27.3.2017Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid review
When it comes to the family hybrid car market there are a few options available, but only one serious player. The Toyota Prius is the market leader, the model that everyone has heard of, and - now in its fourth iteration - is a well polished example of an electrified family hatchback. Hyundai wants a piece of that action though, and in the shape of the Ioniq Hybrid has a very good offering.
Review by Chris Lilly
There are few family-focused hybrids that are going to set the pulse racing in terms of performance, but the Ioniq Hybrid doesn't lack for power when called upon. The 1.6 litre GDi petrol engine is supported by an electric motor to provide 141hp and 265 Nm of torque when the driver puts their foot down. The 0-62 time comes in at 10.8 seconds before a top speed of 115 mph is achievable. As you might have guessed from those hardly scintillating statistics, the Ioniq Hybrid is focused on economy rather than performance then. It must be said that the Hyundai doesn't feel sluggish, and the car is helped by the use of a six-speed double clutch automatic gearbox. The Toyota Prius uses a CVT transmission which, even with 20 year's worth of development, still sounds harsh and feels slow under acceleration. The more conventional gearbox might be a tad less efficient, but it is far more normal and pleasing to drive. Off the line, the Ioniq makes good use of the instant pick-up from the electric motor, and feels sprightly up until 45-50mph. After this, the unit feels a little breathless for fast driving - which is to be expected considering its hybrid foundations.
I suspect that you will think the Ioniq's steering is light, the suspension soft, and the driving experience tailored for town driving. Well two out of three isn't bad, with only the suspension a bit stiffer than one might initially expect. It's no bone-shaker though and is nicely set-up for driving in cities, towns, and villages across the UK. The bonus of having a slightly firmer set of springs is that the Ioniq still behaves will on the open road, settling down and proving a nicer drive than many of its rivals. On the motorway, the Hyundai is surprisingly refined, and it holds its own on a twisting B-road - even if you're taking it of of its comfort zone by that point.
While its main rival the Prius is all sharp creases and futuristic styling, the Ioniq looks pretty normal - in a good way. It's not a classically stylish car, but the proportions are good, and the Hyundai isn't going to put people off with its design. The shape is predominantly function over form, with Hyundai working hard to make the aerodynamics as good as possible. That's why the roof line slopes off to a truncated rear. This is great for efficiency but not as handy for load space. The boot is a usable size, but loses out to more conventional hatchbacks which hold the line of the roof higher, allowing for a taller load space than is possible in the fastback-style Ioniq. It's more than big enough for day to day use anyway, and it is only when needing the Hyundai to be a load-lugger that you will be silently cursing the aerodynamic styling. Those of average height or taller in terms of male adults will likely be more vocal in their criticism of the roof though, as it is all to easy to hit your head on the top of the door frame while climbing in. Those smaller than about 5' 10" will have little problem however, and once inside there is plenty of head, leg, and shoulder room for most. Up front, there are no such issues about roof height, and the amount of interior space available is very good.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The seats in the Ioniq are comfortable and supportive, even over longer journeys. The steering wheel is of nice size too, it's easy to settle into a comfortable driving position, and the instruments are easy to read. There are a few cubby holes dotted about the cabin, and there is plenty of equipment on offer. All in all, the experience for both the driver and passengers is a good one, with nothing outstanding, but no faults either. The styling is a good example of this, with few likely to look at the Ioniq's interior and instantly love it. There isn't anything wrong with it either though, and the controls feel well laid out and solidly installed. Although conservative in design then, the quality hasn't been ignored, and there are plenty of soft-touch materials used on upper surfaces and areas that you will use regularly. It feels more grown up and more solid than the Prius, even if it's less interesting to look at.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
One of the key considerations when looking at hybrids is the fuel economy and CO2 emission performance - it's primarily the reason they exist after all. The Ioniq performs well, even if it does lose out to its extremely efficient nemesis, the Prius. An official fuel economy figure of 74.3 MPG equated to a real-world figure of 57.5 MPG after more than 750 miles in the Ioniq. That's a conservative figure, with plenty of motorway miles carried out during that time, and I saw averages in the low-to-mid 60's MPG when the Hyundai was in more familiar environments. As always, I try and drive in a variety of different styles, and in a range of locations too, so you can see that above figure as an easily achievable one, with better fuel economy comfortably achievable with a more cautious right foot. The CO2 figure of 79 g/km means the Ioniq Hybrid will cost Â£130 a year to tax under the new VED regime - Â£15 for the first year - since it qualifies for the Alternative Fuel Discount.
As you might expect, the Ioniq has an arsenal of green motoring features to help drivers out. The main one is the 32 kW electric motor, powered by a 1.56 kWh battery, that assists the petrol engine. The Ioniq is able to drive for short periods of time on electric power only, and the Hyundai will start off using only electricity until you either put your right foot down too hard, or the battery charge runs out. One strange feature of the Ioniq Hybrid is that you only seem to be able to use a third of the battery's charge. To the right of the speedometer is a battery charge gauge, split into three chunks of six bars each. I very rarely saw a 13th bar to indicate that there was more than two thirds charge, and equally as uncommon was the Ioniq dropping down to five bars. I understand that it's good to have a bit of spare capacity to accept additional regenerative charge, and to hold some charge in reserve for emergencies, but restricting the usable battery capacity to this extent seems a bit too limiting. Other green systems include the aforementioned regenerative braking system, which combined nicely with the conventional brakes to provide good feel and smooth control. A clever air conditioning system, recycled or ecologically sensitive materials used inside, and a suite of driving information screens and panels add to the efficiency drive, as does a lightweight platform. According to our calculations, the tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 30.
Standard equipment on the Ioniq Hybrid is competitive if not class leading. You certainly won't feel ripped off though, and there are plenty of goodies that come as standard on the Hyundai. There are three trim levels - SE, Premium, and Premium SE - and the entry level model comes with 15-inch wheels, dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, 5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with DAB/USB/Bluetooth, leather steering wheel, and rear parking sensors and camera. Standard equipment as you move up to the other two trim levels includes an 8-inch touchscreen sat-nav, heated steering wheel and driver's seat, keyless entry and start, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, Infinity stereo, automatic wipers, blind spot detection and cross traffic alert, front parking sensors, and leather seats.
The Ioniq is an excellent first hybrid for Hyundai, and really challenges the class leaders from the start. The Prius is ultimately more efficient but the Ioniq is a better car to drive, feeling both more normal and more engaging than the Toyota. Solid build quality, subtle looks, a drivetrain that is easy to use, and plenty of space for a family's day to day needs make the Ioniq Hybrid a real contender, especially considering the Hyundai range starts at less than Â£21,000.
Model tested: Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Premium SE
Body-style: Five-door hatchback
Engine / CO2: 1.6 GDi petrol engine and 32 kW electric motor / 79 g/km
Trim grades: SE, Premium, Premium SE
On-road price: From £20,585. Price as tested £24,185
Warranty: Five years / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars