The Hyundai Ioniq spans Hyundai’s eco ambitions, offering hybrid, electric and plug-in hybrid options, all based on the same overall car design. The idea is to present a “no compromise” offering, according to Hyundai, an “e” vehicle that’s driven by emotion and fuelled by affordability.
It’s a move to fend off all the hybrid players, most notably Toyota that rules the UK’s roads with the Prius; equally, the Ioniq has ambitions to disrupt models like the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3, presenting a fusion of good specs, practical dimensions and competitive pricing.
So is this the dawn of a new era for greener driving?
Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid: Design
There’s more than a passing resemblance between Hyundai’s incoming Ioniq and Toyota’s outgoing Prius. That’s because these cars are borne from the same fundamental idea: and that’s about aerodynamic efficiency.
Yes, all cars are designed to slip through the air, but when you’re stuffing a 3.0-litre diesel into the front of an SUV, it’s a very different ball game compared to designing a car that’s relying on using as little energy as possible.
The headline figure in the Ioniq is 0.24Cd – that’s the drag coefficient, which is used as a measure of aerodynamic efficiency. This is a figure that’s not too different to the Toyota Prius or the Tesla Model 3. Hyundai has designed the Ioniq to slip through the air without causing too much turbulence and that explains some of the design, like that high tail, with a rear spoiler forming a split in the rear window.
The Ioniq shows these aerodynamic design hallmarks, but is a good deal more conventional than the latest Prius, which we think is something of an ugly duckling. While the Ioniq isn’t the prettiest car on the road, it’s a look that has grown on us from spending some time with it.
The crease down its sides is vaguely reminiscent of BMW’s detailing, its flat bonnet is a break from the bumpy bonnets we’ve seen on a lot of cars recently, and its front grille reflects the styling of other Hyundai family cars. The frontLED daytime running lights have a whiff of Citroen DS3 about them, but they add a little fun.
That grille exhibits a trait of efficient cars: allowing it to close to change the airflow of the car when the engine isn’t being used. On the pure electric version of the Ioniq, the entire grille is replaced with a silver plastic panel and we actually like that futuristic look more than the hybrid.
Noteworthy in the design are the Ioniq’s doors. Not in terms of how they look, but in because they are a little thin, so you don’t get that substantive “Golf sound” when you close the door. That’s not uncommon on more affordable cars – Kia and Nissan suffer from this too.
Finally you have the boot lid at the rear. This has a split window because of that higher back, a look that’s becoming more common from cars like the Prius and Honda Civic. It looks better from the exterior than it does from the inside, where that split sits in your eyeline when looking in the rear-view mirror.
One of the small design details to look out for is the blue trim. Blue has become the colour of efficiency on cars and the Ioniq Hybrid gets blue trim in the interior, as well as on some exterior elements to emphasise this point. The Electric, by contrast, is highlighted with a copper colour, which we also really like.
Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid: Interior trim and spec
Hyundai takes a simple approach to trim and specification. It offers three levels of spec, called SE, Premium and Premium SE. The Ioniq Hybrid is available at all three levels, with the top Premium SE pictured here getting leather seats and an eye-watering number of options that would probably cost you the best part of £10,000 extra on your average German saloon.
Some of the interior of the Ioniq carries with it “affordable car” traits, with the occasional glossy hard plastic element. The plastic surround of the aircon controls, for example, will never be clean, as the black glossy finish will attract fingerprints and show every spec of dust.
It’s easy to point at the plastic trim of the doors or dash and say it’s not as well executed as your average Audi, but at the same time you’re not paying as much. With that in mind, sure, it’s not the highest quality interior, but the Ioniq isn’t aiming to be a luxury saloon.
What Hyundai does offer is leather touch points – the arm rest, steering wheel – and overall we think the Ioniq is better designed than some of Hyundai’s other cars, with a better layout than the i40, for example. Things are easy to get to and, for the most part, logically laid out.
The seats are comfortable, offering plenty of electronic adjustment. They also offer heating and ventilation at the Premium SE level.
The rear is a pretty good size, too, although doesn’t feel quite as spacious as the interior of the Prius, which might see the Ioniq not becoming the defacto choice of car for Uber and taxi drivers. It will be fine for most passengers; at over 6ft tall we were comfortable enough.
The Ioniq’s boot is reasonable, but the fairly high floor and sloping roof means you don’t get the sort of vertical height you do in an average estate, but there’s still some 443-litres of space before you need to start folding down the seats and that’s going to be big enough for your average family shop or weekend away.
Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid: On the road
The interior of the Ioniq is a fairly quiet place to be. One of the advantages of having a small petrol engine and an aerodynamic shape is that noise can be kept to a minimum. When the engine isn’t running, the noisiest thing is probably the fans for the aircon. Once you’re on the road, the noise from the rear increases somewhat. It sounds as though it comes from the rear wheel arches, and we suspect that things would be quieter with a boot full of bags to add some deadening.
Equipped with a 1.6-litre 105bhp four-cylinder engine, the message is that this engine has been built for efficiency. Making this a hybrid, there’s a 1.56kWh lithium-ion polymer battery under the back seat and a 32kW electric motor. This is all mated to a 6-speed dual clutch transmission. There are no options: this what the Ioniq Hybrid offers.
The system works in the same way as other hybrids do: it uses braking regeneration and surplus engine power to charge the battery, which then drives the motor. At low speed you can drive on electric only, switching to both on harder acceleration, or engine only when maintaining higher speeds.
Using a fairly regular automatic gearbox gives a positive feeling to the drive. It feels normal, avoiding some of the elastic delivery that you get from a continuously variable transmission (CVT). We tested the Ioniq Hybrid in a range of different road types and it delivers a smooth and comfortable drive.
Although the use of a 6-speed gearbox is aimed at dynamics, it’s not going to win any awards for speed. With efficiency in mind, the 10.8-seconds to 62mph is fast enough, and flipping to sports mode does make things a little more aggressive, switching the driver display to red – a little like the BMW i8, in a slightly more modest way.
That’s perhaps the best description of the Ioniq: it’s modest. It’s an economical car, giving you 83mpg with emissions down at 79g/km. That’s slightly lower than the latest Prius, claiming 94mpg and 70g/km, but the top spec Ioniq is the same price as the entry-level Toyota. Although you get that better gearbox which improves the drive, this isn’t really a car that sizzles. It will get you from A to B with a clear conscience, but it will never be your guilty pleasure.
Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid: Tech treats on many levels
Not only is the Ioniq a technologically advanced car in terms of the power supply, but it’s packed with technology for your safety and convenience too. This is part of Hyundai’s DNA, it’s what it does and at the bottom SE spec you get a lot for your money.
Everyone who buys an Ioniq will get dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, emergency braking assistance, lane assist, rear parking sensors and a rear camera. There’s more too: automatic headlights, tyre pressure monitoring,Bluetooth, a touchscreen entertainment system and a USB port are all as standard.
But given how affordable the Ioniq is, we’d be tempted to step-up a grade, where you’ll get keyless entry, heated seats, satnav, a boosted 8-speaker Infinity sound system and support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay – ideal if you’d rather use your smartphone to make calls, perform mapping and provide entertainment into the car, instead of Hyundai’s own system.
The top spec model mostly just adds blind spot detection, automatic wipers and a lot more leather, but still only for a fair £23k asking price. That’s what we’d call good value for money.
The Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid sets out a path for more affordable eco motoring, offering low emissions, high mileage and just about every tech upgrade you could want. All at an affordable price.
Roll that into the 5-year unlimited mileage warranty or the 8-year 125,000 mile battery warranty, and the Ioniq looks like a safe bet – plus it’s a better looking car, with a more positive gearbox, than the Toyota Prius.
Being designed for efficiency does come with some downsides, though, as does the pursuit of affordability. The price you pay is in losing excitement. The Hyundai Ioniq probably won’t turn heads, except for those nodding at your green credentials. Plus you can find nicer interiors elsewhere.
But with all that said, the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid presents an alternative option for those who want to clean up their motoring. With so many new launches pushing more efficient diesels or turbocharged smaller petrols as a solution to emissions, Hyundai should at least be complimented for taking a bigger leap.