Hyundai Ioniq Hatchback (2016 - ) review
The Ioniq is the first car in the world to be launched with three different electrified powertrains. Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf owners should definitely take note.The Auto Trader expert verdict: 3.6 The Ioniq is the most convincing challenger to the market leading Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf thus far, and in many respects, it’s a better proposition than both those cars. While the Hybrid Ioniq is more enjoyable to drive and has a plusher interior than the Prius, much of the same praise can be levelled at the all-electric Ioniq, which also offers stronger performance and a greater range than the Leaf.
Because of the way hybrids and electric vehicles operate, the Ioniq will still have limited appeal to long-distance commuters – those folk will definitely be better served by diesel power – but for urbanites and Uber cab drivers, the Ioniq could usher in an exciting new dawn.
- Low tax implications
- Well equipped
- Standard automatic gearbox
- Inconsistent steering and stodgy handling
- Unsettled ride
- Limited EV range in cold conditions
At a glance
The Ioniq is by no means unique in having an exterior design influenced by countless hours spent in the wind tunnel. However, it can’t be over-emphasised just how critical a drag-cheating profile is when trying to wring every last inch out of an electric vehicle’s range.
As it has no radiators to cool, the Electric Ioniq has a blank frontal area, which in addition to aerodynamic wheels, sleek headlight clusters and a horizontal tailgate beset with rear-lip spoilers (you may well notice a resemblance to the Toyota Prius here) are all aimed at minimising drag.
The Hybrid Ioniq shares the same aerodynamic body design, albeit with a more traditional grilled front end, but it also has controllable air intakes behind the grille. These remain closed at start-up to bring the petrol engine up to operating temperature more quickly, and to help the air flow more smoothly over the front of the car.
The Ioniq’s cabin quality is respectable rather than exceptional. There are plenty of soft touch materials about the place, but just as many areas populated by hard, grainy plastic mouldings, and a lot of the switchgear feels quite cheap. It’s not in the same quality ballpark as a Volkswagen e-Golf, for example.
The dashboard design is neat, sophisticated and well laid out, but apart from the digital instrument cluster and some quirky coloured plastics, there’s nothing particularly whacky about the Ioniq’s cabin. This will be a positive for some drivers, and a negative for others.
The EV and Hybrid have different centre console designs: the EV uses buttons to select drive as opposed to the traditional transmission shifter found in the Hybrid, and the EV features copper coloured accents rather than the blue of the Hybrid.
There’s ample space up front, and rear leg- and elbow-room are pretty decent. However, the Ioniq’s drag-cheating shape and plunging roof line, plus the battery pack located under the rear seat, means headroom is a little on the snug side in the back.
Although boot space in the hybrid version is more-than-reasonable at 443-litres, the load bay itself is rather shallow. If you want to carry anything bulky, you’ll need to roll back the load cover, or fold down the rear seats, leaving your goods in plain view to all and sundry. What’s more, because the Electric Ioniq’s larger battery pack takes up more space below the rear seats, you lose 93 litres of boot capacity from the Hybrid’s load space.
Ride and handling
The Ioniq’s ride is reasonably supple, although you do sometimes feel the coarseness of the surface beneath you, and you’re occasionally reminded of the weight of the battery pack under the rear seat as the suspension thuds over larger lumps and bumps.
The handling is rather less successful. There’s decent body control and plenty of grip, but it’s the steering that throws you. Left in comfort mode, the weighting is reasonably well-judged (sticking it in the sportier setting only adds more weight and reduces feel), but when you’re slowing the car down, you can sense the power assistance draining away, adding a level of unwanted inconsistency. You also feel a sense of delayed inertia. Turn in to a corner and the nose is initially reluctant to move, before bucking its ideas up and making a beeline for the inside kerb. This also affects the Ioniq’s high speed stability. Inadvertently dial in a little too much steering lock, and you find yourself toggling away at the wheel, countering a gentle but defined side-to-side swaying motion.
We haven’t driven the Plug-in Hybrid version of the Ioniq yet, but our first impressions of the standard Hybrid’s powertrain are reasonably positive. Unlike the Toyota Prius, the Ioniq Hybrid cannot be instructed to drive solely in electric mode, no matter how high its battery stock. You’ll be lucky to make 10mph before the petrol engine kicks into life. Thankfully, the transitions from electric drive to combined mode are smooth, and providing you don’t call for maximum warp speed, the petrol engine is reasonably subdued, too. If you do need all-at-once acceleration, the mechanical cacophony that emanates from under the bonnet becomes quite intrusive and rather vulgar.
The all-electric Ioniq EV relies solely on a 118bhp electric motor, and despite having less outright power than the Hybrid, it accelerates quicker. This is down to the way the electric motor delivers all its urge instantly when you press the accelerator. It will hit 62mph in under 10 seconds but once the initial thrust is over, it takes quite a long time to reach its maximum top speed of 103mph.
Switchable drive modes in the EV give you the choice of driving in Eco, Normal and Sport settings. While the latter releases an additional 22lb ft of torque from the motor to give you the best performance, you need to bear in mind that using this feature will impact the distance you can travel between charges. Regardless of drive mode, the EV is pretty unobtrusive. There is a milk-float-type whirr when accelerating away from the mark, which is typical of an EV, but once you’re cruising, it’s impossible to hear anything except the rush of wind and the sound of the tyres sizzling against the road surface.
The Ioniq Hybrid is powered by a combination of a 1.6-litre petrol engine and an electric motor. Together, they’re capable of returning an official 83.1mpg while producing a paltry CO2 output of just 79 g/km. Consequently, both the Hybrid and the zero-tailpipe-emissions EV will be attractive company car options. However, hybrids work best within the confines of urban driving environments, where the electric motor can be maximised. Travelling on a motorway, the petrol engine will be working overtime, and because it’s also dragging the weight of a battery pack, there’s a good chance it will be less efficient than a similarly powered petrol car. The EV Ioniq’s claimed range of 174 miles between charges is likely to plummet by a significant amount in colder weather, or with the application of a heavy right foot, too.
When it comes to charging the EV Ioniq, you have three options: a domestic socket does the job in around 12 hours, while a fast-charging wall box should take around six hours. There’s also the option of using a rapid charge system – like the type found at motorway services – to replenish up to 80% of the battery in just 33 minutes. You can also get a smartphone app that will allow you to remotely select your charging times to take advantage of off-peak tariffs, as well as cabin pre-conditioning, so your car can be cooled or heated while still connected to the power supply.
Despite manufacturers’ assurances regarding battery life, there’s still sufficient suspicion surrounding the matter to have a detrimental effect on residual values, so you’ll need to factor this into your buying decision.
The Ioniq is too new to have featured in either the JD Power survey or in Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, but in general, Hyundai sits near the top of the standings in both company’s findings. Hyundai is gaining an excellent reputation for both owner satisfaction and reliability, and if anything does go wrong, the Ioniq comes with a ten-year/100,000-mile warranty for the battery, along with roadside assistance.
The Ioniq scored a maximum five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP, and has a total of seven airbags, including a knee ‘bag for the driver. A host of active and passive safety features are also available. Top-of-the-range cars come with Blind Spot Detection, which works with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert to warn the driver of any surrounding vehicles, passengers or objects that could lead to a collision. Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) with Pedestrian Detection is also available, which essentially alerts drivers to emergency situations and will brake automatically if required.
A Lane Departure Warning System is also offered, which sounds an alarm if the car moves over lane lines without you indicating. Front radar sensors and smart cruise control allows a constant speed and following distance to be maintained from the vehicle ahead without you touching the accelerator or brake pedals. However, it is automatically cancelled when speed drops to 5 mph or below, so you cannot use it effectively in city traffic.
In keeping with Hyundai’s maximum bang-for-your-buck ethos, even the entry model Ioniq comes with 15-inch alloys (you’ll need to stick with these pint-sized alloys if you want to maintain your low emissions count), a DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity for your mobile, cruise control and a rear parking camera.
Step up to Premium trim and you get keyless go, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, bi-xenon headlights and LED rear lights. This trim also adds a sat-nav, which includes free lifetime updates (including a list of charging points for the EV), an upgraded stereo and wireless phone charging, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
Up the ante to Premium SE trim, and you get all of the above plus ventilated leather front seats and power-adjustment with a memory setting for the driver’s seat.
If the majority of your motoring is conducted in city centres, the Ioniq is clearly worth considering, especially the EV version. It provides low running costs for urbanites and low taxation for all, offering plenty of interior space, lots of standard kit and the convenience of an automatic gearbox. The Ioniq is also well finished, solidly built and attractively priced. For this type of money, it’s as good as hybrid-electric technology gets.