Hyundai Ioniq is a five-door hatchback that comes three ways: Hybrid, full Electric, and for 2018 a new Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, or PHEV, as they say. The Hybrid and Electric models were introduced as 2017 models. In size and price, Ioniq fits between Hyundai’s compact Elantra and midsize Sonata.
Each Ioniq rates high on the environmental-friendliness scale. Estimated at 58 mpg in combined driving, the Ioniq Hybrid ranks as the thriftiest battery/gasoline model on the market. The Electric version can travel up to 124 miles on a single charge.
Unlike many hybrid and electric vehicles, which stand apart visually, Hyundai took the conservative route, with a restrained design that looks like a conventional small car. More fun to drive than some hybrids and electrics, the Ioniq doesn’t look peculiar at all.
In Hybrid versions, a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine works with a single electric motor. Sending power to the front wheels, the electric motor is mounted between the gas engine and a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Rated at 32 kilowatts (43 horsepower), the Hybrid’s electric motor contributes to total maximum output of 139 horsepower. Energy that would otherwise be wasted flows into the 1.56-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, positioned under the back seat. At low speeds under light loads, the Hybrid can run on electricity alone. Underway, the electric motor adds torque to the gasoline engine’s output.
Although its layout is similar, the Plug-in Hybrid’s electric motor develops more power (44.5 kilowatts, or 60 horsepower). When accelerating, the gas engine starts and provides supplementary power. While the 8.9-kWh battery retains a charge, the Ioniq can run up to 27 miles on electricity alone. Paddle shifters are standard.
In addition to adding the Hybrid Plug-in for the 2018 model year, Hyundai has upgraded one of its active-safety features. Active lane control has replaced the previous lane-departure warning. A number of high-tech active-safety features are available. They include forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. The 2017 Ioniq earned Good scores on two tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Hyundai Ioniq comes in Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid, and Electric versions. Hybrid versions come in three trim levels: Blue, SEL, and Limited. Electric and Plug-in models come in base or Limited trim. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Ioniq Hybrid Blue ($22,200) includes a rearview camera, keyless ignition, six-way manually-adjustable front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and 15-inch alloy wheels. A 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. SEL ($24,000) adds heated front seats and mirrors, LED taillights and daytime running lights, power driver’s seat, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist. Limited ($27,550) comes with leather seat upholstery, LED interior lighting, a sunroof, 17-inch alloy wheels, and BlueLink telematic services.
Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid ($24,950) and Plug-In Limited ($28,300) are similar to Hybrid SEL and Limited versions, but with plug-in provision and some detail differences.
Ioniq Electric ($29,500) and Limited ($36,000) are equipped similarly but with the full-electric battery-only powertrain.
Unlike some hybrids and electrics, the Ioniq looks like a normal hatchback with a tall tail. Meant to improve aerodynamics, that shape is shared by various super-efficient cars. Hyundai claims the Ioniq’s 0.24 drag coefficient is one of the lowest for a production model. Less upright than such rivals as the Nissan Leaf, the Ioniq also is lower.
Up front, swept-back headlights flank a trapezoidal grille. (Electric models get a blank plate in the grille’s position.) The windshield slants back, and a horizontal accent line divides the bodyside. Electric and Plug-In versions have LED headlights.
Entering and driving the Ioniq differs little from piloting any small car. Though pleasant, with satisfying passenger volume for a small hatchback, interior space trails the Toyota Prius or Nissan Leaf. The tasteful cabin resembles any smaller Hyundai model.
Controls and displays are admirably intuitive. Hyundai has provided buttons and a controller at the dashboard center, omitting conventional gearshift and parking-brake levers. Many interior elements are made of sustainable or recycled materials, though some versions contain an appreciable amount of hard plastic.
Front occupants enjoy nicely-bolstered seats, which sit rather low. Because the hatchback is wide, the front-seat area feels roomy.
Headroom is restricted in back, due to the sloping roofline and position of the battery pack under the rear seat. Leg and shoulder space are fine for two adults, but taller passengers are likely to feel vertically cramped.
Cargo volume in the Hybrid totals 26.5 cubic feet â€“ more than Kia’s Niro, which is related to the Ioniq. Electric and Plug-in Ioniqs provide 23.8 cubic feet.
Engine revving may be heard, but it’s not intrusive. Direct shifting of the dual-clutch transmission tends to suppress any engine howl when acceleration energetically.
Most notably, the Ioniq is fun to drive and relatively sporty, while operating with impressive fuel-efficiency. Each powertrain is energy-efficient in its own way, without cutting into driving enjoyment.
Power output is no greater than average for this vehicle category, but it’s offset by light weight, keeping acceleration acceptable. Because Hyundai uses a single-motor configuration and conventional transmission, operation isn’t as smooth as that of twin-motor models.
Any Ioniq promises pleasant ride quality. Suspensions are tuned to meld with various wheel sizes, each holding low-rolling-resistance tires.
The regenerative braking system works appropriately, though Hybrids may experience an occasional mismatch between the braking systems and transmission. Because the Electric Ioniq lacks a transmission, braking factors blend especially well.
Even when driven with some vigor, the Hybrid yields fine fuel economy, earning the highest fuel-economy figures of any car without a plug, the Hybrid Blue is EPA-rated at 57/59 mpg City/Highway, or 58 mpg Combined. The standard Hybrid rates 55/54/55 mpg.
Ranking as the most energy-efficient vehicle available, with a rating of 136 MPGe, the Electric has a range up to 124 miles. Like nearly all electric cars, it’s calmer and quieter than any vehicle with a gasoline engine. EPA ratings for the Plug-in Hybrid are not yet available.
Enjoyable to drive, the Ioniq is a model of efficiency mixed with conventional design, in each of its three forms. No other automaker offers such a trio. The regular Hybrid is sure to be the top seller, at least for now. Electric and Plug-in models are special-ordered. Electric Ioniq range isn’t the longest, but it beats most battery-powered models.
Driving impressions by John Voelcker, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.