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Hyundai Ioniq 2020 review: Plug-in Hybrid Premium

The Hyundai Ioniq hybird PHEV.

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Urban score

4/5

Eighteen months ago, Hyundai had no electric vehicles on sale. Zip. Zero. Nada. A month ago they had four - three Ioniqs and the Kona EV. Okay, "only" three of them can run purely on electricity  only, with the cheapest Ioniq operating as a Prius-style series hybrid.

It's been a busy year for electric cars, or should have been, because after much promise, the Mercedes EQ only just materialised and the Audi e-tron still isn't here. And Tesla's Model 3 orders are just now dribbling onto the road.

To pick up on the 18 months bit, just a month or so later, Hyundai launched their electrified assault with the three Ioniqs. They were each a solid start, even if the styling was a bit dull and they weren't much chop to drive.

The PHEV and BEV were both realistically priced and had a good electric range. Sadly, that wasn't enough to set the world on electric fire, was it? As a result, Hyundai has already launched a pretty decent update of the Ioniq, with the PHEV scoring new styling, pricing and an updated feature list.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

As with the BEV and Hybrid, the PHEV comes in two flavours, Elite and Premium, the latter being the car I drove for the week. The PHEV itself is a plug-in hybrid, meaning the car is capable of running purely electric, in combination with an internal-combustion engine and on the ICE alone when the battery runs out.

For the 2020 update, prices are up - the Hybrid's increases by $800, the BEV by a whopping $3500, with the PHEV landing a $1000 whack. Hyundai justifies the price increase with more equipment, but the BEV's electric range boost not translate to the PHEV. Even a few kilometres extra range wouldn't have gone astray. Selfishly, EV pricing should be going south not north to lure customers.

The huge new 10.25-inch touchscreen hosts a very impressive multimedia system. The huge new 10.25-inch touchscreen hosts a very impressive multimedia system.

For $46,490 you'll score 16-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control (with driver-only energy-saving option), an eight-speaker sound system, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, electric driver's seat with memory, sat nav, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, heated windscreen, heated and powered mirrors, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and a tyre-repair kit instead of a spare tyre.

The huge new 10.25-inch touchscreen hosts a very impressive multimedia system that displays a lot of information about the car's electric drivetrain while also running Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and DAB+ digital radio.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The Ioniq's update includes new headlights, taillights, grille treatments and wheel designs. The new front end looks much, much better. Despite the headlamps looking like a set of lolly teeth in isolation, they work really well and the new grille has a cooler look and texture to it. It's still a fairly ho-hum design - for some reason - but when you put it alongside a knock-kneed, slab-sided Prius, it's a veritable oil painting.

The Ioniq's update includes new headlights, taillights, grille treatments and wheel designs. The Ioniq's update includes new headlights, taillights, grille treatments and wheel designs.

The cabin is now dominated by Hyundai's biggest-ever touchscreen, a 10.25-inch monster perched over a new set of climate-control switchgear. In one hit the car suddenly feels a bit more futuristic. The rest of the dash is a fairly conventional sort of design but it's particular to the Ioniq rather than lifted out of another model.

Most of it feels pretty good but there are a few cheap bits and pieces throughout that let things down a little. To be fair, it's nothing major. The leather trim of the Premium probably isn't real leather, either, but it doesn't matter because it looks and feels nice.

Despite the headlamps looking like a set of lolly teeth in isolation, they work really well. Despite the headlamps looking like a set of lolly teeth in isolation, they work really well.

How practical is the space inside?

It doesn't look like a big boot - the plug-in's is smaller than the other two - but it swallows 341 litres (446 when filled to the roof) with seats in place and if you drop the rear seats, the space jumps to an impressive 1401 litres.

Front and rear rows each feature a pair of cupholders and each door has bottle holders, for a total of four.

Three across is a distant dream and there isn't a lot of headroom, either. Three across is a distant dream and there isn't a lot of headroom, either.

Front-seat passengers have plenty of room, commensurate with a car the same size. The rear is a little tight for my 180cm frame when I'm behind my own driving position, but I'd be fine for a short to medium trip because my feet fit under the front seat. Three across is a distant dream and there isn't a lot of headroom, either.

It doesn't look like a big boot, but it swallows 1401 litres with the rear seats dropped. It doesn't look like a big boot, but it swallows 1401 litres with the rear seats dropped.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

No real change for the 2020 PHEV - it packs a 1.6-litre naturally aspirated engine developing 77kW and 147Nm. Crammed into the chassis with it is an 8.9kWh battery powering a 44kW electric motor. When the engine is turning the wheels, power reaches the front ones via a six-speed twin-clutch transmission.

Once those figures are put together and all the usual mechanical losses accounted for, the total power available is 104kW and 265Nm, shifting 1550kg. The 0-100km/h experience is, shall we say, relaxed.

How much fuel does it consume?

The combined-cycle fuel figure for the Ioniq PHEV is a measly 1.1L/100km. I've always found Hyundai to be pretty close on the claimed figures, but this one is obviously skewed by the testing regime and I'm pretty sure the company will concede that. For most of the week I had the car, it got around on purely electric power, with the petrol engine kicking in on the last couple of days, resulting in 3.2L/100km, which is still pretty good.

The combined-cycle fuel figure for the Ioniq PHEV is a measly 1.1L/100km. The combined-cycle fuel figure for the Ioniq PHEV is a measly 1.1L/100km.

The PHEV will charge in a six or seven hours from a domestic power socket without drama. Even with just a 43-litre tank, the indicated range nudges over 900km with a full battery and tank.

If you want to know where the nearest fast(ish) charge station is, the big touchscreen keeps a little bar active telling you. From home, the nearest one to me was nearly 12km away. If you've got range anxiety and nowhere to charge, it's both handy and sobering to know this figure.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Ioniq arrives from South Korea with seven airbags, stability and traction controls, forward AEB, auto high-beam, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-keep assist.

Two ISOFIX and three top-tether anchors take care of the baby seats.

In a December 2016 report, the Ioniq scored a five-star ANCAP rating (it was released in NZ a year earlier than we got it).

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

As with the rest of the Hyundai range, the PHEV comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. The capped-price servicing regime lasts for the same period of time and will hit you for just $1525 over five years, or just over $300 per year.

Roadside assist starts with 12 months and with every service at Hyundai, you get another 12 months.

What's it like to drive around town?

Electric cars are great. I know this isn't a full electric, but even PHEVs are handy when you put your foot down. Instant torque blast to get you going... nope. Not in the Ioniq PHEV.

The Ioniq is a far more gentle experience. You don't get that giant's-hand-shoving-you feeling, but you do get a steady stream of power and torque. Sometimes the engine will cut in, accompanied by a few bumps and whirrs from under the bonnet.

That's fine, though, because not everyone is after that whoosh experience, nor needs it. It's really a bit of a party trick. Where Hyundai has got the PHEV right is that it's a nice, smooth, predictable drive.

Instant torque blast to get you going... nope. Not in the Ioniq PHEV. Instant torque blast to get you going... nope. Not in the Ioniq PHEV.

The steering wheel-mounted paddles aren't for gearshifts but to choose the level of energy recovery when you lift off. If you're not familiar, electric cars use what is effectively engine braking to much greater effect, sending charge back to the battery. You can choose three levels of regeneration, meaning that when you lift off, the braking effect is stronger and more power goes back to storage.

It's exceptionally useful to be able to change that, and you soon learn the delicate art of one-pedal driving, with the brake pedal used as a full stop.

The first time I drove the Ioniq PHEV, I appreciated the hybrid drivetrain's range on electric-only running. This time, in the new version, I got nearly 60km before the engine came on full time, a decent improvement either in my driving or the car itself.

Where Hyundai has got the PHEV right is that it's a nice, smooth, predictable drive. Where Hyundai has got the PHEV right is that it's a nice, smooth, predictable drive.

I don't recall being all that impressed with the handling before, but the ride was pretty good. Either the Premium has better tyres or the suspension has had a bit of a tweak. It's not an excitement machine, but it feels a bit flatter in the corners than before and a bit more positive when you turn the wheel.

When the engine has taken over, the transmission can be a little indecisive and it misses the torque fill of the electric motor as the battery goes into a sort of energy-saver mode until it's back up to a reasonable level. You still get electric assistance when you move off from a stop, which helps keep fuel use down, however.

Overall, this Ioniq is very nicely set up and friendly to newcomers.

The plug-in hybrid version of the Ioniq is the best balance for those who want electric propulsion without range anxiety or, as my father insists on putting it, the ability to "drive to Bourke" when you want to.

Most people's daily commute, according to the usual figures, is a 30km round trip. Even if it's double that, the Ioniq PHEV will deliver a huge chunk of electric running, ensuring zero tailpipe emissions and almost zero fuel cost if you've got solar panels to charge it with.

It seems odd, then, that's it's the least popular Ioniq of the three options. Either way, they're all good value and now, in 2020, with a price rise to pay for it all, there's more gear, slightly better looks and a very solid ownership experience, particularly if you're a city-dweller.

$41,990

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Urban score

4/5