If you’re shopping for a hybrid car, you need to put Hyundai’s Ioniq on your list.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Pricing: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq
Base price (Limited trim): $29,749
Price as tested: $29,749
Haven’t heard of the Hyundai Ioniq? You’re not alone. A lot of people asked me what I was driving that week. And a lot of people I’ve talked to about hybrids since then are surprised to hear that Hyundai has a new hybrid car. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. Because the Ioniq platform has three electrified powertrains – a hybrid (which I review here), a plug-in hybrid and a pure electric car.
Hyundai says its designers gave the car’s futuristic character a nod when it came to the exterior styling. That’s a bit rich, I’d say, but what they did do is craft a sleek, fluid hatchback that is a good looking hatchback. Essentially the Ioniq has the same kind of profile and roofline as the original Toyota Prius had, but the Ioniq is more attractive in every way.
The signature Hyundai hexagon grille works well here, and the LED driving lights are very eye-catching. I liked the 17-inch rims, and also the fact that they come with some serious rubber – finding 225/45s on a hybrid is unusual.
All in all, it’s a nicely packaged car that doesn’t seem to scream “I’m a hybrid” and that’s what I really liked about it. And of course the Cafe Brown colour. I mean, LOOK AT IT! Such a great colour.
The normalcy, so to speak, continues inside. Hyundai’s cleanly styled cabin is a relief to be honest. When I’m driving a Prius, there’s always the feeling that the engineers and designers set out to do absolutely everything different, whether it makes sense or not. It’s the opposite here. And I love that. It’s easy to look at, easy to live with. Hyundai gives the Ioniq a decent selection of materials, with a soft-touch dash and door panels.
The gauge cluster will feel familiar if you’ve been in a Hyundai recently, although they add the hybrid power gauge. The Ioniq gets a great heated steering wheel – it’s fat, grippy and even looks terrific with its racer-boy flat bottom. The comfortable heated seats look great – they are upholstered in leather with contrasting stitching – and are quite well bolstered too.
Front and centre is a 7-inch touchscreen that handles audio system, phone and plenty of hybrid driving information. Apple Carplay and Android Auto are part of the deal, and work very well here and nicely augment a well thought-out user interface. There’s a dual-zone automatic climate control system with a driver-only setting to help you save a bit of energy, and a sunroof overhead.
The Limited trim I reviewed has a solid set of driver assistance technologies – rear-view camera with rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
The heated seats are comfortable but I was a little surprised at the amount of room in the back seats, and not in a good way. I’m 5’10” and head room was tight for me. The leg room was adequate. There’s a bit of a hump on the floor, but our three kids were fine for space in the back.
The middle seatback folds down to become an armrest with a couple of cupholders but that’s about it for convenience – there aren’t even air vents until you step up to the top-trim package, which is a bit strange. You get two sets of LATCH anchors if you need to secure kids’ seats.
I liked the open rubberized bin at the bottom of the console which includes two 12V plugs, a USB and an auxiliary port as well as Qi wireless charging for smart phones. There are plenty of additional little slots and bins around the cabin to put your stuff, and there’s another USB plug in the carpeted bin under the armrest lid.
The real win is the large 750L trunk, which you can make even bigger by folding the rear seats down. They split 60/40 and actually fold flat, which is awesome for a hybrid. Hyundai achieves this by putting the battery under the floor and I appreciate that I didn’t need to compromise cargo space because I was driving a hybrid.
Under the Hood
Hyundai’s hybrid powertrain pairs a 1.6L 4-cylinder engine with an electric motor rated at a combined system 139 HP and 195 lb.ft of torque. The front wheels get their power through a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The Ioniq hybrid is rated at 4.3 L/100 km in the city and 4.4 L/100 km on the highway. We averaged an incredible 5 L/100 km (47 US mpg) during our week with it, which included plenty of freeway driving (it gets better fuel economy during city driving) and no attempts whatsoever to drive economically.
The whole “conventional” aspect of the Ioniq continues to the driving experience, and that is perhaps the best thing I can say about it. Other hybrids always seem to ask you to compromise in one department or another when it comes to your experience behind the wheel. Not the Ioniq.
I have lamented the wimpiness of some other smaller hybrid cars in the past. Not so with the Ioniq. It’s perfectly fine for everyday driving and never feels like an underpowered car. You can also put it into Sport mode, which holds on to gears longer and uses more electric power to make the Ioniq more responsive. “Responsive?”, you ask? Yout bet – it’s got some serious get up and go and will cheerfully chirp the tires as it takes off with surprising gusto. You can also shift gears manually. By the way, the dual-clutch transmission is a class exclusive feature – any other hybrid in this category will come with a CVT. Which is no fun.
Of course, many people shopping for this vehicle care about fuel economy more than other things, and on that note, the car can be driven very efficiently without effort. As a matter of fact, I would often find myself sailing down the freeway at 80-90 km/h in full electric mode. But it’s nice to know that you get great driving performance without compromise.
The ride is fine, as is the handling. The steering is numb, but even so, this car feels infinitely more engaging to drive than a Prius. The car was mostly quiet when it comes to road noise and wind noise, although you will hear the engine a bit when you make your way through the gears.
I need to talk about visibility out of the Ioniq, which was one of very few sore spots for me. There are some very significant blind spots, and it’s a good thing this car has blind-spot monitoring – it’s one of the few vehicles that really needs it. Also, the fact that the silhouette mimics the original Prius’ means that it also includes the high shoulders and vertical portion of the rear end. Which requires part of the vertical plane on the tail gate to have a window. While that’s not terribly obvious from the outside, it completely bisects your rear visibility and I never got used to it during my week with it. It’s not a deal breaker, but I wish it weren’t this way.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was quite high. She’s a fan of wagons and hatchbacks, and the styling appealed to her. I asked her to think of the Ioniq as a direct competitor to the Priuses we’ve driven in the past and she quickly said it’s better than all of those in every way. I have to agree.
I love that Hyundai was able to package a slick hybrid powertrain in a body that doesn’t come across as weird. The Prius always looks weird to me, and it’s getting weirder with each generation. Hyundai seems to be fine with making a car that feels conventional in every way, inside and out, yet ekes the most out of every drop of fuel. And I’m good with that.
If you want to take things further in terms of stretching those drops of fuel further, the Ioniq plug-in hybrid gives you an estimated 40 km of full electric range, and the all-electric version has an estimated 200 km range.
Thanks for making a car that’s easy to look at, easy to drive and easy to live with, Hyundai. Oh yeah, and thanks for pricing it reasonably and allowing it to get 5 L/100 km. I’m good with all of that.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Hyundai Canada.
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