Hyundai Ioniq Electric review
Hyundai's new Ioniq is the first model to be offered in a choice of three electrified powertrains - hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and full electric. Each has a different rival in its sights, with the Ioniq Electric tested here aimed squarely at the Nissan Leaf. Next Green Car was invited on the UK launch to put the new EV through its paces.
Review by Chris Lilly
When installed behind the wheel of the Ioniq Electric, one of my first impressions was that it wasn't as fast as it should be. With an 88kW (120hp) electric motor, the instant torque on offer from an electric motor usually provides plenty of get up and go when you put your foot down - and this didn't seem to be the case when compared against rival machines. When you consider that the Ioniq Electric is almost 100kg lighter than a Leaf 30kWh, and has 10 more horsepower at its disposal, this looked to be a disappointing aspect of the car from the start.
All is well though as Hyundai has added three driving modes to the Ioniq Electric - Eco, Normal, and Sport - and the difference between Normal (which I was initially in) and Sport is significant. The throttle response is much sharper and all of the power is available to the driver, rather than keeping a bit in hand to improve range. The result is that pick-up is quicker to the extent that Hyundai quotes two different 0-62mph times. Normal is dispatched in 10.2 seconds, while Sport is reduced down to 9.8 seconds.
As with many EVs, the acceleration times don't sound particularly quick, but it is the 'in-gear' acceleration that is most impressive. Shorter bursts like pulling away from the lights, nipping out of junctions, or accelerating from 30-50mph are completed extremely quickly, and the Ioniq Electric doesn't struggle at all in this regard. The Hyundai's electric motor has more than enough pulling power to get up steep hills or overtake on a country road. It's range also doesn't plummet as some of its rivals do when sitting at motorway speeds, making this a reasonable car to drive long distances in.
So if you need to get somewhere quickly, Sport mode is the place to be. Normal feels fine but unhurried, and Eco feels like a slightly laggy Normal. There is very little performance difference between the last two settings, with auxiliary systems the main features affected by Eco mode. All three have their place, but Normal proved the best pick for the majority of the time, with Sport a good 'Push-to-Pass' set-up, and Eco largely ignored - though would become increasingly important when range was tested to its limits.
Although far from a sportscar, the Ioniq Electric handles well on the whole. The suspension set-up feels a little stiff for expected customers, but not uncomfortably so. The feel is that the car is well planted, with all of the weight placed low down - which is exactly the case because of the car's battery. Grip is good considering the car runs on low-rolling resistance tyres, and you will rarely have the Ioniq Electric washing wide when entering a corner at speed.
The steering doesn't provide much feedback, but it is accurate and responsive, with the driver only needing to take one bite at threading a line through a bend. This adds up to a car that you can have some fun with - for example when driving around some excellent driving roads on the North Wales test route - but one that is more comfortable around town.
At low speeds, the car deals with urban roads well, and also settles down nicely on the motorway with bumps dealt with easily. Body roll is well controlled, with the Hyundai cornering reasonably level. It's no BMW i3 in terms of EV driving engagement, but it handles well for the majority of situations drivers will find themselves in.
Hyundai has eschewed the 'individual' styling exemplified by the Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius. Those models make it quite clear that you are driving a car with an alternative powertrain, while the Ioniq looks relatively 'normal'. Few would glance at the Hyundai and automatically think it mush be a car with an electrified powertrain, with only the Ioniq Electric's filled in front grille giving any hint as to its engine-free workings other than the discreet badging.
Looking grown-up and respectable, the design isn't going to drag in the crowds to the dealership, but they are far from insulting on the eye and the Ioniq will fit in with the family car market easily. There are enough touches to the design to prevent it from becoming boring, and the Ioniq has been styled with form following function largely, as it slips through the air extremely easily.
It's spacious inside with loads of room up front for the driver and passenger, and the whole cabin feels light and relatively spacious for occupants. The sloping roof-line across the top of the rear doors did mean I knocked my head climbing in, and said head was close to the roof lining once inside. Tall adults won't get the feeling of spaciousness but everyone else will be fine. Shoulder room is more than enough for two adults, and would likely be ample for three children too. Leg room is good front and rear and on a par with the majority of cars in its sector - EV or standard.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The Ioniq Electric is pretty refined, clearly helped by the fact that it's an electric car. That means there is barely a peep from the motor when driving, and when at any sort of speed wind and tyre noise drowns that out quickly. These other two main noise sources are well controlled though, aided by the previously mentioned low-rolling resistance tyres and aerodynamic shape.
The interior isn't an exciting place to sit in, but it's far from offensive. The car either has flashes of blue or the lovely copper found on some trim levels, which livens the dull grey dash nicely. The driver has a digital display for their instruments, one side of which can be changed to show different information such as range, speed, navigation etc.
The car does away with a conventional gearstick completely and uses four buttons - park, drive, reverse, and neutral - on the transmission tunnel. There is a nice wrist rest too which makes things more stable for your hand and adds a little bit of plushness to the experience. Although not a stunning interior it's not bad to look at, and everything feels nicely put together, the buttons and dials are easy to find and use, and it is always nice to have a dial with which to adjust the zoom on the sat-nav for greater accuracy.
Load space is good but not excellent - though this is to be expected considering the packaging requirements for the car's batteries. The Ioniq Electric's 350 litres of boot space is more than conventional rivals like the Ford Focus, but a little less than the Leaf. However, you have to factor in the two charging cable bags that come with the Ioniq Electric which will need to be kept somewhere - normally under a cargo net when the boot isn't being used. Usable space is good though, and access to the boot is excellent, with a fairly low lip and wide opening. There is under floor storage for a few bits and pieces too.
RANGE & RUNNING COSTS
The Ioniq Electric could seem a bit of an anomaly, with a slightly smaller battery than the Leaf 30kWh but a longer range. Headline figures from Hyundai see a maximum range of 174 miles (280km) from the 28kWh battery pack, with energy consumption at 11.5kWh/100km. These calculations incorporate the additional power regenerated from the car's brake energy recuperation system, which has four different levels of strength selectable by the driver.
Theory is all well and good but rarely works out in the real-world in terms of EV range. Unscientific as it is, personal experiences tend to be far more useful, and as part of a team of two drivers, our Ioniq Electric achieved a range of 130 miles on a single charge. This has plenty of variables to it, including the car being driven more aggressively than many EV drivers would, to test the car out in different situations. Also, the regeneration system wasn't used for a quarter of the time, and the route took in a good mix of city, town, country, and motorway driving, over a wide range of gradients.
I'm confident to say then that the range of 130 miles is a reasonable worst case scenario for the Ioniq Electric - with those reaching less either driving the majority of the time on the motorway at 70mph, or bizarrely thrashing their Hyundai EV on a track day. With more careful driving, 150 miles on a charge would easily be possible, with more to come from the battery depending on the driver and situation.
Hyundai have picked Pod Point to be their preferred charging partner, and launch models of the Ioniq Electric will come with a free home charger. Otherwise, the Ioniq Electric qualifies for both the Plug-in Car Grant and the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme subsidies. Running costs will be one of the best in class considering the comparatively long range and smaller battery than the Leaf 30kWh, while Hyundai's five year unlimited mileage warranty is included for the car, increased to eight years or 125,000 miles on the battery.
Charging times are par for the course for the current range of EVs. Using the CCS charging standard - which incorporates Type 2 non-rapid charging - the Ioniq Electric can be rapid charged to 80 per cent in 33 minutes on a 50kW CCS charger. From the mains on a three-pin plug, a full charge will take 12 hours from empty, while that is reduced to 4-5 hours on a public fast charger.
The Ioniq Electric is one of the greenest cars available according to the Next Green Car rating. This is obviously hugely reliant on the electric powertrain, but takes a number of other factors into account such as the excellent aerodynamics with features such as a rear spoiler, almost flat floor, and 'closed' alloy wheels. There are zero-tailpipe emissions naturally, while Pod Point's offer to new car buyers incorporates 5,000 miles of carbon offset charging.
The selectable four stage brake energy recuperation system means a significant amount of energy can be used to top up the battery on the move. Level zero sees the Ioniq Electric just coast along off the throttle, while levels one, two, and three, increase braking strength to the extent that three is the same as a normal press of the brake pedal. Get used to the system and read the road ahead and you will rarely need to use the brakes at all, switching up and down the regen levels to maximise energy capture and extend range.
Eco mode will maximise the efficiency of the air conditioning, and if there is only one occupant 'Driver Only' will target the air conditioning to the front right corner of the car. There is also a heated steering wheel and heated and cooled front seats available to reduce the load on the air conditioning.
Hyundai's new platform has used large amounts of lightweight materials to cut about 25 per cent off the weight of a normal Hyundai model's architecture. Likewise, Hyundai has used recycled or 'ecologically sensitive' materials in the cabin. Door covers are made from natural plastic combined with powdered wood and stone improving the appearance for example. Likewise, the carpets and roof-lining use materials from sugar cane, and paints with natural oils are used for the metallic effect components.
According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 22.
Standard equipment levels are very good on the Ioniq Electric. Base Premium trim includes 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, rear parking camera and sensors, automatic and LED headlights, DAB radio with Bluetooth and USB, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Eco features, Android Auto and Apple Car Play, wireless phone charging, keyless entry and start, seven-inch LCD instrument cluster, auto-dimming rear view mirror, regenerative braking selector paddles, Infinity sound system, and heated front seats.
Upgrade to Premium SE and leather seats are included, with an electric driver's seat and heated seats all-round apart from the centre of the rear bench. Also front seats can be cooled, while front parking sensors, automatic windscreen wipers, and alloy trim is added. Metallic paint is the only option on both trim levels.
The Ioniq Electric enters a class where there is already a fair amount of competition. Primarily up against the Leaf 30kWh, other possible rivals include the VW e-Golf, BMW i3, and cheaper Leaf 24kwh - along with the smaller but longer-range new Renault Zoe 40. Despite this competition, the Ioniq Electric is one of the best EVs on the market today, feeling more a bit more refined than a Nissan Leaf and able to go further on a single charge.
The price is still high but beats its rivals on range and equipment, while Hyundai has taken some of the best EV features and brought them together. An efficient powertrain means the battery isn't too large which would increase weight and charging time, it's mainstream enough to match the Leaf on looks and general appeal, VW's selectable regen levels have been brought in to improve efficiency further, while the interior is more than practical enough for most families.
It drives well and with at least 150 miles available on a charge, means it is extremely competitive in the current EV range war. Anyone looking at an EV should definitely consider the Ioniq Electric, and I'd expand that to anyone needing a family car that doesn't often cover long distances. The Ioniq is a serious player in the sector and gives established competitors plenty to think about.
Model tested: Hyundai Ioniq Electric Premium SE
Body-style: Five-door family hatchback
Engine / CO2: 88kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades: Premium, Premium SE
On-road price: From £24,995. Price as tested £26,795
Warranty: Five year / unlimited mileage - Battery: Eight year / 125,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.5 Stars
Updated: 20th July 2017