Life Motoring

Monday 16 December 2019

When it comes to a real test

'Which?' magazine has announced that the Hyundai Kona Electric is its top product of 2019

Kona EV
Kona EV

Campbell Spray

The Hyundai honchos were visibly and rightly miffed when they missed out on all prizes at the recent unsatisfactory Continental Irish Car of the Year awards.

Although Hyundai's sister company Kia won three categories - including Car of the Year - for the funky Soul EV, Hyundai's Electric Kona has seen people voting with their feet and wallets all year long.

The attractive small SUV, with its range of 440km, for the first time has banished the concept of range anxiety for relatively (in terms of EVs) affordable small family electric cars.

Anyway, Hyundai's mood would have quickly lightened last week when it could put the rather disappointing Irish awards behind it after hearing they were at the very pinnacle of the international-renowned Which? magazine's 50 Products of 2019.

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From home to garden, to cars and everything in between, more than 3,500 products were whittled down to Which?'s standout picks of 2019 by its independent testing team.

Which? says that the Hyundai Kona Electric has "beaten all-comers to be crowned our product of the year 2019" and while the car is offered with a range of different drive trains, it has "singled out the pure battery version for particular praise as it makes one of the strongest cases yet for making the switch to emissions-free driving".

It's based on the regular Kona compact crossover, which is among the easiest small SUVs to drive and live with.

Not only is it generously equipped from standard, it's safe in an accident and backed by a five-year manufacturer's warranty.

So it's a sensible proposition as a family car, but where the Kona Electric really impresses is in its driving range.

Despite claims made by the respective makers of other mainstream EVs such as the Nissan Leaf and VW e-Golf, the Which? independent testing panel found that the Kona managed nearly double their range which was "hugely impressive" and beat every other similarly priced EV they had tested.

"To get any further on a single charge, you'd have to sink vastly more into a Tesla."

(Of course, Kia's E-Niro and the EV-Soul have the same battery as the Kona and next year, as we reported last week, the VW ID.3 will have rather similar range).

Which? asks whether you should "choose the EV Kona over the admittedly much cheaper petrol version?"

It replies that whether you have somewhere to charge it will be a critical factor "but there's no doubt the EV is the superior car".

It adds: "Not only does it have the potential for vastly reducing both your running costs and carbon footprint, it also improves the driving experience, being far smoother, quieter and more refined.

"What's more,'' the Consumer Association bible continues, "the car's battery pack hasn't affected overall practicality, with the Kona Electric boasting the same - albeit somewhat stingy - 225 litres of load space as the conventional combustion Kona. This rises to a maximum of 1,070 litres with the seat folded down."

The magazine concludes: "The Kona Electric isn't just an excellent and affordable EV, it's an excellent car, full stop.

"That's what makes it both a game-changer and our pick as the product of 2019."

Kia did great work in getting its Soul EV into the clutches of all the varied members of the two motoring organisations who make up the jury for the Irish Car of the Year.

As I have said before, there are some very good members of these organisations but for others, I would wonder if the lure of a free car every week is driving force behind their enthuasism to become involved in the industry as a whole?

And, of course, many of the main motoring editors - including those of RTE, The Irish Times, Irish Independent, Business Post, Irish Daily Mail, my colleague Geraldine Herbert from this paper and I - are not members of either organisation.

I did like the Soul EV, it deserved an award, and best of luck to Kia's Aidan Doyle and his marketing team in milking the car's success in the Irish awards which need a massive overhaul if they are to retain any credibility.

However, the Hyundai Kona Electric being the Which? product of the year is a real achievement of international renown.

I know I will have offended some with these words. Such is life.

To cap it all, I will only invite more sneers by saying that the Kona Electric is my personal car of the year as well.

Sunday Independent

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