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Car reviews - Hyundai - IONIQ - Hybrid

Our Opinion

We like
Standard spec list, acceleration in Sport mode, fun handling, good looks, fuel efficiency
Room for improvement
Inaccurate speed limit recognition, uninspiring acceleration, drab cabin colour


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19 Mar 2018


HYUNDAI has big plans for turning its line-up green, with the company announcing that it will have 38 eco models on offer globally by 2025.

For Hyundai, that means a mix of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, fully electric and hydrogen fuel-cell EVs. First up in Australia is the Ioniq – Hyundai’s answer to the Toyota Prius.

However, while Toyota sells both hybrid and PHEV versions of the Prius (the latter in overseas markets), Hyundai will also offer a full EV version of its Ioniq when it rolls out all three variants for a full retail launch in the third quarter of this year.

Until then, Hyundai has decided to do a ‘soft launch’ for the Ioniq Hybrid and has rolled out about 70 examples to some if its key fleet operators in Australia for evaluation.

GoAuto spent the weekend with the Ioniq Hybrid in top-spec Premium guise to see whether Hyundai has the chops to knock Toyota off its hybrid perch.

Drive impressions

Hyundai is taking a different approach to launching its latest model, the Ioniq eco car, by offering it to some of its bigger fleet customers first, before private buyers can get behind the wheel in a few months’ time.

Fleet buyers will give the company feedback on the Ioniq and Hyundai has the opportunity to then make some changes – nothing substantial – ahead of the wider rollout of the full range.

We have had some time behind the wheel of the Ioniq Hybrid, in Premium model grade, but in about August Hyundai will launch the hybrid alongside a plug-in hybrid and EV version, with each powertrain expected to be offered in Elite and Premium spec levels.

It’s difficult to assess whether the Ioniq Hybrid Premium offers strong value for buyers, as Hyundai is not revealing retail pricing for the full range until closer to the launch.

However, GoAuto believes the Hybrid will kick off from about $35,000 plus on-road costs, and that will be for the Elite grade, meaning the Premium tested here will attract a … premium.

The full suite of Hyundai’s SmartSense active safety gear, that includes autonomous emergency braking, as well as parking sensors front and rear, a reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, a sunroof, heated exterior mirrors, heated and ventilated front seats and a long list of other gear is standard at this level.

Whatever the price will be, the Hybrid Premium is packed with goodies and there really is not much missing. We will wait for a full comparison of its rivals’ spec levels when the full line-up launches and we have pricing.

But this variant is very well specified.

The Ioniq is a handsome car with sharp lines but the overall look is cohesive.

It is not overly wacky like its direct rival, the Toyota Prius, and aside from some appealing blue flourishes along the bottom of the front spoiler lip and surrounding the bi-Xenon headlights – not to mention the big Hybrid badge on the tailgate – you would be hard pressed to tell that it was an eco car.

Inside, the Ioniq is very ‘modern Hyundai’ with a dash design and layout that is not dissimilar to the latest i30 hatch and even has the same lovely leather-appointed steering wheel from that model.

Everything is well laid out and the 8.0-inch touchscreen is simple to navigate.

The current crop of Hyundai interiors have a sense of quality that some of the company’s Japanese counterparts have lost in recent years.

While we appreciate the red light and speed camera warning, the speed limit recognition was a little inaccurate on more than one occasion.

The cabin is bathed in dark grey – save for the light grey roofliner – which is rather dull, and there is a mixture of hard plastics and soft touch materials, while the leather-appointed seats don’t feel particularly premium.

It is easy to find an excellent seating position in the Ioniq, and despite the split glass tailgate, rear vision is fine.

There are heaps of storage nooks up front in the doors and centre console, but the central compartment is not huge and one of the two cupholders near the gear shifter is oddly shaped.

The Ioniq is a five-door, five-seater liftback and in the rear, there is a similar amount of space to other small segment offerings. Toe room is impeded by low-set front seats, knee room is ok and headroom is impacted by the sloping roofline, but that is for your 183cm reviewer. Shorter folk are unlikely to have the same gripes.

Seats are on the firm side, yet they are still comfortable and supportive.

Cargo capacity runs from 456 litres to the top of the rear seats to 1518L with the 60/40 split-fold rear seats folded and it is a decent amount of space for a small car. It has a full sized spare wheel under the cargo floor surrounded by nifty storage areas.

The Ioniq’s standard kit and interior is impressive and thankfully so is the drive experience. Annoyingly, however, it is fitted with an old-school foot-operated park brake. Whatever engineer decided that was a good idea for such a modern tech-focused car needs a good talking to.

Surprisingly, the Ioniq is not that quick off the mark. There are no 0-100km/h times available for this variant, but it doesn’t matter because it feels slow.

Usually with an electrified car, acceleration is pretty swift thanks to the instant pull from the electric motor, but not so the Ioniq.

Realistically, potential buyers of this car are probably not going to care too much about this, and it is far from asthmatic. It just takes some getting used to is all. Further up the rev range, the 1.6-litre petrol unit and hybrid system with a combined output of 104kW/265Nm is more lively.

And if you are in a hurry to get to your destination, then you can just knock the gear shifter to Sport mode, and notice an immediate difference. Sport mode really brings the Ioniq to life and gives it real punch off the line. You could argue that a Sport mode goes against the nature of a hybrid car, but we really appreciated the extra get up and go.

The transition from the battery electric system to the petrol engine at about 20km/h is not as smooth as some of the Germans and their plug-in hybrid systems, but the engine is hardly noisy and the Ioniq has enough insulation to ensure a relatively quiet cabin.

The steering in the Ioniq is nicely weighted on the heavier side and offers sharp turn in. Like the seats, the ride quality is on the firm side, but far from uncomfortable.

In fact the suspension set up – calibrated by the talented Hyundai Motor Company Australia team – appears to be tuned for sportier handling.

To that we say ‘job well done’, because the Ioniq is a surprisingly good handler, kicking into and out of corners with ease and producing a smile or two in the process.

Particularly when combined with the Sport mode, the Ioniq is a truly enjoyable car to drive. Lucky, because Toyota’s latest Prius is also a bit of a hoot to drive, so Hyundai is not left behind in this category.

In terms of fuel use, we recorded a figure of 4.9 litres per 100km in the Ioniq Hybrid. While this is off the pace of the official figure of 3.9L/100km, this included mostly city driving and some of that was quite spirited with Sport mode regularly engaged, so we think that sounds about right.

Again, we will have to wait a few months for the full range launch for a complete assessment, but the Ioniq Hybrid is an impressive offering, which bodes well for the EV and PHEV versions.

If Hyundai can bring the Ioniq Hybrid in at a competitive price – the Prius ranges in price from $36,440 to $43,900 plus on roads – then it should appeal to more than just eco-conscious fleet buyers.

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