Hyundai has launched its first all-electric car to rival the Nissan Leaf. We’ve driven it to see if it's a worthy challenger
What do we have here?
The Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf might be the first cars that come to mind when you think of getting an eco-friendly car.
Hyundai has launched a rival that takes on the form of its two closest rivals as a five-door hatchback with a big boot.
It's actually available in three drivetrain configurations; electric, hybrid and a plug-in (PHEV) version arrives in 2017.
The Ioniq Electric is available in two trim levels; Premium and Premium SE,
Premium spec gets; DAB radio; a rearview camera; keyless entry; heated front seats; heated steering wheel; and Bi-Xenon headlamps with LED taillights. There’s also a 7.0in LCD display with 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; front parking sensors and blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert.
We’re testing the Ioniq Electric in range-topping Premium SE trim that costs £30,795.
How does it drive?
Switch it on and the Ioniq hums off the line in a supremely quiet manner, even for an electric car. There's so little noise from the motor.
The electric motor in question is twinned with a 28kWh lithium-ion polymer battery. It generates 118bhp and 218lb ft of torque giving it enough power to get from standstill to 62mph in 9.9 seconds and onto a top speed of 103mph.
Hyundai claims a maximum driving range of 174 miles, however, it can be recharged to 80% capacity using a 50kW rapid charger in 33 minutes.
Acceleration is smooth and consistent until the power band suddenly runs dry. Mid-range acceleration is impressive as there's a hammer of torque available.
By default, Eco mode is engaged, which you can feel when driving. It’s like you’re pulling something or someone that’s rather heavy, dulling performance.
The gearbox has just the one gear which is engaged by pressing a button to engage. While two further buttons engage park and reverse. It's all incredibly simple.
On the steering wheel, there are two paddles which control the level of regeneration. There are three settings that change the level of the regeneration through engine braking.
The lowest setting leaves it hardly noticeable but in the highest setting, it's unmissable. Infact, you can control the car the majority of the time in the highest setting just with the accelerator. The car will decelerate fast enough that with a pinch of planning you can bring the car to a halt without touching the brake.
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 has 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.
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.
The Ioniq is better to drive than the Leaf, which has a slightly more comfortable ride.
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 with the Ioniq. 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. There’s no underfloor storage and the recharging cables take up a lot of room.
The claimed range of 174 miles is certainly impressive and a move in the right direction for electric cars.
Company car users qualify for just 7% BIK tax banding while road tax is free.
Insurance - group 17, so should prove reasonably affordable to insure.
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.
The Ioniq is good to drive, comfortable, refined and a great first effort by Hyundai at an electric car.
We’d stick with the hybrid over the electric as it avoids the range restrictions and recharging time.
However, if you're set on going all-electric, then the Ioniq gets the nod over the Nissan Leaf, although, the Leaf's proven track record will appeal to many.