Hyundai IONIQ Plug-In review
Hyundai's IONIQ is a versatile model, that takes on a range of different rivals depending on its powertrain. The only model available in the three core states of electrification - electric, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid - it is the latter tested here. The IONIQ Electric tackles models such as the Nissan LEAF, the IONIQ Hybrid competes against the Toyota Prius, but it is the IONIQ Plug-In that we take a look at, and the model with arguably the greatest number of competitors.
Review by Chris Lilly
Powering the IONIQ Plug-In is the same 105hp 1.6 litre Kappa GDi petrol engine as found in the IONIQ Hybrid. It operates under the Atkinson cycle for greater efficiency, but the IONIQ Plug-In's unit has greater support from electric components, with a 45kW (61hp) electric motor and 8.9kWh battery offering electric-only driving ability and excellent economy figures. The combined maximum output is 141hp and torque comes in at 265 Nm - all of which is good for a 0.62mph time of 10.6 seconds. The IONIQ Plug-In is understandably tailored more to efficiency than performance, but the Hyundai doesn't feel like a died in the wool eco-warrior in terms of pace. The acceleration time is respectable, and also doesn't give an impression of the IONIQ Plug-In's performance in short bursts of acceleration. The natural torque of the electric motor means that in-gear acceleration feels brisk, and the Hyundai performs more than adequately for a family hatchback. All power goes through a six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission which has quick response times - and more importantly is far nicer to use than the Toyota Prius Plug-In's CVT system. It's ever so slightly less efficient, but the way the IONIQ Plug-In drives is much better than the rival Toyota. It can't match other rivals in terms of pace - the VW Golf GTE for example - but the IONIQ Plug-In offers reasonable performance for most.
The IONIQ range is not set up for driving thrills, and the Plug-In doesn't differ from that ethos. Hyundai has created a comfortable car rather than a dynamic one, so with that point in mind, the IONIQ Plug-In handles town and motorways better than a twisty B-road. There is a fair bit of lean in the corners when pushing on, and the light steering means that you can't thread it accurately down a flowing road. These negative points for fans of a hot-hatch though turn into positives when the IONIQ Plug-In is kept in its natural environments. The refinement on offer is helped by the near-silent electric motor, but overall the IONIQ Plug-In is a quiet and comfortable machine. The light steering helps make piloting the Hyundai through town a doddle, and the softer suspension set-up shrugs off all but the harshest of road inconsistencies. The Hyundai deals well with motorway cruising too, considering it's not a long family saloon.
The Plug-In is definitely recognisable as being part of the IONIQ range, with an understated yet clean design working well for Hyundai at the moment. It's not going to turn heads like a Prius Plug-In, but it depends on your point of view as to whether you see that as a positive or negative. Personally, I'm going to sit on the fence and say that both approaches to design have their merits in this market, but the IONIQ is unlikely to put many buyers off from an aesthetic view point. The hatchback design makes plenty of sense from a practical perspective too, though the fastback design does mean that the rear load space isn't as large as it might have been. Instead buyers will need to understand that the gently sloping roof before a truncated rear makes for an aerodynamic shape, and accept the resulting drop in boot space. That boot will take a decent amount of kit, and certainly plenty for day-to-day use. A weekly shop and push chair for example will fit in the back, though the floor is higher than you might expect because of the large battery pack. Holidays away will require careful planning, and those requiring lots of boot space are better off looking elsewhere. Further forward, the sloping roofline impacts upon accessing the rear seats - but once inside, there should be plenty of space for most. Shoulder and leg space are decent too, and to be used as a family car, the IONIQ Plug-In will present few problems.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The comfort focus of the handling translates to the car's cabin too, with the IONIQ Plug-In a good proposition to complete even long journeys in. The seats are comfortable and offer good levels of support. The driving position can be tailored to be very good for a family car, and the controls are well laid out. The interior isn't the most exciting on the market in terms of design, but it's intuitive to use and with a feeling of good build quality. Soft-touch plastics are used throughout, and the switchgear has a nice feel when using it. Displays are clear too, with a large central dial in front of the driver giving key information, with a side screen for handy tools. There
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
With this section, we come to a real strength of the IONIQ Plug-In's - efficiency. The official figures are quoted as 256.8 MPG and 26 g/km CO2, though as always with PHEVs, everything depends on how much you use the electric drivetrain. Still, the IONIQ Plug-In has one of the best electric ranges on the market, with 39 miles quoted as being achievable on a single charge. In real world conditions - and in mid-winter it must be said - I was easily able to achieve 32 miles regularly, and as much as 35 miles despite there being snow on the ground for much of my time with the Hyundai. The figure of 32 miles is essentially a worst case scenario, and 35-37 would be a reasonable target for nine months of the year, and the IONIQ Plug-In showed 37 miles each time I turned it on with a full charge. Fuel economy figures will vary with usage, but I easily achieved some excellent statistics. Separate trips of 36 miles used no petrol at all, 43 miles showed 99.9 MPG (as high as the trip computer will display), 60 miles indicated 98.8 MPG, 78 miles returned 92.2 MPG, and 90 miles showed 91.1 MPG. After a combined 211 miles, the score was showing 99.4 MPG, and after 367 miles, the IONIQ Plug-In's trip computer showed that I was covering 96.5 MPG. These are figures that will be very easy for a bank balance to live with, and although I charged when possible, there were regular runs of more than 100 miles when that wasn't possible. In terms of tax costs, the IONIQ Plug-In will cost nothing for the first year, and then the flat £140 standard rate thereafter.
Clearly, as a PHEV, the IONIQ Plug-In has pretty good green credentials. The excellent electric driving range is a significant attribute, but it is supported by other elements that help make the IONIQ Plug-In extremely efficient. Three driving modes will keep the Hyundai either in electric, hybrid, or sport settings, and there's an eco mode on top of that too, which limits throttle response, shifts gear earlier etc. There is the customary regenerative braking to help top up the battery when decelerating, and the IONIQ also boasts excellent aerodynamics to make it more slippery through the air. There is plenty of information available for the driver to see how economically they are driving, and an eco-driving score system can coach on how to best drive the IONIQ too. Owners can set charging times and settings to allow the IONIQ Plug-In to pre-condition and charge during off-peak energy demand, and there is the ability to see EV range and EV charging points on the sat-nav. Although not available when the car was first tested, Hyundai has subsequently launched an offer where new buyers can receive a free Pod Point home charger (where installation criteria are met). This will make it easier for drivers to charge the IONIQ Plug-In each day, maximising the use of the electric powertrain. A 3.3kW on-board charger will see the 8.9 kWh battery charged in a few hours from a home or public charge point, via a Type 2 inlet. According to our calculations, the tested has a N ext Green Car Rating of 32.
Levels of standard equipment for the IONIQ Plug-In are very good, with only two trim grades available - Premium and Premium SE. Included as standard on the IONIQ Plug-In range are 16-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights, adaptive cruise control, heated front seats and steering wheel, Infinity DAB stereo - with Bluetooth, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and USB connectivity - rear parking sensors and camera, digital instrument cluster, keyless entry and start, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav, and wireless phone charging. Premium SE adds automatic wipers and de-fogging windscreen, blind spot detection warning, parking sensors front and rear, electric driver's seat, ventilated front seats, and leather trim. Both a three-pin and a home/public charging cable are included with both models too.
The IONIQ Plug-In is a comfortable, efficient, and well equipped option in the family PHEV market. There is plenty of competition, but the Hyundai manages to hold its own niche thanks to the above attributes. It's not as engaging to drive as a VW Golf GTE for example, no quite as efficient as a Prius Plug-In - though it's close - but the IONIQ Plug-In offers a good middle ground between the two. It's also very good value, with prices starting at £25,000 after the plug-in car grant. That makes it the cheapest PHEV on the market and, when combined with the very low running costs, it is likely to persuade some into PHEV ownership that would not have previously considered it.
Model tested: Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Premium SE
Body-style: Five-door hatchback
Engine / CO2: 1.6 GDi petrol engine and 45 kW electric motor / 26 g/km
Trim grades: Premium, Premium SE
On-road price: From £24,995. Price as tested £26,795 (both inc. PiCG)
Warranty: Five years / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.5 Stars