered in something like a Mercedes-Benz GLB.
Its gear shifter is a stalk sticking out from the steering column. This frees up storage space in the centre console.
The cabin is littered with power points to charge every conceivable electronic device, as long as they use a USB-C connector. Like Hyundai’s Ioniq electric vehicle (EV) models, the Kona Electric has a three-pin socket in the cabin, so it is ready to power up household appliances.
There is a comprehensive list of safety features, including one which enables the car to execute a lane change with minimal driver intervention. It is the first mass-market model to offer this feature.
Sensors that enable semi-autonomous driving also help the car find opportunities to recover energy through braking – something which Hyundai introduced in the Ioniq 5.
When traffic ahead is slowing down, the Kona will automatically – and subtly – apply some braking force through its electric motor.
Paddles behind the steering wheel allow the driver to tweak the level of recuperation. The sensation is similar to moving gears up or down in a car with an internal-combustion engine.
This solution is more intuitive and convenient than having to navigate a touchscreen, which is the case for some EVs.
The car responds well to inputs from the foot pedals, making it easy to drive smoothly. It does not jackrabbit away at the first brush of the accelerator. There is generally sufficient feel from the brake pedal, which, in some EVs, can be a bit like an on-off switch.
But the test route is too short to gauge how much driving range is added through recuperation
The Kona Electric for Singapore will have 107kW instead of 150kW in the domestic variant tested here. The lower output qualifies the car for Category A certificate of entitlement (COE), which is usually less costly.
Tuning down the power output does not seem to affect the amount of torque on tap. The lowerpowered variant is expected to have as much torque as the full-blooded version, all 255Nm of it, although this pales in comparison with the previous Kona Electric’s 395Nm.
In terms of performance, Hyundai expects the Singapore variant to take around 8 seconds to get from 0 to 100kmh – similar to the 150kW version.
Curiously, it seems that there are no downsides to cranking down the power. The Singaporebound model is projected to be able to cover 505km on its fully-charged 64.8kWh battery. This is up from the 490km range estimated for the European version, which has a slightly larger 65.4kWh battery.
Hyundai says the specifications are provisional, so there may be changes yet.
Twenty years from now, people are unlikely to marvel at how the Hyundai Kona Electric ruled the sales chart in Singapore – not with the current small supply and high prices of COE.
Nonetheless, the new Kona Electric deserves merit as a mass-market EV.
Hyundai Kona Electric 2WD Long Range (Korean version)
Price: To be announced when car is launched by end-2023
Motors: Front-mounted AC single permanent magnet synchronous with 64.8kWh battery
Transmission: Single-speed with paddle shift for modulating energy regeneration
0-100Kmh: 8.1 seconds
Top speed: 172kmh
Fuel consumption: 18.8kWh/100km
Agent: Komoco Motors
Source: The Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction.