Some people asked me why I chose a Kona EV. This is a quick outline of my thought process.
I’ve been looking to buy an EV for a very long time. My old car was a 2012 Holden Volt, which is a plugin-hybrid. It’s been a great car. However, with an all-electric range of only about 65km, it doesn’t really help me achieve my goal of zero-emission motoring.
What I was looking for
I was looking for an EV:
- with great efficiency;
- that has great range – at least 400km on a bad day;
- that’s compact – mainly for two people (no longer need a family car);
- that’s affordable which for me meant under about $70k;
- that’s reliable and fun to drive;
- with adaptive cruise control – a feature I’ve been looking for in a car for a long time.
The candidate EV models that I looked into closely were:
- Hyundai Kona
- Tesla Model 3
- Polestar 2
- Volvo XC40.
The EVs that I ruled out were:
- Hyundai Ioniq 5. A great car but bigger than I needed and difficult to get (long wait times). It also has worse efficiency than the earlier Hyundai EVs;
- Kia EV6. As for the Ioniq 5;
- MG ZS. Insufficient range;
- Nissan Leaf. Insufficient range and uses the legacy Chademo charge adapter;
- Jaguar I-Pace. Lovely car, but too expensive, even second-hand, and the efficiency is what you’d expect from a sports car.
The Tesla Model 3 is a great car, which is popular and at face value meets my requirements. I test drove it a few times and it is a great car to drive. It has access to the Tesla charger network, and also can use other public chargers. However, I had reservations on account of:
- Height. Friends with a Tesla say it’s a bit low. For someone approaching retirement like me, something a bit higher would be preferred since it’s easier to enter and exit the car;
- Instrumentation. I think Tesla have gone way too far with the minimalist cabin and instrumentation design. As an example, having to use a selection from a screen to open the glove box is just silly, in my opinion. I much prefer a richer layout of physical buttons and indicators;
- Wait time. The current long wait time on the orders for the Model 3 is off-putting;
- The Elon factor. Elon is, undoubtedly a genius. However, I’m uncomfortable with his erratic public persona. He lost me when he publicly called the British cave diver Vern Unsworth a ‘pedo’ during the Thai cave rescue in 2018. Yes I know he apologised. Yes I know he won the subsequent law suit. But, for better or worse, I felt that not buying a Tesla would be better for me.
I’m excited by Polestar as a new brand which makes sustainability a core focus. I liked the test drive and reckon that they’ve got a great package. However, I had a few reservations:
- Efficiency. As good as this car is, the energy used per kilometre is not class-leading. I estimate the efficiency as being 16kWh/100km;
- Wait time. I didn’t want to have to wait an extended period;
- Range. The base (Standard Range) model’s rated range was 440km. However in the real world the range won’t be more than 400km a lot of the time. The longer-range version was available, but for an extra $5k;
- Price. Although it was affordable at the base level, once the options were added to give me the range and adaptive cruise control, the price crept above my budget range;
The Volvo XC40 shares it’s engineering with the Polestar 2 because both companies share a parent company (Gheely). It looks great and was fun to drive, however:
- Efficiency. The efficiency is in keeping with what you’d expect with SUV aerodynamics, i.e., not great. It gets about 19kWh/100km on a good day;
- Price. The drive-away prices is over $80k, so more than I wanted to pay;
- Wait. Long wait times apply, like most new cars.
The Hyundai Kona was a bit of a sleeper. I had initially dismissed it because I found it’s looks and finish a bit conventional at first. And there was the matter of the battery recall. However, I took one for a test drive and it exceeded my expectations. The reviews were fantastic. At face value it ticked all my boxes, and the battery issue did not apply on the new models. Since 2021 it’s had a facelift which gives it a more contemporary look.
Kate and I took a friend’s Kona for a drive (thanks Joe). That firmed up that this seemed to be the right car for us. So, while it doesn’t have the absolute best efficiency of the cars under consideration (that would be the Tesla), it was next best. It pretty well matches the Model 3 for range generally, and has better range than the Tesla in city driving when the aerodynamic benefit of the Tesla isn’t as apparent.
The Kona doesn’t have over-the-air updates, or connection to real-time traffic updates or streaming. However, the Android Auto / Apple Car Play feature effectively gives most of those features via your own phone without much trouble.
When time came to choose a car, it seemed that there would be a long wait, as per all the other makes. However, I managed to find a dealer in Ballarat with stock. Although not my first choice of colour, it seemed like a good deal.
Reflections after one day
After one day of ownership, my initial reflections are:
- Efficiency. The efficiency in the first day of mostly highway driving is giving ~13kWh/100km, which is exceeding expectations (I was expecting this performance for combined-cycle driving, but worse than that for highway);
- Head up display. The car’s head-up display projects speed and other information directly into the driver’s field of view. This is easy to use and works surprisingly well;
- Adaptive cruise control. This is working really well and makes freeway driving more relaxing;
- Active lane-keep assist. One feature of the Kona that I’d not experienced in a car before is the active lane-keep assist. Without taking on the task of the steering, it gives a subtle nudge to the steering if you diverge from a lane. This seems to work well, and promises to be a great safety benefit;
- Plugging in the phone. One thing that Hyundai could have done better relates to the practicality of plugging your phone in while using Android Auto or Car Play. The recess in the dash can accommodate my phone and charge wirelessly (great!). However, the phone won’t fit in that slot and also be plugged into USB without sitting awkwardly. A wired USB connection is required for Android Auto or Car Play. So the result is sub-optimal, but usable;
- Ride and noise level. The ride is perhaps a bit firmer than expected and I had hoped the cabin might be a little bit quieter.