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First drive: Hands up for all three Hyundai Ioniqs

Three wishes: Hyundai’s Ioniq will be coming Down Under in all three electrified variants, but timing is yet to be confirmed.

Australian Hyundai Ioniq launch could be held back for full range introduction

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Hyundai logo24 Feb 2017

By DANIEL GARDNER

HYUNDAI is considering delaying the Australian introduction of its electrified Ioniq range until 2018 so it can deliver the hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric trifecta at once for a bigger marketing impact.

If it wants, Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) can take the standard hybrid version within months, but in confirming to GoAuto that all three variants would be coming to this market, chief operating officer Scott Grant said the launch strategy had yet to be set.

“It’s correct to say that the standard hybrid will be available first later this year, the other two models are coming on stream towards the end of the year or the very first month of next year,” he said. “The decision for us is whether we bring all three to market at the same time or whether we drip feed one after the other.” While Mr Grant said he would expect the initial variant to garner good degree of curiosity and interest from Australians, offering all three simultaneously would have a far bigger impact and more positive reception.

“If we could do all three at once that would be ideal,” he said. “I think that would make a pretty bold statement in the market. It might encourage the consumers and dealers for us to say we’ve come with a product that has three different variations of what are modern technologies in our industry.

“Would be good to bring all three and provide that choice.” Compared with other global regions and markets that offer government incentives for customers buying alternative-energy vehicles, Australia’s green car market is less active, but Mr Grant said he believes there is enough interest in electrified models to support all three variants.

The demand for a standard hybrid, plug-in and full electric Ioniq has been fuelled by long-standing hybrid models such as the Toyota Prius – a model that Mr Grant was involved with while working for the Japanese car-maker in a previous tenure.

“I think there’s three different types of customers,” he said. “That’s the key. Hybrid over the years, mainly through Prius, has done a nice job to create some sort of stability to the point where it’s no longer just a science experiment.

“It’s still not for everybody, but I think the technology has been somewhat proven.

“Each of the three segments is not huge in terms of the total mass market, but we think they are quite distinctive.” Mr Grant said the company was not expecting the Ioniq to be a runaway sales success from launch but would act as a tech showcase for the brand with slow-release benefits.

He compared it with the company’s self-driving systems that are in various stages of development.

“Like the autonomous vehicle, it’s going to take a long time for those things to be accepted in volume, but it’s a statement of what your company is capable of, that you can apply in all kinds of other ways and that’s important for the brand.” An Australian launch date, local specifications and pricing are just a glimmer on the horizon at this stage, but the standard hybrid Ioniq is likely to be the most affordable version, offering a 1.6-litre Kappa GDI petrol four-cylinder engine with 77kW of power and 147Nm or torque, paired with a 32kW/170Nm electric motor.

Running on a 1.56kWh lithium-ion battery, the hybrid can travel on electricity at up to 120km/h. With battery and petrol engine working in conjunction, a V-max of 180km/h is possible.

Fuel consumption can be as low as 3.4 litres per 100km.

The plug-in version uses an identical petrol engine but pairs it with a beefier 45kW electric motor and a larger 8.8kWh battery for up to 50km of pure electric motoring and the ability to charge the cells from a domestic power socket.

In both cases, the hybrids are equipped with a dual-clutch six-speed automatic transmission that eliminates the “rubber band-like” acceleration of other hybrids, says Hyundai.

Sport and Eco modes allow the driver to select the desired driving style, with the Eco setting for maximising battery or fuel use. Sport mode holds a higher gear ratio and combines the full available petrol and electric output for the best performance.

For the pure electric Ioniq, the battery is boosted to 28kWh for an estimated range of about 280km, a maximum output of 88kW/295Nm and a top speed of 165km/h.

In place of the hybrid’s gear selector lever are a series of push buttons that free up interior space, allowing a cubby for wireless device charging.

Charging the Ioniq Electric to 80 per cent capacity takes just 23 minutes when using the tailored 100kW DC fast charger, but AC charging is available with an in-cable control box, albeit requiring longer to top up the battery.

Pure-electric Ioniqs are identified by their grille-less front end styling, made possible by the lower dependence on cooling air in the absence of a petrol engine. The filled-in nose also improves aerodynamics over the hybrid pair for a friction coefficient of 0.24Cd.

Base versions roll on a choice of 15- or 17-inch wheels with a unique design, while the Plug-in is fitted with 16-inch hoops. For the larger wheel, Hyundai has shoed the Ioniq with specially developed silica Michelin tyres for reduced rolling resistance and boosted efficiency.

A number of exterior colours will be offered for the three variants, but Blazing Yellow is exclusive to the EV, while the hybrid has Iron Grey and Demitasse Brown all to itself.

On the inside, an all-digital 7.0-inch instrument cluster changes its appearance depending on the selected driving mode while complementing the central digital touchscreen that measures up 8.0 inches or 5.0 inches, depending on variant.

Connectivity includes TomTom Live services, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for higher spec cars, while an eight-speaker sound system with sub-woofer and separate amplifier are options that are yet to be determined for Australian packages.

In practice, the trio of electrified Hyundais work surprisingly regularly. A brief spin in the standard hybrid shows that combined petrol and electric powertrains have come a long way. The result is the closest we have experienced to piloting a normal combustion powered vehicle.

The experience is greatly enhanced by the decision to use a six-speed automatic transmission rather than the continuously variable transmission (CVT) like the Prius. With a more direct power delivery and natural gear ratios, the Ioniq hybrid requires no special driving adjustment..

We particularly liked the regenerative braking adjustment paddle behind the left side of the steering wheel. This allows the driver to select the degree of regeneration and its braking effect.

Our preference was the most aggressive setting, but the easy adjustment allows drivers new to the technology to get used to it slowly while working up to the most efficient level.

Another pleasant surprise was the sport button that has petrol and electric power working in unison for respectable acceleration.

The work of Hyundai’s engineers to concentrate on creating a serene cabin with low noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels is also clear, and the Ioniq cabin is calm and quiet when cruising an urban environment, but also relaxing on freeway sections.

Inside, the Ioniq is a good balance of typical Hyundai fit and finish but with a dose of modern that many customers will expect from a car that claims to take such a great leap forward for the brand.

The large digital display is high-resolution and easy to understand and we liked the touches of bronze-coloured trims about the cabin which Hyundai says is symbolic of the efficient electrical conductor – copper.

When leaving the vehicle, a summary of your trip is displayed in the central touchscreen – another nice touch.

Unsurprisingly, the drive experienced by the pure electric version differs little from the hybrid, albeit with a continuation of silent electric power when the hybrid version senses more power is required and intervenes with fossil fuel.

Unlike some full EVs that struggle to hide their large battery mass, the Ioniq Electric, with the battery bulk under the rear seat and boot, feels light on its feet.

Interestingly, the electric drive system sounds different to all other EVs we have driven. They have a consistent high-pitched whistle, but the Hyundai produces more of a whine and a catalogue of different noises not unlike an old Amstrad CPC 464 loading a cassette tape.

For drivers who can remember Amstrad’s original games console, the Hyundai Ioniq is a fascinating insight into the progression of alternative energy vehicles.

For those too young, it is a glimpse at a not too distant future that is most notable for its normality.

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