Hyundai Ioniq review: the Prius and Leaf rival

“It’s decent-looking and habitable, and, compared with the Leaf it’s a little quicker”

HyundaiIoniq 3

Do all green cars have to begin with i?
Well maybe Hyundai has more right than most to an i-name since it already sells the i10, i20 and upward. But BMW grabbed i-single-digit for its battery cars. Isn’t it, as Alanis Morisette would have observed, Ioniq.

Stop showing your age and tell us about the car.
OK, it’s a range of three electrified hatches: full-ev, hybrid and finally, next year, a plug-in hybrid. They sit on a new platform, not the same as you’d find under any other Hyundai, even though it’s about i30 size.

We drove two versions, the hybrid (white in these shots, with a transmission lever inside) and the EV (blue car, blanked-off grille, switches between the seats).

HyundaiIoniq 6

Is the Kia Niro related?
Good spot – Hyundai’s sister brand uses the same platform and powertrain as the hybrid Ioniq. But the Hyundai is lighter and slipperier – Cd 0.24, small frontal area – than the crossover-styled Niro. So it’s slightly more economical at 83.1mpg in the official test, registering just 79g/km CO2.

But is this hybrid powertrain grim to drive?
Not so bad actually. Hyundai/Kia chose to use a DCT transmission instead of Toyota’s twin-motor CVT outfit. Ultimate efficiency might have suffered, but not much, and the thing’s intuitive to drive. The transmission shifts seamlessly and picks intelligently from the six ratios. Power comes from a combination of a 1.6 naturally aspirated Atkinson cycle petrol (typical hybrid stuff) and a small electric motor which can drive the car alone for very short distances. It makes for very peaceful running at town speeds, and in the countryside you’ve got roughly the performance of a 1.6-litre diesel hatch, with useful mid-range torque as the e-motor augments the engine’s effort.

What about consumption then?
Hmm. In mixed driving, it hardly drinks less than a comparable diesel. Our three-hour route around Liverpool and Cheshire yielded about 50mpg (5.6L/100km). So the advantages over a diesel lie in better refinement, less tax and less NOx.

Other dynamics?
It’s quite good. The ride is pretty fluent, and the steering precise and well-weighted if numb. The flat front seats don’t encourage you into high-g manoeuvres anyway. The ride is supple, which is surely the priority for an eco-car. The standard-fit lane-keeping assist and radar cruise work well.

The cabin – roomy enough for families and cabbing?
Just about. The rear seat isn’t as big as a Prius’s but it’s OK. There’s lots of equipment too, and the dash has energy-flow graphics to help your eco-driving efforts, and it’s well-stocked with navigation and phone mirroring. But the cabin’s materials and mouldings, though accurately assembled, are seriously cheap and scratchy.

HyundaiIoniq 8

OK, sounds like the best regular-money non-plug-in hybrid for drivers.
That’s a small field, but yes. Also the Ioniq hybrid slips under £20k, and that’s £3k less than a Prius.

And the electric version?
Performance isn’t much different from the hybrid – slightly quicker accelerating to about 50, slightly more lethargic once into fast-lane speeds. And it’s smoother and quieter. The ride is softer and decidedly more floaty, even though kerb weight is almost identical. Unfortunately the steering on the EV version is horribly gluey and remote – a loss of precision brought about, I suspect, by its having a torsion beam rear suspension instead of the hybrid’s multi-link. That move was done to save space for the big rear-mounted battery.

HyundaiIoniq 11

How big?
Doesn’t matter how big in physical dimensions, duh, because it’s an irregular shape to fit under the seats and boot. In capacity it’s 28kWh – less than the new version of the Nissan Leaf, much less than the hi-cap 41kWh Renault Zoe. The test-cycle range is 280 kilometres, or about 193 real-world.

It’s fed by an on-board 6.6kW charger for its type-2 cable, able to graze from an AC wall box to recharge in four hours. It can even accept DC up to 100kW, for a 27 minute recharge to 80 per cent full. But there are none of those in the UK; the best we have is 50kW at motorway service. They do the same job in 33 minutes. Hyundai is partnering with PodPoint for home chargers. PodPoint is also rolling out an app-based payment system linked to many UK street charge systems so you don’t have to muck about joining loads of different schemes. That particular reduction in the headache of EV mobility couldn’t come a moment too soon.

So is the Ioniq a competitive EV?
It’s decent-looking and habitable, and, compared with the Leaf it’s a little quicker, and a little more roomy in the back and a little cheaper. Hyundai doesn’t have a battery-lease model like Nissan’s but for battery-purchase versions the Hyundai is a few hundred quid cheaper and better equipped – it starts at £24,995 including the zero-emission grant.

Even so the Ioniq EV is a bit underwhelming. The world of electric cars is moving fast, and it simply doesn’t seem like six years’ progress from the Leaf.

Author: TopGear
TopGear is the world’s best-selling motoring magazine. The Malaysian edition holds similar status, as acknowledged by the industry.