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Car reviews - Hyundai - IONIQ

Our Opinion

We like
Choice, styling, space, practicality, ease, EV range, real-world Plug-in functionality, safety, aftersales care
Room for improvement
Too much road noise, Hybrid and Plug-in stiff ride on 17s, Hybrid’s comparative poor value compared to rivals, derivative dash design, dated styling, foot-operated park brake

Hyundai sets the people’s EV pace with the three-pronged Ioniq range

Hyundai logo7 Dec 2018

Overview
 
HYUNDAI has pulled a trio of compelling low-to-zero emissions vehicles seemingly out of nowhere with the all-new Ioniq range, and in doing so, in one stroke, becomes the first car-maker in history to offer a truly affordable mid-range electric vehicle in Australia. 
 
That’s the Ioniq Electric, but there’s also an Ioniq Plug-in and Ioniq Hybrid in descending order of electrification for those who don’t want to leap headfirst into a fossil-fuel-free future. 
 
And, so, for the accessibility, choice, packaging, driveability and ease that these important new vehicles bring, bold Hyundai must be applauded. 
 
Mark our words: this ought to be the start of the EV revolution in Australia.
 

Drive impressions

 

When it comes to truly significant cars, history tends to wear rose-tinted glasses and gloss over the foibles, defects or annoyances that all vehicles invariably possess.

Such things barely matter in the scheme of things. Not many people would pass an opportunity to spend time with an original Porsche 956, Ford Falcon GT or BMC Mini because of such trivialities nowadays.

 

It’s with this sense of perspective that we ought to assess the Hyundai Ioniq, because it may become the turning point in the history of electric vehicles (EVs) in Australia.

 

Flawed pioneers like the first Nissan Leaf have come and gone, but the Ioniq Electric seems to have everything in place to really make a difference.

For value, accessibility, functionality, practicality, ease, comfort, peace of mind and even dynamic enjoyment, this 230km-between-charges EV is difficult to criticise. If you want to take the leap into the great green unknown and like it, buy it.

 

We’re beginning at the top because the Ioniq Electric really is an impressive piece of kit.

Like a smartphone, laptop or tablet, if you plug it in at night on a regular 10-amp 240V home plug, it will be ready to give 230km of driving range, but find one of the burgeoning DC fast charger plugs and those recharge times can be reduced to as little as 45 minutes, or 80 per cent thereof in under 25 minutes.

And things will only improve with time.

 

Looking at the broader Ioniq range, Hyundai clearly followed the sleek liftback look of the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight in the name of aero efficiency, but the newcomer has an attractive and well-proportioned look all its own too, with just enough standout brashness to let your neighbours know how concerned you are for the environment.

This applies to all three models – from ascending order in price the Electric, Plug-in and Hybrid.

 

However, only the former’s interior is anything worth showing off, since its futuristic instrumentation and raised lever-less push-button lower-centre bisecting console bring any real sense of EV occasion to an otherwise everyday Elantra-esque dashboard design and layout.

Plus, only the EV ditches the others’ inexplicable ’50s Americana foot-operated park brake.

While the Ioniq’s safe, logical, useable and easily-decipherable cabin, with its ample space, sufficiently comfy seats (though only the Electric has driver’s lumbar support) and heaps of storage, makes perfect, logical, Vulcan sense, we did hope for a bit more flair in there.

 

Anyway, other issues abound such as all three Ioniqs suffering from too much road-noise intrusion as well as an at-times stiff ride.

However, the Electric (once again) is best of the bunch, even though it ditches the others’ multi-link rear for a packaging-focused torsion-beam posterior.

Conversely, all models offer a well-weighted steering, pleasingly responsive handling and solid roadholding properties, highlighting the extra work the Australian arm of Hyundai undertook tuning and honing the chassis to suit local conditions.

 

Where the trio of Ioniqs truly diverge is in their performance, though again, the Electric is the star, bringing a strong and seamless whoosh of near-silent, torque-filled acceleration that is the party trick of most good EVs and, without an internal combustion engine to lug around, it also feels the most planted when zig-zagging about.

Our only gripes are with the Electric’s regenerative braking system, which allows the driver to control the severity of slowing-down off-throttle via steering-wheel paddle shifters. They work fine, but don’t provide enough resistance for true one-pedal (throttle) driving, requiring normal braking to bring the car to a halt – and that can be a sudden, haphazard and jerky experience, as the pedal is very sensitive.

One for the facelift perhaps, Hyundai?

 

From $45K for the well-specified Elite and a keen $49K for the loaded Premium, the Ioniq Electric represents outstanding value, given its range and refinement.

Throw in its subtly EV-ish nose treatment, more advanced stop/go adaptive cruise (the others cut out from below about 20km/h) and a comfier, quieter ride, and it has to be one of our favourite cars of 2018. Go Hyundai!

 

After the Ioniq Electric, the Plug-in seems a little superfluous, though it does offer considerably better range as a result of that unique 1.6-litre direct-injection petrol engine kicking in after 60km or so.

If you require your Ioniq to travel more than 230km daily, then we can certainly understand the Plug-in’s case, particularly if you’re prone to range anxiety.

 

Furthermore, the latter’s mechanical transition from EV to fossil burner is impressively seamless, and obviously allows for many hundreds of kilometres of rural driving range in a manner that no EV currently can match.

The 1.1L/100km fuel economy is quite outstanding, but that engine isn’t so quiet or smooth, the 75kg of extra mass is felt in the slightly less tidy handling and the extra drone and unsettled ride coming from beneath would be shamed by a $21K i30 Go.

As would the general presentation of that aforementioned unremarkable interior. From $41K it’s still the cheapest plug-in going, but somehow it still seems a bit expensive compared to the Electric.

 

The same also applies to the Hybrid, despite its $34K opener undercutting the base Prius in which it aligns with from a powertrain point of view, from our experience the Toyota feels quieter, higher quality inside and much more progressive in its interior design (though whether you can stomach the Japanese car’s challenging exterior detailing might be another matter).

And, as with the Plug-in, the Ioniq Hybrid can be a boomy, bumpy place to travel in.

 

Overall, then, what we’re saying is that the Ioniq Electric exceeds expectations on a number of levels while the Plug-in and Hybrid suffer from refinement and value-perception issues.

We’re very glad that they all exist, as they underscore Hyundai’s laudably bold commitment to offering real choice for Australians, but only the pure EV soars high.

 

A brilliant achievement, it doesn’t even have that many sore points when historians look back at this crucial point of change.


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