As one of the biggest players in the hybrid segment, Toyota has dominated with the Prius. But, Hyundai's Ioniq offers an equally green product, without the science project looks. Can it offer buyers a decent alternative?
There's nothing that screams hybrid more than a Toyota Prius. In fact, it's so popular across the world that over 10 million Prius liftbacks have been sold since the car was first revealed in 1997. Hyundai wants a slice of that lucrative green vehicle pie, which is why the company has invested millions into this car, the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq. And, it's coming to Australia.
At first glance, it's not immediately obvious the Ioniq has hybrid connotations. Firstly, it doesn't look like a science project (the Prius on the other hand...) and secondly, it's available in three configurations that all look quite similar in appearance – a petrol hybrid, a plug-in petrol hybrid and a full electric model.
Hyundai has confirmed Australia will get the Ioniq in late 2017 or early 2018. While the variant is yet to be confirmed, we'd expect Australia to get the Ioniq plug-in Hybrid at the very least, and possibly the full-electric version as well.
If US market pricing is anything to go by, we could see the Ioniq plug-in hybrid come in at around the same price as the Toyota Prius, which retails for $35,690 (plus on-road costs). In some US states after government incentives, the hybrid Ioniq has a starting price of around US$20,000, making it around AU$27,000.
On the back of an international drive of the all-new Hyundai i30, we had the chance to slip behind the wheel of the hybrid Ioniq and the full electric Ioniq over a mix of South Korean roads.
In the flesh, the Ioniq is quite a handsome car. Its design features culminate to produce a coefficient of drag (Cd) of .24 that matches the Toyota Prius. The front end employs active vanes in the grill that can open to various positions to increase or decrease drag dependent on cooling requirements.
The full electric model steps it up further with a blanked out front end due to the reduced cooling requirements of the electric and battery running gear.
Around the rear, a liftback houses the car's LED tail-lights that sit high within the liftback structure. The liftback frame also houses a glass portion to help with rearward visibility.
With the measuring tape out, the Ioniq comes in at 4470mm, which is 100mm shorter than the Elantra (as a comparison) and 70mm shorter than the fourth-generation Toyota Prius. It's wider than both the Elantra and Prius (by 20mm and 60mm respectively) meaning that rear seat accommodation benefits from the extra width.
It's inside the cabin where Hyundai has gone for an upmarket look and feel. A sporty looking flat-bottomed steering wheel features a blue stripe to signify its green credentials. The same blue highlights are used around the air vents and seat trim.
The hybrid and plug-in hybrid models get a traditional gear selector with buttons surrounding the gear selector, but the full electric model receives a push button style gear selection system instead.
In keeping with the green theme, the door panels are produced with a mix of natural plastics, bio metallic paint and bio thermoplastic olefin (bio TPO).
The driver information cluster features a high definition 7.0-inch TFT screen displaying key elements like speed and driving efficiency. The screen changes to a racy theme when the vehicle is switched into Sport mode.
Infotainment comes courtesy of an 8.0-inch capacitive touchscreen that integrates driving statistics with satellite navigation and radio controls. It comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while also catering for wireless induction charging for mobile phones. An eight-speaker sound system also offers plenty of bass, working hand-in-hand with the DAB+ digital radio.
Up front there are two 12V power outlets, a USB port and an auxillary power port. Creature comforts include things like dual-zone climate control, heated and cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, along with front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.
Leg and headroom up front is great, but it's the rear that impressed us the most. There's a stack of leg and knee room, in addition to a flat floor. That extra 20mm of width over the Elantra means two adults can very comfortably fit side-by-side in the rear.
But, the most versatile portion of this car is the cargo space. Measuring in at 443 litres, the huge load space is wide enough to throw large items in. The second row can then be folded to increase space to a little over 1400 litres, meaning it's easy to fit large items like a bicycle without any dramas.
Powering the hybrid Ioniq models is a 77kW 1.6-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine that produces 147Nm of torque teamed with a 32kW electric motor that produces 170Nm of torque that's driven by a high-efficiency permanent magnet electric motor (the plug-in hybrid model uses a larger 45kW electric motor). The motor is mated to a lithium-ion polymer 1.56kWh battery pack that sits beneath the interior floor pan in hybrid and an 8.9kWh battery pack for plug-in hybrid models.
When working in unison, the petrol and electric combination produces a combined 103.6kW of power and 265Nm of torque, consuming just 3.4L/100km on the combined cycle for the hybrid and just 1.4L/100km for the plug-in hybrid.
Unlike the Prius, which uses a CVT transmission to handle torque delivery, the Ioniq hybrid uses an exclusive six-speed dual-clutch gearbox, which handles both the electric and internal combustion torque movement.
The reason Hyundai uses a dual-clutch gearbox as opposed to a CVT in this application is because it comparatively delivers more engine revolutions per throttle application than its CVT equivalent, meaning that the push in the back is felt earlier.
Much like most hybrids, the vehicle can operate in an electric only mode under light throttle applications that can be supplemented with torque from the petrol engine as required. There's also a Sport mode that offers more responsive driving and sharper throttle characteristics.
There is 50km of driving range in full EV mode for the plug-in hybrid and over 1000km of range for both the hybrid and plug-in hybrid when driven together with the petrol engine.
The full-electric Ioniq on the other hand has a driving range of 280km and is powered by an electric motor that produces 88kW of power and 295Nm of torque. Under the floor pan of the full-electric Ioniq is a 28kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack that offers both standard and quick charging. Using standard charging the car can be fully charged in 4 hours and 25 minutes. The fast charger decreases charging time to just 30 minutes (using a 50kW charger) and 23 minutes (using a 100kW charger).
According to Hyundai, the full-electric Ioniq is the world's most efficient electric vehicle. Measured in units of kWh per 100km (that's the amount of battery charge depleted per 100km of travel), the Ioniq comes in at 11.5kWh/100km, which is twice as good as the Kia Soul EV and Tesla Model S and almost twice as good as the Nissan Leaf.
The first thing you notice behind the wheel of the hybrid Ioniq is how light the steering is. It's not at the point where it's too light, but it is at the point where it lacks feel at both low and high speeds. It feels quite artificial, but that's the caper for a buyer looking at a vehicle like this that's likely to be driven in and around the city.
The use of a dual-clutch gearbox also has its downsides. While it offers a greater slab of torque earlier in comaprison to a CVT, you can feel gear changes when taking off in electric mode, which isn't as smooth as the type of take-off you get with a CVT.
These things aside, the drive is smooth and most importantly, very quiet. On take-off the buzz of the electric drivetrain is only interrupted when the petrol engine fires to life and offers added assistance.
Throttle response throughout the rev range is excellent thanks to the instant torque available from the electric motor. Then when prodded further the petrol engine will row through the gears to land in its optimum torque band. It can get a little thrashy when you get on the throttle hard, but no more so than a Prius, for example.
Dynamically the Ioniq offers a competent package. The ride is tuned to be soft and comfortable more so than sporty and that's fine for the package and chassis the vehicle is built around.
We weren't a big fan of the extremely sensitive brake pedal. It doesn't offer a linear pedal feel and the transition from regenerative braking to rotor braking means you need to step harder on the brake pedal to pull the car up.
The Prius suffers from a similar affliction, but the fourth generation Prius greatly improved this lack of pedal feel. While we eventually became accustomed to this type of feel, it's something we'd like to see ironed out before the car lands in Australia.
Our short drive in the Ioniq hybrid was supplemented with an equally short drive in the full electric Ioniq.
Fun isn't a word that would normally come to mind with a budget electric car, but that's exactly how the full electric Ioniq felt. The rush of torque hits hard and keeps pushing all the way through to legal street speeds. There's also an advanced multi-regenerative mode that offers the driver three different regeneration intensities using the steering wheel paddle shifters.
The system then allows the vehicle to generate power to be crammed back into the batteries for future use. With 280km of range, the Ioniq could do quite well in Australia given its size and quick charging times.
The Ioniq range comes with Hyundai's standard five year, unlimited kilometre warranty, but is also bolstered by a secondary eight-year warranty for the battery pack.
We came away quite impressed with the Ioniq. Both the hybrid and full electric versions offer plenty of interior room, they're loaded with technology and offer realistic driving ranges. There were a few things that could be improved – such as brake pedal feel – but we're excited to get behind the wheel of Ioniq when it lands on Australian roads at the end of 2017 or early 2018.