30.8.2019Hyundai Ioniq Electric first drive
Hyundai's Ioniq Electric has long been one of the most efficient EVs in the market. However, in the past couple of years, it had been left behind in the outright range stakes by a number of rivals. Now though, a battery upgrade has seen it make up some ground. NGC attended the car's launch in Amsterdam.
Review by Chris Lilly
The Ioniq Electric's motor has received a small boost, taking the power rating up from 88 kW to 100 kW. It's not a large increase, but it keeps the Ioniq Electric roughly in line with rival models, such as Nissan's Leaf. It sees a 0-62mph time of 9.9 seconds available, and a top speed of 103mph. As with all EVs, the Ioniq feels quicker than that in the real world, with a responsive throttle and punchy motor seeing short bursts of acceleration dispatched quickly. The Ioniq Electric is sprightly enough in Normal mode, but when put into Sport mode, it gets really quite nippy. It works brilliantly around town, but doesn't run out of breath at motorway speeds either. However, rival models feel a bit more comfortable at higher speeds, thanks to a little extra power. On the open roads of the Dutch countryside, the Ioniq Electric performed well, and always had plenty of performance to offer. Eco mode throttles back the responsiveness, but unless you are pushing the range to its limits, it's probably worth ignoring it until really required, sticking with the more engaging drive offered by Normal and Sport settings.
Driven on roads so smooth they put the UK's patched up bits of tarmac to shame, the Ioniq Electric felt very refined. That said, the worst it had to deal with was a stretch of cobbles outside the hotel, so we can't judge the ride too accurately from this first drive. It feels similarly set-up to previously though, as Hyundai has carried over the springs from before. It sees a relatively supple suspension set-up countered by a low centre of gravity, creating a ride that is good, if not superb. The result is a safe but not very engaging drive, and one that, like the performance characteristics, are well suited to day-to-day driving. Pottering around built up areas or stretching its legs on country roads and motorways, the Ioniq Electric rides well, and irons out imperfections in the road - the few we encountered anyway. It's steering is quite numb, lacking in feel and feedback, but accurate enough to see it piloted confidently through tight gaps. In Amsterdam and a multi-storey car park, there were no worries that you weren't sure where the car was or where it was going accurately, so the precision in the steering is there, even if it's a little remote.
The core shape and design for the new Ioniq Electric remains, though the front and rear have both been given a bit of a spruce up. The grille sees the most obvious set of changes carried out; where once it was smooth, it is now textured with a wavy chevron design. There are two new air flaps too, which can open up when additional cooling is required for the powertrain, or closed off to improve aerodynamics. There are new LED headlights and running lights up front, plus the rear light clusters have been redesigned to incorporate the new LED signature. Other than that, visually the Ioniq Electric looks the same as before. The changes are slight, but noticeable enough to make a clear distinction between older and newer versions. As the body shape is identical to before, the same levels of interior space are found. An aerodynamic fastback shape means there are a few compromises to be made in terms of practicality, though they should be nothing so large as to put buyers off - it's just other models in the same class offer a little more practicality. The boot goes back a fair way to the rear seats, and is a good shape, but there isn't much depth to it. With a sloping window line, there's not much potential to pack a huge amount of kit in, but it will deal with day-to-day tasks well enough. A pushchair, food shop, or luggage for a break away will fit fine, though big trips away requiring lots of kit will be more of a struggle. The rear occupants are similarly affected, with taller passengers feeling the roof lining brush the top of their head. There's a reasonable amount of leg space though, and kids in the rear will have no issues. Up front, occupants will have the space expected of a family-sized hatch.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The other big set of visual changes comes in the cabin, with Hyundai's latest 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system dominating the centre console. It's large, features high quality graphics, and works well, with a set of touch sensitive buttons to switch quickly between menus. Although the physical buttons of before tend to be easier to use, these new ones are spaced out well, and aren't as fiddly to use as some other manufacturers' efforts. The loss of a rotary dial to zoom in and out of the map is lamented by me though. On the other hand, Hyundai has added a number of new features, including BlueLink, which allows drivers a connected car system. The previous Ioniq Electric didn't have an app to control charging, pre-conditioning, or any of the other connected functions that most EVs offer. Hyundai has changed this now, and the set-up looks to work well during our brief test of it. The temperature controls have been brought into the same console as the touchscreen system - though operate separately - which improves the look but reduces usability compared to the previous set-up. Drivers get a large digital instrument cluster, and a nicely-sized and styled steering wheel, plus the controls on the transmission tunnel to select drive, drive mode, seat heating/ventilation, and camera views. They fall easily to hand, and the physical buttons that are in the cabin feel good to use. The seats proved comfortable during a day's driving, and the quality of materials used is good, if not of the most exciting variety.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The most important improvement for many drivers is the increase in driving range offered from the Ioniq Electric. Where the old model had an official NEDC range of 174 miles on a single charge, this was based on the old test system and was nigh on impossible to achieve. Running one on test previously saw a realistic target of 100-120 miles on a charge depending on route, terrain, and weather conditions. This new model sees a WLTP-derived range of 194 miles on a charge, which is a significant increase on the old model's offering. Although not able to push the range fully on the test drive, we've found WLTP figures to be a realistic aim as to what is possible in terms of EV ranges. I would expect day-to-day driving to take around 5-10 miles of range off this figure, but 180+ miles on a charge is expected to be a comfortable baseline, and the official range should be reachable without much effort. A calculated range for our drive - which took us from the centre of Amsterdam, out via the motorway, to a base in the middle of the countryside - is more than 200 miles on a charge, based on an efficiency figure of 11.7 kWh/100km. A 79 mile route used 38% charge, which works out as 208 miles on a charge. Using either the trip computer's 203 mile average, or the extrapolated battery percentage figure, 200 miles is a reasonable (and very good) range for a run using a variety of driving routes on a summer's day.
The 38.3 kWh battery is the big green feature for the Ioniq Electric, with the new battery benefiting from work on the cells' energy density as the battery from the Kona Electric doesn't fit the Ioniq's platform. Just as important to drivers though is the new regenerative braking system, which does come from the Kona Electric, and includes different levels of braking strength from the motor. It ranges from coasting at one end, to strong braking at the other, and by holding the left hand paddle, it will bring the car to a complete stop. It's a good system, though can prove tough to achieve a smooth stop in slow traffic when using the paddles. Most of the time it's extremely smooth though, and it can really boost the car's efficiency. Also aiding efficiency is the previously mentioned aerodynamic shape and front air flaps, while low rolling resistance tyres and aerodynamic alloys help further. Driving modes can be switched between Sport, Normal, Eco, and Eco+, and pre-conditioning can be altered from the user's phone, reducing drain on the car's battery. Charging is carried out via the CCS inlet on the car's rear flank, and the on-board charger is 7.2 kW for AC charging. Overall, it's one of the most efficient EVs on the market.
Equipment levels are good for the sector, and about what you would expect for an EV. The Ioniq Electric comes in either Premium or Premium SE trim, with the first including elements such as 16-inch alloys, automatic LED headlights, the new 10.25-inch touchscreen system with smartphone and BlueLink integration, a wireless phone charger, heated leather steering wheel, heated front seats, climate control, rear parking sensors, smart cruise control, and keyless entry and start. Premium SE adds privacy glass, leather seats, heated and ventilated front seats with heated rear seats, electric driver's seat, automatic wipers, and increased safety kit. It includes a no-cost option of two colours, and offers the cost option of a sunroof.
The Ioniq Electric was always an extremely efficient car and a good EV. It has built upon those foundations, and although I feel the front end is not quite as nice to look at, and the touchscreen system a little more fiddly to use, the improvements across the board more than make up for that. The range now available keeps the Ioniq Electric in the mix with the likes of the Leaf, Renault's Zoe, and forthcoming rivals from Peugeot, Vauxhall, and DS. It's also around £500 less than the equivalent Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid thanks to the Plug-in Car Grant, so should attract a fair few buyers into EV ownership. Hyundai has taken a very good EV and improved it further.
Model tested: Hyundai Ioniq Electric Premium SE
Body-style: Family hatchback
Engine / CO2: 100 kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades: Premium, Premium SE
On-road price: From £29,450 Price as tested: £31,450 (both inc. PiCG)
Warranty: Five years / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: September 2019
Review rating: 4.5 Stars