I like to think of myself as someone who considers global warming and environmental degradation as some of my major worries in life. Being in India, where summer temperatures cross 45+ in multiple parts of the country, I think our country needs to make tackling global warming a top priority if we want to live here in the future.
So when Hyundai announced all-electric Kona in India, I couldn’t hold back my excitement. After all, it is the first proper electric car in the Indian market (I don’t consider Mahindra and Tata made cars, which offer close to 100km range, proper electric) with a 300km+ range and all the bells and whistles of a modern car. No, it is no Tesla Model 3, but fair to say that that car won’t be coming to the market anytime soon here, or at a price which will be affordable for the masses.
So here I was calling up Hyundai for a test-drive and I secured one this Sunday. Now, I own a Mercedes GLA petrol and it has been my daily driver for the last two years. And with a 0-100 in around 8 seconds and close to 180BHP of power at my disposal, I can say the car is fairly quick. I wasn’t expecting the 0-100 in close to 10 seconds to impress me really, but what the hell, it is still quick, I reckoned.
I reached the showroom to find the car seated in a corner with a few people showing interest (this showroom was in Gurgaon). Since not many people were looking for a test drive, it was easy to get in front of the line. Having read some initial reviews online, I wasn’t expecting too plush interiors, but I can say that I was surprised happily. Kona seems to have been built with good attention to details and features most of the creature comforts you expect in a car of this budget. Since this isn’t a car review, I won’t get into too much detail on this. What I can say for sure is that while the interiors might not match some competitors in the same budget, they are fairly close to something you see in cars around 20 lakhs.
Although, Kona did feel a little cramped for space and the black interiors definitely didn’t help. But then, my GLA isn’t too much real estate either and I figured the car can easily transport five people over a short distance and four over long without sacrificing on comfort.
Well, that was on the features and it was time to take this baby on the highway. With my seatbelt firmly secured and a friend in the backseat along with the Hyundai sales rep sitting on my left, there were enough people in the car to simulate real-life conditions. Obviously, I had to floor the paddle (because c’mon), and boy, never in my dreams could have I imagined what instant torque feels like. Before I knew, the car was in triple-digit speeds without making a whimper. This car felt more responsive than anything I have ever driven in my life. On the contrary, the GLA makes sure that everyone sitting in the cabin is aware of the hardship the engine is going through to get at similar speeds.
The Hyundai Kona is so silent that the only noise you hear in the cabin is the tire noise and that hushed whirling sound made by the electric motor. The low center of gravity makes handling a joy (unlike some of the other Hyundai cars available in India). This car will be loved by those who like sitting behind the steering wheel more than being driven around. I can confidently say that the performance is way better than my GLA.
I will be honest that I am no car expert. I have driven a few, ridden in some more, but nothing that can make me someone who can accurately give verdicts on new cars. That said, with a reasonable experience of sitting behind the wheels, I can confidently say that if the Kona can give an actual range of 300km+, this car is worth the money. I would definitely trade-in my Mercedes for this wonderful piece of technology and not in the least because I care about the environment. The performance left me leaving the showroom with a huge smile and confidence that Hyundai Kona is going to sell way more than the 500 units the company is expecting in the first year. And with more EV releases down the line and, hopefully, some charging infrastructure in place, what a time this is to love cars and be alive (in India).
I have read arguments comparing this with an i20 Active and how it is not value-for-money. Well, if cars were only priced according to their seating capacity, I don’t think people would shell out millions for two-seater sports cars.
But would I recommend it to someone who’s in the market for a new car in the same range? It’s not a straight answer but I think if the car can deliver 300km+ range, it is worth serious consideration. The fuel costs will be minuscule compared to a similarly priced petrol or diesel car (and fuel prices will only rise in the future) and the performance is unmatched. I expect the charging infrastructure to improve considerably over the next 12-18 months, but until then, taking long trips in the Kona might be difficult and require meticulous planning. If you’re looking for a second car in your family, the Kona should definitely be on your target list. However, I would still wait for a little till the recommendations in the Union Budget 2019 around EV cars come into play for some price cut. A lot of states like Maharashtra have done away with the road tax for EVs and if you’re in a state that hasn’t yet, it might be worth waiting it out.