Test Drive:2017 Hyundai Ioniq
Toyota might be meeting its match in the new Hyundai Ioniq. Cribbing its basic design philosophy from the iconic Prius, the 2017 Ioniq is available first as a gas-electric hybrid with an EPA combined fuel-economy rating of up to 58 mpg, then as an electric vehicle with 124 miles of driving range and an EPA rating of 136 MPGe. Next year, for 2018, a plug-in hybrid version arrives with 27 miles of electric range before switching to gas-electric hybrid operation, according to Hyundai.
Hybrids come in Blue, SEL, and Limited trim levels. Plug-in Hybrid and Electric versions of the Ioniq come in standard and Limited trim. An Ultimate package is available for all three Limited versions. Prices start at $23,035 for the Hybrid Blue and rise to as much as $36,835 for the Electric Limited with the Ultimate package. Electrics are, however, available with federal tax credits and any state/local incentives offered in your region.
Styling and Design
Boasting a coefficient of drag measuring 0.24 cd, the Ioniq achieves aerodynamic success without looking like something that rolled out of the primordial ooze. A glance tells you it's a high-mileage, environmentally friendly car, but sharp sculpturing and upscale detailing improve on its familiar form.
Interior design sticks to convention, a good thing to many people. Once you're seated on the comfortable, height-adjustable front seats, it's impossible to tell that the Ioniq employs alternative powertrains. Even the Electric model's push-button transmission isn't that unusual.
As one of the roomiest cars among its direct competitors, the Hyundai Ioniq seats up to 5 people and carries up to 26.5 cu. ft. of cargo. Plug-in Hybrid and Electric versions have smaller trunks (23.8 cu. ft.) because of their larger batteries, but all three hold as much as a crossover SUV with the rear seat folded down.
Features and Controls
It's easy to get comfortable in the Ioniq and to find and use the controls. Traditional instrumentation, lots of buttons and knobs, and an intuitive infotainment system go a long way toward making the Ioniq enjoyable to drive.
Standard equipment includes a reversing camera, keyless entry with push-button engine starting, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a touch-screen 7-in. infotainment system with Bluetooth, satellite radio, HD Radio, smartphone projection, and more. Electric models have slight revisions to this list, such as single-zone climate control, heated front seats and mirrors, and Blue Link subscription services.
Upgrade to SEL trim and the Hybrid adds upgraded appearance features, blind-spot warning system, heated seats and mirrors, power driver's seat, and a handful of additional features. Highlights of the Limited trim level include leather, attractive 17-in. aluminum wheels, power sunroof, and Blue Link.
Safety and Technology
Install the Ultimate package and the Ioniq gains forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, dynamic bending headlights, rear park-assist sensors, and a larger 8-in. infotainment system with navigation, wireless device charging, and an Infinity premium audio system with Clari-Fi music-restoration technology.
If the Ioniq's collision-avoidance features fail to prevent an accident, know that more than half of the car's structure is engineered using high-strength steel. Furthermore, Hyundai employs this material largely around the passenger compartment, helping to prevent crash energy from intruding into the cabin.
Hyundai predicts that the Ioniq will earn top crash-test ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The car has already received top ratings in Europe's NCAP (New Car Assessment Program) crash testing.
When the Blue Link subscription is active, an automatic collision-notification system helps to speed rescuers to the scene of the accident following the impact. Blue Link also provides safe teen-driver functions related to curfew, speed, and boundary limits.
Electric models have several unique technology features. The transmission is operated using push-button controls on the center console, and the parking brake is electronic. The driver faces a 7-in. LCD instrument cluster, and brake regen paddle shifters help capture as much braking energy as possible, feeding it to the battery in order to extend range.
Hybrid models use an Atkinson-cycle, 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine, a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT), and an electric motor fed by a Lithium-ion polymer battery housed beneath the rear seat, recharged by a blended regenerative braking system. Fuel economy ranges from 55 mpg to 58 mpg in combined driving, according to the EPA.
In the fall of 2017, the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid arrives. It uses a larger electric motor and battery in order to provide an estimated 27 miles of electric driving range before the gasoline engine starts and the car operates like a traditional hybrid. Using a standard household wall outlet, it takes 8 hours to recharge this model. Install a 240-volt home charging system and that time drops to 2 hours and 15 minutes, Hyundai says.
The electric Ioniq model does not have a gasoline engine. Instead, it employs an 88-kW electric motor, a large and powerful 28 kWh Lithium-ion polymer battery, a single-speed transmission, and blended regenerative brakes with brake regen paddles to give the driver greater control of the system. Hyundai claims 124 miles of driving range and an EPA rating of 136 MPGe. Using a 240-volt home charging system the battery replenishes in 4.5 hours. Using a municipal DC Fast Charger, the battery recoups 99 miles of range in as few as 23 minutes, according to Hyundai.
I drove both the Ioniq Hybrid and the Ioniq Electric, each equipped with Limited Ultimate trim. For both drives, three passengers were aboard for travel in moderately mountainous terrain. The Hybrid returned 41.7 mpg, while the Electric delivered 4.1 miles per kilowatt-hour.
Both cars are enjoyable to drive. The Hybrid's independent rear suspension and larger 17-in. wheels certainly contributed to a sportier feel, but Hyundai has also successfully eliminated the feeling of weight that is common to green vehicles with added weight.
Acceleration is adequate in the Hybrid, and quick in the Electric. The Hybrid's 6-speed DCT definitely makes the car sound and feel more like a traditional vehicle, and the blended regenerative brakes lack the sticky and inconsistent feel and response common to some hybrid models. Hyundai also does a good job with the electric steering's tuning and feel, and a Sport driving mode really enlivens the driving experience.
Though 168 lbs. heavier, equipped with a less sophisticated beam rear axle suspension, and riding on smaller 16-in. wheels, the Ioniq Electric nevertheless supplied rousing performance on coastal California highways. Though the driving range is not particularly impressive, Hyundai's research shows that 98% of Americans travel fewer than 100 miles per day, making the Ioniq Electric perfectly suitable for most people.
Enjoyable to drive, attractive to behold, affordable and practical, and available with a choice of three different powertrains, the new Hyundai Ioniq is an impressive effort. Just keep in mind that if you want to maximize efficiency with the Hybrid version, it's best to stick with the basic Blue version.