Hyundai has launched its first hybrid and electric car to rival the Prius and Leaf. We’ve driven it to see how it performs
What do we have here?
When you think of electric and hybrid cars on sale today, it’s more than likely that your first thought is the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf. Both are well established in the market and synonymous with being well-sized, practical and environmentally friendly cars.
Hyundai has taken a bold step and launched its own all-new, purpose-built and alternate fuel proposition to challenge the Prius and Leaf. It’s called the Ioniq and is a very similar proposition to those two cars; five doors, five seats and a big boot.
However, to make its mark, the Ioniq is available in three configurations; hybrid, electric and a plug-in (PHEV) version arrives in 2017.
Its second unique selling point is cost. Prices for the Ioniq Hybrid start from just £19,995, that’s over £3,000 less than a Prius, while the Ioniq Electric undercuts the Leaf by almost £1,600.
The Ioniq is available in three trim levels; SE, Premium and Premium SE, although the SE is only available on the hybrid model.
SE spec’d cars get 15in alloy wheels, DAB radio, Bluetooth, cruise control, rear parking sensors and a rear view camera. Standard safety includes autonomous emergency braking and lane assist.
Premium adds to the SE’s equipment with keyless entry, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, Bi-Xenon headlamps with LED taillights. There’s also a 7.0in LCD display, TomTom sat nav and Android Auto / Apple CarPlay.
Premium SE further adds leather seats, electrically-powered driver’s seat, heated & ventilated front seats and heated outer rear seats, a heated leather steering wheel, front parking sensors and blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert.
We’re testing the Ioniq Hybrid in range-topping Premium SE trim.
How does it drive?
Turn it on (rather than start it up) and the Ioniq sets sail in a cacophony of silence. As you get moving, it only uses its electric motor, so silence is golden. The petrol engine kicks in as speeds start to rise.
The concoction of power units being used in this hybrid consist of a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine which combines with a 34KW electric motor and an 8.9kWh lithium-ion polymer battery. They combine to produce 139bhp and 195lb ft of torque, meaning the hybrid will get from 0-62mph in 10.8 seconds. A six-speed dual clutch gearbox keeps everything ticking along.
Switching between electric mode to petrol is hardly noticeable. There’s some engine noise but certainly no jerky transition. The combination of the two powerplants provide enough torque to make decent progress. It’s not rapid but it can be swift off-the-line and when you want to overtake there’s enough in reserve to execute with little fuss.
The Ioniq by default is always in Eco mode, which you can feel when driving. It’s like you’re pulling something or someone that’s rather heavy, dulling performance. This is of course by design to ensure you achieve the best possible economy. On a combined cycle, the hybrid is claimed to return 83.1mpg with CO2 emissions of 79g/km. Over 120 miles of varying road types and a mix of relaxed and enthusiastic driving, we achieved 50mpg.
However, the gearbox has a sport mode. Engage it and not only does the speedometer change to a rev counter in the instrument binnacle, and turn an orangey/red, but the Ioniq frees up as Eco mode is disengaged.
But it’s all very easy in truth. Get in, engage drive with a normal automatic gearbox and off you go. What surprises most is how well the Ioniq drives. It is by no means a hot hatch but it handles well.
There’s some body roll as the weight shifts from one side of the car to the other as you enter a sharper corner but the Ioniq has plenty of grip, which gives way to unspectacular understeer if pushed far too hard.
Its steering is also well judged. It had a light touch at low speeds but feels secure through a set of bends. It’s keen to turn-in and the consistency throughout is excellent as Hyundai has managed to eradicate the dead ahead feeling that often blights its cars.
Under braking, where the initial feel is good, it can become snatchy the harder you brake, due to the presence of the regeneration systems.
Most important of all is the ride. It’s comfortable and absorbs large potholes and road imperfections well. It is also well damped, meaning it avoids floating over crests and wallowing about.
Driving smoothly, like a skier carving their way down a pristine snowy piste, the Ioniq will reward and entertain you while remaining comfortable.
The only downside is a little too much wind noise from around the windscreen pillars at motorway speeds and road noise.
What's it like inside?
Normal. Very normal, and that is a truly magical thing. Car manufacturers seem to feel pressurised into making alternate fuel cars a little wacky, space-age, to signify they’re different, new and exciting.
However, this can have a detrimental effect to people who aren’t familiar with such technology, bamboozling and alienating buyers. The inside of the Ioniq is simple, clean and very familiar so there’s little here to be afraid of.
You get a good driving position with plenty of seat and wheel adjustment and a good amount of head room. The seat does feel a little firm and lacks some thigh padding but does give plenty of back support.
Visibility to the front and sides is excellent however the rear roof pillars are quite thick and can obscure the over-the-shoulder view while the rear windscreen is split in two with a bar across it, which can be distracting and block some of the view behind.
The instrument binnacle is simple and neatly designed, however, some of the numbers are on the smaller side, such as the cruise control.
Across the dash, there’s a combination of well-sized buttons and neat toggle switches which add an element of class. The top of the dash as soft touch plastics, while the mid to lower half and the doors get harder ones. Cleverly, the ventilation can be focused only on the driver if you are in the car alone, saving fuel/energy.
Storage is ok with two cupholders between the seats where you’ll also find a slot to store your iPad and an oddly shaped but deep bin beneath the central armrest. In front of the gear lever is a small tray for your phone where there are USB ports and wireless phone charging.
In the rear, there’s loads of leg and knee room while head room is good. The car’s sloping roofline does mean you need to watch your head on the door frame when getting in and out. The seats are comfortable and you sit high up which enables a good view. The central armrest has two cupholders with an additional one in each door gets a further cupholder and some storage space.
The boot is large, square and flat while the liftback provides a large opening and there’s some under floor storage.
The hybrid is claimed to return 83.1mpg on a combined cycle with CO2 emissions of 79g/km.
Company car users qualify for just 15% BIK tax banding while road tax is free.
Insurance - group 11.
Servicing packs - TBC
The Ioniq has a 5-year, unlimited mileage warranty, plus a second warranty for the high-voltage battery which covers 8-years and 125,000 miles.
Hyundai’s first attempt at a purpose built alternate fuel car has been a huge success. The Ioniq is good to drive, comfortable, economical and significantly cheaper than its rivals.
Most importantly, it uses up to date technology wrapped in an easy to understand and simple to use package.
We’d stick with the hybrid over the electric as it avoids the range restrictions and recharging time.
Driver's Seat Rating:
4 out of 5
It's worth considering:
2016 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Premium SE 1.6 GDi Stats:
Engine size: 1580cc petrol & electric motor
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Torque: 195lb ft
Top speed: 115mph
Fuel economy (official combined): 83.1mpg
BIK band: 15%
Insurance Group: 11
Kerb weight: 1477kg
Warranty: 5-years, unlimited miles – High-voltage battery 8-years, 125,000 miles.