£22,000 - £32,000 Price range
79 - 150 MPG
Given the splendid models that currently inhabit the conventional range, the Hyundai Ioniq (Hyundai’s first real attempt at a hybrid) is worth taking notice of.
Seen here as a petrol-electric hybrid, it will soon spawn a Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) and a pure electric vehicle (EV) – allowing it to rival models such as the BMW i3, Toyota Prius and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
For now though lets focus on the basic Ioniq hybrid. Bold claims are not in short supply – the most notable being that this is the first alternatively-powered car that is actually fun to drive.
Key to this claim is the dual-clutch automatic gearbox. It is the first of its type, says Hyundai, which is quick enough to smoothly switch from petrol to electric power and vice versa. It also gets a sophisticated rear suspension system made of lightweight aluminium that helps it grip the road.
It’s in town where a hybrid really has to shine and the Ioniq appears to deal with the city just fine. It can travel on electric power alone for 32 miles and return decent fuel economy.
Hyundai says it didn’t want the Ioniq’s styling to draw attention to its green credentials and to the uninitiated it’ll seem like a normal car, but there are giveaways – such as the blanked grille and slippery shape. Inside, graphics explain exactly what the the hybrid powertrain’s doing, there’s space for four and a usable boot.
Blue seems to be the default colour for denoting eco-friendliness, which explains why there’s no shortage of it inside the Ioniq – where it takes the form of interior highlights on the seats and dashboard.
Touches such as the seven-inch TFT digital display – which replaces the conventional instrument binnacle – and the eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay help make the Ioniq look modern and you also get wireless charging for compatible smartphones and a driver-only setting for the car’s heater that helps save a few pence on running costs.
In early reviews testers reported that plastic quality is generally good, but there are cheaper materials to be found if you look hard enough. We’ll have more on passenger and boot space closer to the car’s UK on-sale date, but we do know there is space for four six-footers, a decent-sized boot and various cubbyholes scattered around the interior.
If you jump straight from a Prius to the Ioniq reviewers say the first thing you’ll notice is the Hyundai’s six-speed, dual-clutch gearbox. It feels the same as any other of its type in its operation, with the engine note rising and falling as you shift through the gears. It’ll come as a welcome relief to anyone who has been ‘lucky’ enough to sample the monotonous drone caused by a Prius’ transmission.
As in the Prius, you get different running modes to choose from and shifting from Eco to Sport changes the car’s character noticeably. Along with illuminating the rev counter in an orangey glow, power is increased and the transmission is more willing to hold onto gears. The steering is a little light for sporty driving (it’s ideal for town, though), but body lean is suppressed well enough to make the car feel agile in corners.
Another common hybrid feature is the Ioniq’s regenerative brakes. They slow the car (to recoup kinetic energy) when you take your foot off the accelerator, but feel more natural than the ones found in rival systems.
Comfort sits high on the Ioniq’s list of abilities. In town it can operate in near-silence – using electric propulsion alone – and its suspension is soft enough to take the edge off pothole strewn city streets.
It’s also a serene place to sit at low speed thanks to insulation behind the dashboard, thicker window glass and special film that’s applied to the windscreen. Though some testers say the engine sounds like it’s working hard at a cruise and that there’s too much road noise.
The Ioniq combines the power of a 104hp petrol engine with a 43hp electric motor, and the latter sees to it that the car has a healthy torque figure of 196lb ft. All things considered, the car’s 0-62mph time of 10.8 seconds is plenty to keep pace with traffic in town and should be a figure that’s easy to replicate thanks to the twin-clutch gearbox’s perfect shifts. Out on the motorway reviewers say acceleration tails off considerably, but this is a common complaint for most hybrids.
While UK fuel economy figures have yet to be confirmed, Hyundai tells us that its hybrid is cheaper to run than the Toyota Prius, which drinks fuel at a rate of 72.4mpg. The Ioniq should also hit Hyundai’s target CO2 emissions of 81g/km for free road tax – wait for the PHEV model and we would expect it to qualify for an exemption from London’s Congestion Charge.
Hyundai hasn’t tried to reinvent the wheel with its first attempt at a mainstream hybrid car, but it has tried to deal with the common complaints levelled at models currently on sale. From the initial reviews the company appears to have been successful – particularly when it comes to the dual-clutch gearbox that is reported as being a big improvement on the CVT fitted to rivals.
Elsewhere the Hyundai is harder to separate from its foes, but it’s nonetheless a worthy rival and one that you can expect to come with Hyundai’s superb five-year/100,000-mile warranty as standard.