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It’s not quite enough for Hyundai to come after the share of the hatchback market once dominated by Japanese automakers in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Hyundai is now at the top of its game, and it’s rampant success has it coming after even the most niche of market segments.
One could say the Korean brand is hedging its bets with the drivetrain tech, launching all three to see which one survives. Even then though, it’s also heavily invested in hydrogen drive, with its mid-size NEXO hydrogen-drive SUV currently available in Korea.
It’s rare for a company to be so transparent about its research and development, much less let you drive so many diverse drivetrains.
So, what’s the deal with the Ioniq hybrid? Is it literally just to show Toyota up, offering consumers an even more up-to-date version of the Prius? Or, is it an insight into drivetrain tech which could feasibly be rolled out across Hyundai’s more mainstream range? Read on to see what we think.
|Hyundai IONIQ 2019: HYBRID ELITE|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Regular Unleaded|
Even Hyundai’s entry-level cars are relatively well specified, and there’s no change here. Every Ioniq is available in two spec levels, the Elite and Premium.
Hyundai’s own software is one of the best offerings on the market, with slick easy to navigate menus, the multimedia screen is backed by an eight-speaker sound system. Phone charging is enhanced by a Qi wireless charging bay.
The Premium’s main gains are its luxurious touches, like heated and cooled leather seats, a heated steering wheel and memory power adjust for the driver’s seat. It also gets 17-inch wheels over the Elite’s 16s, bi-xenon headlights (why no LEDs?) as well as a tilting and sliding sunroof.
Every Ioniq comes standard with keyless entry, push-start, an electric parking brake, and a semi-digital dash cluster. There’s not much spec outside of that you can really ask for, or even expect at under $40k.
Oh, and the price? That’s $38,990 before on-roads, easily undercutting the top-spec Prius i-Tech ($43,900) by a healthy margin. The Prius gains LED headlights and a head-up display, but has lackluster multimedia, and no heated seats or sunroof. Eco-conscious food for thought.
In terms of safety, you’ll get Hyundai’s full 'SmartSense' active safety suite, no matter which Ioniq variant you choose. More on that in the safety section of this review.
Hyundai plans not only on taking the Prius’ lunch, it wants to eat it too, styling the Ioniq along the lines of the Prius’ hatchback frame, but modernizing it.
Oddly, the brand has committed to taking parts of the Prius design formula which aren’t even liked, like the split window rear which obstructs your view, but otherwise it’s a more pared back and slick design that lets you know its futuristic, but doesn’t batter your with it sanctimoniously.
There are plenty of tasteful touches on the outside, with the blue of our car contrasted by matte grey and gloss black highlights across the grille, DRL fittings, lower rear bumper and slightly sci-fi look alloy wheels. I’m even of the opinion that the odd split spoiler rear actually looks good, at least from the outside.
Inside there’s very little to tip you off that this is an eco-car. Assembled mainly of a combination of switchgear out of the i30 hatch and Elantra sedan, it’s a bit more ‘normal’ than the Prius’ odd centre-mounted dash cluster. I’m a particular fan of Hyundai’s steering wheel used across its Elantra, i30 and Kona range, as well as here in the Ioniq.
The symmetrical design of the dash is pleasing, as are most of the materials used throughout the cabin. There are some hard plastics under the dash and along the door cards spoiling the otherwise nice surroundings and padding for the driver and front passenger would be welcome on the transmission tunnel.
Design-wise it all comes together nicely and from the driver’s seat everything is ergonomic and within reach.
There are still those who won’t be sold on the Ioniq’s looks and that’s fair. You might have to jump into one of the many cars in Toyota’s range to get similar hybrid tech, though.
The Ioniq’s odd shape adds up to a practical package.
Up front, this means roughly the same kind of outfit you can expect from other Hyundais, including big bottle holders in the doors, practically sized cupholders on the transmission tunnel, a decently sized console box and, of course, the Qi charging point under the centre stack.
All very neat, and I’d argue a bit more practical, though perhaps slightly less spacious than the Prius.
The rear seat offers okay legroom, but it’s nothing special. My knees just touch the front seat behind my own driving position, which struck me as odd as I have it in my head that the i30 offers more legroom.
I put this down to the lack of rearward tilt of the rear seat bases. It’s this which gives the Civic sedan such room in the rear.
I will say the rear seat passengers in the Ioniq do benefit from decent bottle holders in the doors, and rear air vents, which also can’t be said for the Prius.
The Ioniq’s hatch body pays dividends in the boot, where there’s 456 litres to use. That places it above most hatchbacks and on par with many sedans in this size bracket. It also edges the Prius out so bravo there.
Despite the decently sized boot, there’s also a full-size alloy spare under the floor, a must for long-distance Australian journeys.
The Ioniq hybrid has two drive units, one is a non-turbo version of the 1.6-litre engine used elsewhere in Hyundai’s line-up, complimented by an electric motor.
Unlike the plug-in which sits above it, the hybrid is primarily driven by the 77kW/147Nm engine, and is complimented only at low speeds by the 32kW/170Nm electric motor for a combined power output of 104kW/265Nm.
The Hybrid is not capable of driving any length of distance on electric power alone with its 1.56kWh battery, although unlike the Prius’ older nickel-hydride battery, the Ioniq has a more modern (and solid-state) lithium ion design.
The Ioniq drives the front wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
All of that hybrid stuff adds up to a fuel consumption number rated at between 3.4-3.9L/100km. Against that, after my week of mixed freeway and suburban driving, I scored a fuel economy number of 4.6L/100km.
Not quite on the mark, but then I apparently fell short of the car’s expectations, according to my ‘ECO driving’ score. Still, it’s just over half of what you’d expect real-world from a 2.0-litre i30, and realistically you should be able to get below 4.0L/100km if you “ECO drive” better than I can.
On my test of the Prius late in 2018 I scored a combined fuel figure of 4.1L/100km, although it’s fundamentally easier to drive the Prius under electric power alone for reasons explored in the driving section of this review.
If you’ve driven an i30 or an Elantra, there will be no surprises here, the ride and handling feel of the Ioniq is largely the same (i.e. actually very good) as those cars. In fact, I’d probably go a step further and say that the Ioniq is even more confident in terms of its road feel thanks to the extra weight of the batteries under the floor and electric motor.
One thing that’s perhaps not as good as the rest of Hyundai’s range is the sluggish take off, at least in hybrid mode. This car just isn’t in a hurry to be in there, it goes through the motions of spinning up the electric motor before gradually allowing the petrol engine to take over. It adds up to a second or two waiting for the power to arrive, sometimes when you really need it.
This is largely remedied by driving around in sport mode (by tilting the gear knob to the right of drive.) This wakes the petrol engine up almost instantaneously, although has the annoying habit of sticking around in gears far too long, so it’s not a perfect solution.
It surprised me how quiet the Ioniq was around town. Without being able to objectively measure it, I’d say the extra parts under the floor have had the side-effect of deadening the cabin a little extra over the i30 or Elantra.
Even the Ioniq benefits from locally tuned suspension, which is almost sporty in its demeanor. Again, this matches much of the rest of Hyundai’s range, but certainly rides better than the Prius, at any rate.
One area where the Prius does edge ahead of the Ioniq is the amount of control you have over the electric motor. In the Prius, it’s obvious exactly how much squeezing of the pedal is required to jolt the petrol engine to life, whereas in the Ioniq, it seems as though the car’s computer alone decides when the engine should be on.
It’s a mild complaint, but it’s also one which makes the Prius’ take on the hybrid drive more user-friendly than the Ioniq’s, and one which makes hypermiling a bit easier.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
It wouldn’t be futuristic if you didn’t get a full safety suite, and Hyundai delivers here with pretty much everything its SmartSense suite has to offer. The best part? You don’t even need to get the top-of-the-range Premium reviewed here to get it, the Elite has the same tech.
Active items include auto emergency braking (AEB), with forward collision warning (FCW), blind-spot monitoring (BSM), lane keep assist (LKAS) with lane departure warning (LDW), driver attention alert (DAA), active cruise control, park assist, and rear cross traffic alert.
The usual expected refinements are also there including a standard suite of electronic stability controls and seven airbags. There are two ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on the outer rear two seats.
The Ioniq very recently received a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating. Its set of active safety items is amongst the most thorough on the market right now.
Hyundai continues to offer its five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, with eight years/unlimited kilometre coverage for the battery pack.
The Ioniq requires servicing once a year or every 15,000km, and is covered by a ‘Lifetime Service Plan’ for many years after the warranty expires.
Regardless, this plan costs between $265 and $465 yearly, for an average cost of $305 per year for the life of the warranty.
The Ioniq rocks up to the royal abode of Hybrids, takes the Prius’ cake, and eats it on the throne. The Hyundai proves that there’s better technology out there and it no longer needs to be so expensive or packaged in such an awkward way.
The thing is though, that ship has sailed, and Toyota is already rolling its hybrid tech out across its entire range. Whether Hyundai does the same could well depend on which Ioniq is the most popular.
For what it’s worth, the plug-in is probably the best stop-gap for Australians with electric charging infrastructure where it is now, but for a less foreign semi-electric experience, the hybrid is hard to beat.
|ELECTRIC ELITE (BLACK GRILLE)||—, EV, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO||$44,990||2019 Hyundai IONIQ 2019 ELECTRIC ELITE (BLACK GRILLE) Pricing and Specs|
|ELECTRIC ELITE (GREY GRILLE)||—, EV, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO||$44,990||2019 Hyundai IONIQ 2019 ELECTRIC ELITE (GREY GRILLE) Pricing and Specs|
|ELECTRIC PREMIUM (BLK GRILLE)||—, EV, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO||$48,990||2019 Hyundai IONIQ 2019 ELECTRIC PREMIUM (BLK GRILLE) Pricing and Specs|
|ELECTRIC PREMIUM (GREY GRILLE)||—, EV, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO||$48,990||2019 Hyundai IONIQ 2019 ELECTRIC PREMIUM (GREY GRILLE) Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||7|
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