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Our Opinion

We like
Electric’s improved range, extra power, vastly better dash, quieter cabin, slightly better ride, steering and handling, continuing choice
Room for improvement
Electric’s $3500 price hike, steering remains remote, Plug-in’s coarse engine at higher revs

Hyundai upgrades – and updates – its Prius and Leaf challenger with the MY20 Ioniq

8 Nov 2019



THIS time last year, we said the Hyundai Ioniq was competitive enough to mark the start of the electric vehicle (EV) revolution in Australia.


But 11 months on, we’ve seen the second-gen Nissan Leaf swoop in and glimpsed the future in the compelling shape of the Volkswagen ID.3, and suddenly the Ioniq wasn’t looking so hot.


Now, Hyundai has revitalised the model that first launched all the way back in early 2016 elsewhere with a facelift and tech upgrade that (among other things) improves the performance and range of the preferred Electric.


Are they enough to keep it – as well as the Ioniq Plug-in and Ioniq Hybrid – competitive in the 2020s? Let’s see…


First drive impressions


How can it already be facelift time for the Hyundai Ioniq?


Easy. Australia was almost three years late to the party, so the model that others around the world first experienced in 2016 received its mid-life makeover earlier this year. Makes total sense.


You know what else makes sense? The changes that Hyundai has wrought upon its plucky eco warrior. Stylistically, the changes aren’t too radical outside, with more-modish/less space-age nose and tail-light treatments basically summing things up, but inside the alterations are obvious and very welcome.


Actually, we never really thought that there was much wrong with the earlier interior, with its pleasant, logical fascia that could just as easily belong in an i30. But the big new (10.25-inch) touchscreen, simplified controls, cleaner instruments and fresh trim really lift things substantially.


There’s also reduced road and suspension noise intrusion, squarely matching – while significantly improving – the overhauled cabin experience.


We reckon, looking from the inside out, it’s clear that the Ioniq has leapfrogged the latest Leaf. And that’s before taking a turn behind the wheel.


The fairly brief and undemanding drive program consisted of the Elite Plug-in hybrid and Electric Premium. The former has seen no real mechanical changes in its transition to AE2 status, but there wasn’t as much noise, vibration and harshness this time around, while the powertrain seemed less coarse than earlier experiences.


It still feels like a relatively laden car that demands a lot of noisy revs for fast overtaking, while the steering remains vague and the suspension firm, but over the mostly smooth roads driving out of Sydney, the Plug-in seemed quantifiably better than before.


In contrast, the extra oomph from the best-selling Electric, combined with the substantially greater available distance between charges, leave a far more lasting positive impression.


his is a quieter and stronger car across the board compared to its sibling, providing ample performance at just a tap of the accelerator – especially in Sport mode.


The new ‘single-pedal’ regenerative-braking paddle set-up is easy and intuitive to operate, reducing the need to dab the brakes substantially (especially around town or in heavy traffic), and the Electric’s steering is, as with the Plug-in’s, less remote than before, but there’s still room for improvement.


The biggest takeaway from our fairly short drive of the Electric is that the redesigned, upgraded interior, updated safety (with full stop/go adaptive cruise control now fitted – though the entry Elite grades no longer have that function), greatly improved range, more stirring performance and more refined overall character more than makes up for the steep $3500 hike over the MY19 Ioniq equivalent.


In fact, we reckon the comparatively timid facelift betrays the significant amount of progress that’s occurred elsewhere within the AE2 series. We ought to be grateful Hyundai offers the choice, but like before, the Electric’s the one.


Since launching late last year, sales haven’t quite reached expectations, but now – even with the latest Leaf on sale – the Ioniq Electric’s time has finally come.

The Road to Recovery podcast series

Model release date: 1 November 2019

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