GreenFleet Road Test: Hyundai Ioniq

First Drive: 2016 Hyundai Ioniq Electric

The Ioniq is the first weapon in Hyundai's attack on the 'green car' market and carries with it ambitions for the company to become an eco-friendly vehicle leader. With one body style and three electrified powertrains to choose from, Richard Gooding finds out how the all-electric version compares to the established class leaders.

What is it?

Hyundai claims the Ioniq is unique, the first car in the world to offer a choice of three electrified powertrains in one body style, making 'low- to zero-emission mobility accessible to everyone’. Unveiled at the 2016 Geneva motor show in electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid forms, the Ioniq takes on a wide range of rivals.

These number all-electric cars such as Nissan’s Leaf and BMW i3 to hybrid competitors including Toyota’s ubiquitous but very capable Prius. The Ioniq Electric and Hybrid arrive first and go on sale on 27 October, while the plug-in hybrid is due to be launched in the second quarter of 2017.

How does it drive?

The Ioniq Electric shares the same five-door body with its hybrid and plug-in hybrid relatives, and is a conservatively handsome car. Styling cues echo those shared by the Toyota Prius and second-generation Honda Insight to name but two, and although some may see the overall shape as hybrid ‘derivative’, the Ioniq boasts a very aerodynamic Cd figure of 0.24.

Additional aerodynamic efficiency is employed by front wheel air curtains, side sill skirts, a floor undercover and a sealed front end, finished in grey plastic. The front end styling may cause issues for some, but our Polar White test car – with matching white-painted alloy wheels – looked striking. Copper accents on the bumpers differentiate the electric Ioniq from its hybrid sister which features blue highlights.

Inside, the Ioniq is aimed at the more ‘premium’ end of the market, with soft-touch, leather-trimmed, and interestingly-surfaced plastics pervading throughout its cabin. Once again, copper accents (copper is an excellent electric conductor according to Hyundai) highlight the all-electric powertrain, while neat touches such as the seven-inch semi-virtual driver instrument display also hint at the car’s zero-emission nature.

The shift-by-wire single-speed reducer transmission sits atop the central console between the two front seats, and due to the lack of mechanical components needed for a conventional gearbox, frees up additional storage space. The whole car feels nicely built, and very ‘normal’ – something which won’t alienate new EV drivers.

‘Normal’ is one word which can be used to describe the driving experience, too, and that’s not to do the Ioniq Electric a disservice. The lack of noise aside, it doesn’t obviously feel like an electric car. Three selectable driving modes are available: ‘Normal’, ‘Eco’ and – unusually for an electric car – ‘Sport’.

The ‘Eco’ setting may limit torque available from the 88kW/118bhp electric motor – and therefore performance – but the car doesn’t feel too restrained, while the ‘Sport’ mode noticeably increases the amount of go available. More resistance is also added to the steering, which requires the driver to also add in more effort. Most electric cars are pleasurable to drive due to their instant torque and regenerative braking, and the Hyundai Ioniq Electric also errs on being genuinely fun to drive.

The all-electric Ioniq handles tidily enough and is enjoyable, too. While it’s no out-and-out driver’s car (and doesn’t pretend to be), its ‘sporting’ character was unexpected. Through the twisting North Wales test route, the car felt composed and stable, but there is also a degree of involvement, too, which electric cars often lack.

More surprising still is the fact that the rear of the Ioniq EV uses a torsion beam rear axle to save space and compensate luggage capacity for the room given over to the battery pack: the hybrid car employs a more complex multi-link rear suspension.

The four levels of regenerative braking work very well, too, and are operated by paddles on the back of the steering wheel. Performance is more than adequate, with 218lb ft/295Nm of torque helping 0-62mph coming up in 11.9 seconds, but Hyundai points to the fact that from 50-70mph – the ideal speed for joining a dual carriageway or motorway – the Ioniq Electric is faster than a Nissan Leaf.

What range does it have?

Use of an aluminium bonnet and tailgate help weight reduction, and make the Ioniq range more efficient. A range of 174 miles is claimed for the Ioniq Electric: that’s 19 more than the most powerful 30kWh Nissan Leaf, but slightly short of the 195 miles claimed by BMW for the recently-introduced 33kWh-battery i3.

For comparison, the similar-sized Volkswagen e-Golf has an NEDC range figure of 118 miles, while the smaller Renault Zoe does 149, but both of these are due for an upgrade in the coming months. In the real world, though, we’d bargain on an Ioniq Electric range of around 150 miles.

As with other electric cars, the Ioniq Electric has features to save energy and increase the available range. For instances when only the driver is in the car, the climate control system has a single zone ‘Driver Only’ setting, the system keeping the cabin temperature constant only in the area around the driver, therefore saving energy. Heated seats are also standard, and as most EV drivers will know, the heat from these is often enough to forego the use of air conditioning, saving yet more precious charge.

More obviously, the regenerative braking system has varying modes of severity putting more energy back into the battery when slowing down the more severe the setting is. This again increases the amount of charge available. There are also pre-heating and cooling functions which use less energy before setting off than when turned on while driving.

How long does it take to charge?

As well as three-pin domestic and Mennekes 'Type 2’ charging capabilities, the Ioniq Electric features the Combined Charging System (CCS) 50kW DC rapid charge socket. Favouring the European standard over the similarly-rated Japanese CHAdeMO system, the Ioniq Electric’s 28kWh lithium-ion polymer battery will charge to 80 per cent in 33 minutes.

Home charging systems and public charging points which allow the use of the Type 2 plug will refill the car in 4-6 hours, while domestic three-pin sockets will recharge the Ioniq Electric in 10-12 hours. Like the higher-specification versions of the Nissan Leaf, the Ioniq Electric is fitted with a 6.6kWh on-board charger.

Hyundai has chosen well-respected electric charging company POD Point as its home charging partner, with a discounted home charger available for £300.

What does it cost?

Whereas the Ioniq Hybrid has three trim levels, the Electric has just two. ‘Premium’ trim cars start at £28,995 before the government PiCG of £4,500, and unlike some versions of the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe, there is no battery lease, as it is included with the price of the car.

Equipment is high, with 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic dimming rear view mirror, automatic LED headlights, electric driver’s seat adjustment, electric folding mirrors, heated front seats, integrated eight-inch satellite navigation touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth/USB/Apple Car Play/Android Auto connectivity and Tom Tom Live Services, seven-inch LCD driver instrument panel, as well as wireless phone charging capability all as standard.

Move up to top-specification Premium SE (our test car’s trim), and automatic wipers, a Blind Spot Detection system, front parking sensors, heated rear seats, heated and ventilated front seats, leather seat facings, and a powered driver’s seat with memory function are all added to the kit list.

The only option available on both models is metallic paint, £565 extra. Safety is high on the Ioniq’s agenda, with both electrically-powered versions fitted with Autonomous Emergency Braking, Hill Start Assist, Lane Keep Assist systems. Premium SE cars also gain a – very loud, but effective – Blind Spot Detection system.

How much does it cost to tax?

As with all pure-electric cars, Ioniq Electric models emit zero emissions, so fall into cost-free VED band A. Benefit In Kind is just 7 per cent, which is just under half of the petrol and electric hybrid version.

Why does my fleet need one?

The Ioniq marks the shift in Hyundai’s strategy to produce more greener, eco-friendly models. The Hyundai Motor Group aims to launch a total of 28 'eco-friendly’ vehicles by 2020, by which time it states that the market for this type of car will have grown to exceed 6.4 million vehicles globally. The Ioniq is a genuinely impressive start.

A well-equipped, easy to drive and likeable car with more range and a comparable price to the current Nissan Leaf Acenta 30kWh, the Ioniq Electric has less divisive, more mainstream looks than its Japanese rival, and offers more safety systems as standard. With the South Korean company’s standard 5-year unlimited mileage warranty package (with additional high voltage battery cover of 8 years or 125,000 miles) and potential low running costs and tax, it should appeal to fleets who want to save money and do their bit for the environment.

Hyundai doesn’t see its new baby as an alternatively-fuelled car, but a ‘mainstream’ one. And that’s the overriding impression of the Ioniq Electric: it feels very normal to drive, doesn’t feel like a traditional EV, and, as Hyundai states, feels very much like a ‘mainstream’ car, or at least one which non-electric car drivers would be comfortable with thanks to its impressive range.

The commendable Ioniq is just the start of Hyundai’s green car ambitions – if it represents the shape of things to come from the South Korean brand, then there should be a quite impressive range of vehicles to look forward to.

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