Mercedes-Benz A-Class VS Hyundai Ioniq
- Ride comfort
- So-so warranty
- Okay only rear headroom
- Tight rear door apertures
- Well-tuned electric drive
- Range is about right
- Excellent energy consumption
- Feels very heavy
- Design won't be for everyone
- Still a little too pricey for mass adoption
Meet the world’s most aerodynamically efficient passenger car. Mercedes-Benz says the drag co-efficient for this new sedan version of its fourth-generation A-Class is the lowest ever measured for a passenger vehicle.
Which is quite a claim, but you only have to look at it to see how much work has gone into marrying good looks with slippery aero performance.
|Engine Type||1.3L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Hyundai's Ioniq range is nothing if not a flex in the face of Toyota.
Sure, Toyota has a dominating position in the Australian market, with its well-received range of hybrid models, but what happens after hybrid? Hyundai takes on the blocky Prius formula with not only a directly competing hybrid model, but a plug-in and a fully electric version, too.
This expansive range is as though Hyundai is trying to demonstrate it's ready for any future, near or far, and guess what, Toyota? Anything you can do; the Korean juggernaut thinks it can do better.
These cars aren't really designed to sell so much as they are offerings for early adopters, but a few years after its launch, with a host of rivals set to take it on, and an entire sub-brand based on the Ioniq just around the corner, is Hyundai's top-spec Ioniq electric worth a look? I took one for a week to find out.
Mercedes-Benz knows its way around a sedan, and this A-Class is a well-equipped, comfortable and efficient city-sized four-door.
But more than that, to my eyes anyway, it’s a perfect example of restrained form matching aero function with beautiful results.
Would your preference be an A-Class with a hatch or a boot? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
Just like the Kona EV, Hyundai's Ioniq is still one of the best EV options on the market today. It strikes an excellent balance by offering significantly more range and better energy consumption than the more affordable Nissan Leaf or MG ZS EV, while providing the familiarity of the Hyundai spec and drive experience at a price only a little higher than a top-spec Prius.
Its relatively high score is a product of these factors, but also the way in which its interactivity offers the early adopters the engagement they will be searching for.
A global carmaker can’t hold its head up in public without a formal design strategy, and Mercedes-Benz uses ‘Sensual Purity’ as a guiding principle in developing the look and feel of its current models. It may sound airy-fairy, but I for one reckon it’s accurate in describing the A-Class sedan.
The overall form is flowing and minimalist, the major exception being a hard character line running down the side of the car from the trailing edge of the angular LED headlights and along the top of the doors to link with the tail-lights.
A rear-biased glasshouse emphasises the length of the bonnet, at the same time delivering a broad, muscular stance with short overhangs front and rear.
Ultra-fine panel gaps, careful sealing around the headlights and curved strakes either side of the bonnet keep the look clean and simple, not to mention super-slippery.
The interior has been styled to within an inch of its life, the dash dominated by the slick twin 10.25-inch widescreen ‘MBUX’ display covering instruments, ventilation, media and vehicle settings.
Five signature, turbine-style air vents (three in the centre, and one at each edge) lift the dash’s visual interest, and the quality of fit and finish is top-shelf.
The Ioniq follows in the footsteps of eco hatches before it. You'll note this car's similarity in profile to the Toyota Prius, both shaped as such to secure low drag figures and therefore better economy and longer range.
While the Ioniq is a little more sedate than the wacky angles of the current Prius, there's no getting around the fact it's not exactly a cool shape. You could say it's interesting, perhaps, in the way it warps the low-drag box to Hyundai's styling cues, but dorky nonetheless. The LED headlights help lift it a little, but the filled-in grille and small 16-inch wheels hardly lend this car extra street cred.
The Ioniq is more a proof of concept for early adopters who care a little less about the way the car looks and a little more about its drivetrain and technology, which is clearly the focus here.
This can be seen in the Ioniq's interior, which has been re-worked for its most recent update. The digital features are impressive, with the floating 10.25-inch screen now totally dominating its dashboard.
I also like how the brand has given the instrument cluster a more modern design, with a cool floating bridge element over the top to eliminate glare, and, as always, Hyundai has made ergonomic use of its excellent switchgear and tidy steering wheel from the i30 and Kona ranges.
The climate unit has lost its tactile dials, replaced by touch-panel controls, and the lack of a transmission under the centre console has allowed plenty of negative space for the brand to play with, in this case a huge storage bay. There are also elements from more recently launched Hyundai models, which help to tidy the centre space up further, like an upright wireless-charging bay and shift-by-wire drive selector, which all looks very modern and neat.
It's a step towards things to come from the newly minted Ioniq sub-brand, which will do a lot more of this stripped-back, space-saving stuff with its next vehicle, the Ioniq 5 SUV. For now, though, the Ioniq is good as a half-step into the future. It's not as outlandish as a Tesla Model 3, for example, and will better suit a buyer looking for something a bit more familiar that still has a futuristic edge.
At a bit over 4.5m long, a fraction under 1.8m wide, and close to 1.5m tall the A-Class sedan is 130mm longer and 6.0mm higher than the hatch version.
The A-Class sedan driver is presented with the same sleek widescreen display as found in the hatch, and storage runs to two cupholders in the centre console, a lidded bin/armrest between the seats (including twin USB ports), decent door pockets with room for bottles and a medium-size glove box.
In a swap to the rear, sitting behind the driver’s seat set to my (183cm) position, I enjoyed adequate knee and headroom, although stretching up a to a straight-back position led to a scalp to headlining interface.
In the A 200 a centre fold-down armrest incorporates two cupholders, again there are generous pockets in the doors with room for bottles, and adjustable ventilation outlets are set into the back of the front centre console. Always a plus.
There are three belted positions across the rear, but the adults using them for anything other than short journeys will have to be good friends and flexible. Best for two grown-ups, and three kids will be fine.
One snag is the size of the rear door aperture. Okay for taller people on the way in, but a limb-unfolding gymnastic exercise on exit.
But of course the reason we’re all here is the boot, and the sedan’s extra length translates to an additional 60 litres of luggage space for a total cargo volume of 430 litres (VDA).
Extra space is one thing, but usability is another. The benefit of a hatch is a large opening that allows bulky stuff to find a home, and Merc has pushed the sedan’s boot aperture to just under a metre across and there’s half a metre between the base of the rear window and the lower edge of the boot lid.
That’s made a big difference and access is good, with the rear seats folding 40/20/40 to add extra flexibility and volume. There are also tie-down hooks at each corner of the floor (a luggage net is included) and a netted pocket behind the passenger side wheel tub (with 12-volt outlet).
At the time of writing Mercedes-Benz wasn’t quoting towing specifications, and don’t bother looking for a spare wheel, the tyres are run-flats.
As mentioned, there's actually quite a lot of space in the Ioniq cabin, and the design has been further stripped back with its most recent updates.
The front seat seems a bit high for a hatch, although ergonomically everything is correct for the driver, with a good amount of adjustability in the seat back and wheel.
The big, bright multimedia touchscreen is easy to use, and the single centrally mounted volume dial is welcome, but I do sorely miss the dials for adjusting fan speed and temperature. Touch-panel controls, to me at least, are always inferior.
As already mentioned, the centre-console area under the climate unit has been almost entirely deleted for the electric variant, granting the driver a little more knee room, and leaving a deep rubberised bay for loose objects, maybe even small bags. This area also houses two 12v power outlets and one USB port. The centre console has been re-worked to include a smart, space-saving upright wireless-charging bay for your phone, the shift-by-wire console, and controls for the heated and ventilated seats. This area also hosts two large bottle holders, and a large centre-console box.
As is usual with Hyundai models, there's also a large bottle holder in the door, alongside a practical bin.
Rear passengers are treated to decent legroom, about on par with what you'd expect in a hatchback. Headroom is a little limited, both for getting in and out, with the descending roofline, so if you have family or friends taller than my 182cm height, they might be less than pleased.
The rear-seat area gets bottle holders in the doors and in the drop-down armrest, although there are no power outlets, just dual adjustable air vents.
The hatch body of the Ioniq makes for a decent boot volume of 357 litres, enough for a large pram or, in the case of my testing, the largest of the CarsGuide luggage cases, with ease. Hyundai gives you a little satchel to tidily store the standard powerpoint to Type 2 charging cable. A Type 2 to Type 2 cable, which you will need to charge at public outlets (up to 7.2kW) is not included.
Price and features
The A-Class sedan is launching with two variants, the A 200 at $49,400, before on-road costs, and an entry-level A 180, arriving in August 2019 at $44,900.
We’ll cover active and passive safety tech in the safety section, but above and beyond that standard equipment for the A 180 runs to 17-inch alloy wheels, ‘Artico’ faux leather upholstery, the ‘MBUX’ widescreen cockpit display (two 10.25-inch digital screens), auto LED headlights and DRLs, keyless entry and start, auto-dimming rearview mirror, climate-control, sat nav, multi-function sports steering wheel, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, ‘Active Parking Assist’ (with ultrasonic proximity sensors front and rear), tinted glass, plus nine-speaker, 225W audio with digital radio, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The A200 steps up to 18-inch alloy rims, and adds a dual exhaust system, four-way electrical adjustment for the driver’s seat (with lumbar support), a folding rear armrest (with twin cupholders), adaptive high-beam assist, and a wireless device charging bay.
On the one hand, forking out over $50k for a car which looks like this is a tall order. On the other hand, there is no other electric car that really falls into this price bracket, and when you think about it, it's only a few thousand dollars more than a top-spec Prius.
The aggro never-EV types will argue you can have a very good hot hatch, like say, Hyundai's own i30 N for less, but then this car really is for those early adopters who are after a slice of future drivetrain tech rather than a complete value offering.
In the context of the EVs currently available in our market, the Ioniq shines. Yes, it is more expensive than rivals like the Nissan Leaf or MG ZS EV, but it also offers more range than either of those, at 311km measured to the more accurate WLTP standard.
This is short of Tesla's Model 3 standard range, but also more than $10k more affordable, and as I discovered on my week of testing; 311km, and it really is 311km, is plenty for a predominantly urban commuter to get by with either routine maintenance charging, or a once-a-week stop at a DC charger.
So, value then? As this car has probably the minimum electric range you really want for an Australian city at a price only a little above rivals which fall short, it's in quite the sweet spot.
Oh, you probably want to know about equipment, too. Our Ioniq electric Premium scores familiar equipment from the facelifted Hyundai i30 range, including a 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, built-in sat-nav integrated with charging-station distances, a 7.0-inch digital dash cluster, eight-speaker premium audio system, 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and DRLs, single-zone climate control, leather-appointed interior trim with heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, auto-dimming rear vision mirror, wireless phone charger, opening sunroof, and keyless entry with push-start ignition.
It's a good array of items, and we'll touch on this car's fully equipped safety suite later. The only notable omissions for now are the lack of a holographic head-up display and the lack of dual-zone climate control.
Engine & trans
Both models are powered by the same 1.3-litre (M282) direct-injection four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine as the hatch, the A180 tuned to deliver 100kW (at 5500rpm) and 200Nm (at 1460rpm), with the A 200 bumping that up to 120kW (at 5500rpm) and 250Nm (at 1620rpm).
The Ioniq electric has a single motor on the front axle producing 100kW/295Nm. It's the least powerful EV in Hyundai's range, but still out-punches cars like the Toyota Prius on raw power. It drives the front wheels via a single reduction-gear transmission, and the Ioniq electric also has re-worked regenerative braking for its most recent update.
This is powered by a huge-for-its-size 38.3kWh lithium-ion battery pack under the floor.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 5.7L/100km for both models, with a CO2 emissions figure of 130g/km.
Over roughly 250km of open highway driving on the launch program the A 200’s on-board computer coughed up a figure of 6.3L/100km. So, the real-world highway cycle figure is higher than the claimed combined number. Which is a miss, but not a massive one, and fuel-efficiency is still pretty impressive.
Minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded, and you’ll need 43 litres of it (plus a 5.0-litre reserve) to fill the tank.
The huge 38.3kWh battery pack and official combined energy consumption of 15.7kWh/100km, grants the Ioniq electric an impressive 311km (WLTP) range. As already mentioned in the pricing section, this lets the Hyundai electric hatch strike a good balance for urban commuters, however, under our mostly urban testing, it's an even better story.
For context, electric cars are far more efficient when operating in an urban scenario than they are on the open road. This is because they can regenerate energy more often and are less susceptible to losses from drag. The Ioniq has a superb regenerative-braking system, which can be completely customised to the user's preference. Want to drive it with no regen braking (like a normal car)? You can. Want to have the full eco experience, and have the car's motor bring it to a halt even without using the brake pedal, thereby maximising the amount of energy recouped? You can absolutely do that, too.
For most of my week, I stuck the Ioniq in its maximum regenerative setting and was very impressed to find it return an efficiency rating of 12.3kWh/100km. Not only is this number well below its claim, it's by far the most efficient electric car I have driven, and the only one I haven't tried yet is the brand-new MG ZS EV.
Colour me very impressed. The Ioniq charges via the most popular socket, the European Mennekes Type 2 combo. On DC, the Ioniq can charge as fast as 100kW allowing for a charge time of 54 minutes from empty to 80 per cent. On AC, its max charge input is a frustratingly low 7.2kW, making for a charge time of six hours and five minutes (more expensive rivals will charge at 11kW or even the max 22kW), while from a 240v wall outlet (~2.3kW) it will charge in 17 hours and 30 minutes.
My single charge session was at a council-supported clean-energy Tritium charger with a max output on DC of 112kW. It charged my Ioniq from about 35 to 80 per cent in 32 minutes, and cost around $7.
Three things stand out on first meeting with the A-Class sedan – ride comfort, steering feel, and road noise, or rather the lack of it.
The ‘biggest’ compliment you can pay a small car is that it rides like a bigger one, and behind the A 200’s wheel you’d swear the wheelbase was appreciably longer than the 2.7 metres it actually measures.
Over long undulations, even higher frequency bumps and ruts, the A-Class remains stable and composed thanks to a thoroughly sorted (strut front, torsion beam rear) suspension, with beautifully progressive damping a particular highlight.
Electromechanically-assisted steering points accurately and delivers good road feel without any undue vibration. And despite the A-Class launch drive loop covering typically coarse-chip bitumen roads through rural Victoria, overall noise levels remained impressively low.
Acceleration is brisk rather than properly sharp, but in the A 200 there’s more than enough oomph to keep things on the boil for easy highway cruising and overtaking.
With maximum torque available from just above 1600rpm, and a seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission keeping revs in the sweet spot, the A 200 breezes through the cut and thrust of city traffic, too.
Auto shifts are smooth and quick, with manual changes via the wheel-mounted paddles adding even more direct access to your ratio of choice. And the bonus is no sign of the slow-speed shuntiness sometimes exhibited by dual-clutch autos, especially in twisting, three-point parking manoeuvres.
Special call-out for the cruise control which responds to adjustments quickly (including 10km/h jumps up or down with a firm press of the thumb) and rapidly retards downhill speeds.
Several unbroken hours in the front seat couldn’t generate a twinge of discomfort, the brakes are strong, and over-shoulder visibility is marginally better than in the hatch (not that it’s a weakness in the latter).
Add the sleek and intuitive multimedia system, high-quality audio, plus excellent ergonomics and you have a neatly resolved compact sedan that’s easy to use in the city and suburbs, keeping solid road-tripping ability up its sleeve as well.
The Ioniq's familiar Hyundai switchgear makes it largely feel like the brand's i30 from behind the wheel, and this is a very good thing. This car is immediately ergonomic and user friendly, although the seating position is a little high, preventing it from feeling particularly sporty.
The Ioniq emits a pleasant choral tone at low speeds, which enhances the perception you're steering something from the near future. It also helps alert pedestrians nearby, which was one of my pet peeves about the silent Tesla Model 3. The noise is interesting enough that you'll have people peering closely at it to figure out what's going on. It even gets louder as you accelerate, as though the motor is making it and it's not entirely artificial. Cool.
This EV is silky smooth to drive and accelerate. Like other Hyundai electric cars, it doesn't have the unleashed electric torque of a Tesla, but it feels well attuned to driving around in an urban scenario, with viscous acceleration and regenerative braking. I was surprised to discover how heavy it feels, though.
I was expecting it to be heavier than its hybrid or PHEV counterparts but compared to the hybrid Prius I drove only a week or two prior, the electric Ioniq feels obese.
Upon closer examination, the Ioniq electric weighs 200kg more than the Prius, at 1575kg. It doesn't sound outrageous but it's enough to have this little car's suspension wallowing and occasionally crashing over bumps that wouldn't bother its hybrid versions or, indeed, the Prius.
This is perhaps emblematic of the issues facing smaller EVs like this. To get more than 300 kilometres of range, they need a lot of heavy batteries. Manufacturers can better hide this with the existing heft and better suspension travel of SUVs. The Kona EV, for example, feels less hefty than this little hatch.
Regardless, the electric motor dispatches with the Ioniq's weight easily when you really want to accelerate, and while it doesn't provide the hold-on-for-dear-life acceleration of Teslas, it's more than enough for a daily commuter. Unlike the Prius, the Ioniq does genuinely feel pretty sporty in the corners, thanks to steering that's on the heavier side, and a firm, responsive damper tune.
The regenerative braking is particularly good on the Ioniq. Using paddle-shifters usually reserved for changing gears, the Ioniq instead lets you alter the amount of regenerative braking available. Feel like coasting a bit faster? Flick the Regen braking off. Feel like maximising economy and range? Max it out in the drive mode of your choosing, and you can use it as essentially a ‘single pedal' car (you can go or stop by using the throttle alone).
It even has an auto mode, which I found to be pretty intuitive. Paired with a few different display options to let you get superior feedback on how you're tracking with battery usage, it's brilliant, and more electric vehicles should take note.
So, this is an eco-focused electric car that is reasonably engaging to drive if a little heavy. Most importantly for the electric era, it's highly interactive, helping you really understand how your inputs are affecting its battery usage, and how you can better drive it to maximise range.
Think automotive safety and Mercedes-Benz will be one of the first names to pop into your mind, and the A 180 offers in impressive suite of active features including ABS, BA, EBD, stability and traction controls, a reversing camera (with dynamic guidelines), ‘Active Brake Assist’ (Merc-speak for AEB), ‘Adaptive Brake’, ‘Attention Assist’, ‘Blind Spot Assist’, ‘Cross-wind Assist’, ‘Lane Keep Assist’, a tyre pressure warning system, the ‘Pre-Safe’ accident anticipatory system, and ‘Traffic Sign Assist’. The A 200 adds ‘Adaptive Highbeam Assist’.
If all that fails to prevent an impact you’ll be protected by nine airbags (front, pelvis and window for driver and front passenger, side airbags for rear seat occupants and a driver’s knee bag), and the ‘Active Bonnet’ automatically tilts to minimise pedestrian injuries.
The A-Class was awarded a maximum five ANCAP stars in 2018, and for smaller occupants there are three child restraint/baby capsule top tether points across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.
The Ioniq electric comes with the full suite of Hyundai SmartSense safety features, with active items including freeway-speed auto emergency braking (detects vehicles up to 180km/h, detects pedestrians up to 70km/h), lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, driver-attention alert, and auto high-beam assist.
This is backed by the usual stability, brake, and traction systems, as well as seven airbags (the standard dual front, side, and head array, plus a driver's knee) securing the Ioniq a maximum five star ANCAP safety rating dating back to its launch in 2018. It scored highly across all categories.
That lags behind the mainstream market where the majority of players are now at five years/unlimited km, with some at seven years.
On the upside, Mercedes-Benz Road Care assistance is included in the deal for three years.
Service is scheduled for 12 months/25,000km (whichever comes first) with pricing available on an ‘Up-front’ or ‘Pay-as-you-go’ basis.
Pre-payment delivers a $500 saving with the first three A-Class services set at a total of $2050, compared to $2550 PAYG. Fourth and fifth services are also available for pre-purchase.
Hyundais are all covered by a competitive five-year and unlimited-kilometre warranty, which includes 12 months of roadside assist. The roadside assist is topped up for an additional 12 months with every genuine service, and the battery pack in EV models like the Ioniq is covered for eight years or 160,000km.
Hyundai's service pricing is amongst the best in the business, and with less moving parts, the electric Ioniq is the cheapest in the range with the first five services for the life of the warranty fixed at just $160 per 12 monthly or 15,000km interval.