EQUIPMENT AND VALUE
For the mid-$60K price point, the Kona Highlander EV comes packed with features to justify its high price. Key safety gear includes AEB, cruise control with city stop and go, blindspot warning, lane-keeping assist, rear-view camera and parking sensors all-round. Heated/ventilated seats and smartphone mirroring are also standard. The Kona EV comes with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and an eight-year/160,000km warranty on the lithium-ion battery.
The Lexus UX 250h Sports Luxury 2WD (Luxury pictured) comes in at $56,500 and offers a luxurious feel tied in with a hybrid powertrain, as opposed to full EV. The UX also has AEB, radar-guided cruise control, blind-spot warning, lane-keeping assist, rear-view camera and parking sensors front-to-rear. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now also available in the UX, with a retrofit available if required. At four years or 100,000km, the UX has the lesser warranty.
WINNER: Lexus UX250H
SPACE AND COMFORT
Inside is where the $64,490 ask is questionable. The quality and ambience isn’t at the level required for this kind of money. The floating centre console aids practicality while adding design flair, and the graphics used with the 8.0-inch infotainment screen appear modern. The cabin feels more airy than the Lexus, with comparable all-round space. Cargo capacity squeaks ahead at 332 litres, but it’s a shallow space with the charging cable stowed under the floor.
This is where the UX really claws back the points on the Kona. The Lexus looks and feels like the premium offering despite being the cheaper option. Soft and plush leather abounds, while the general build and materials quality are a step above the South Korean. Apart from the frustrating track pad (to control the infotainment) and the antiquated graphics, it’s a nice place to be. Like the Kona, the UX is snug inside, while the boot is smaller at 324 litres.
WINNER: Lexus UX250H
RIDE AND HANDLING
Adding 360kg compared to the Highlander FWD has a detrimental impact on dynamics, hence the EV can suffer from a bouncy ride. However, it does utilise multi-link rear suspension, which helps composure. With 395Nm going to the front wheels, and eco-focused tyres, the Kona can fry its fronts in any conditions. A gentle right foot is required for wet weather. Sans engine sound, tyre roar is noticeable on the highway, but it remains quiet in the CBD.
Using underpinnings borrowed from the Toyota C-HR, the UX is a surprisingly good steer, feeling much more planted and agile than the heavier Kona EV. The ride quality is aided by greater compliance and a more sophisticated damper arrangement, with the UX smoothing out the road nicely. NVH levels are also well suppressed. An issue is braking, which seems to get confused between regenerative and its conventional discs, making it hard to be progressive.
WINNER: Lexus UX250H
PERFORMANCE AND ECONOMY
With a WLTP range of 449km – and it’s a genuine figure that isn’t overtly affected by active in-car auxiliaries – the Kona EV largely dispells range anxiety. Drive normally, resisting the urge to utilise the substantial 150kW and 395Nm on offer, and the 16.0kWh/100km claim stacks up. The Kona’s 0-100km/h figure is 7.6 seconds. Charging the 64kWh battery pack takes 9hr35min from mains, dropping to 54min for a charge to 80 percent using a fast charger.
While the UX 250h doesn’t feel underpowered with combined outputs of 131kW/205Nm, it is put in the shade in terms of performance. You need servos, too, as it’ll use 4.5L/100km of petrol. The Atkinson-cycle 2.0-litre four-cylinder works in conjunction with an electric motor, and within certain parameters you can drive purely on electric power before the petrol unit kicks in seamlessly. The CVT ’box also ties in well with the powertrain for 0-100km/h in 8.5 seconds.
WINNER: Hyundai Kona Highlander EV
VERDICT: HYBRID’S ELECTRIC SHOCK
The Hyundai Kona Highlander EV is significantly more expensive, less fun to drive, and the quality of its interior is outclassed by its Japanese competitor. However, its superior electric drivetrain (over the hybrid system) makes the Kona EV viable as not only a second car, but as a primary one, too. Range anxiety is largely quelled thanks to a 400-plus kilometre range, and the battery can be zapped back to 80 percent with 100kW fast charging. Nor does the Kona lose out on practicality. The Lexus is more polished and poised, but the Kona EV feels like a car for the future... now.