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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
Hyundai claims the Ioniq is unique, the first car 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, from 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 are now on sale, while the plug-in hybrid is due to be launched in the second quarter of 2017.
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, 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, and leather-trimmed surfaces featuring throughout its cabin. Once again, copper accents (copper is an excellent electric conductor according to Hyundai) highlight the all-electric powertrain. 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, but the Hyundai Ioniq Electric also errs on being genuinely fun to drive.
The Ioniq Electric handles tidily enough and is enjoyable, too. While it’s no driver’s car, 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.
Use of an aluminium bonnet and tailgate help weight reduction, and make the Ioniq family 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. 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. The regenerative braking system has varying modes of severity putting more energy back into the battery when slowing down which again increases the amount of charge available.
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. 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 four-six hours, while domestic three‑pin sockets will recharge the Ioniq Electric in 10-12 hours. Like higher‑specification versions of the Nissan Leaf, the Ioniq Electric is fitted with a 6.6kWh on-board charger. Hyundai has chosen electric charging company POD Point as its home charging partner.
Two Ioniq Electric models are available. ‘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, 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 and automatic wipers, a Blind Spot Detection system, front parking sensors, and heated rear seats are added to the kit list. Safety is high on the Ioniq’s agenda, with Autonomous Emergency Braking, Hill Start Assist, and Lane Keep Assist systems fitted as standard.
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 seven per cent, which is just under half of the petrol and electric hybrid version.
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. The Ioniq is a genuinely impressive start: it’s a well‑equipped, easy to drive and likeable car with more range and a comparable price to the Nissan Leaf Acenta 30kWh. With the South Korean company’s standard five‑year unlimited mileage warranty package (with additional high voltage battery cover of eight years or 125,000 miles) and potential low running costs and tax, it will appeal to eco‑friendly fleets who want to save money.
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 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. The very likeable and 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.