REVIEW: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric Limited – Definitively Answering Three Electric Vehicle Questions

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We test the all-electric 2017 Hyundai Ioniq. We can’t say if this is the car for you, but we are sure about three things.

What is it? 

The Ioniq is a new line of green vehicles from Hyundai. Based on the Elantra in many ways, the Ioniq is a roomy car in the compact segment but is rated a midsize car by the EPA based on its generous passenger volume. Ioniq will come in Hybrid, Electric, and Plug-in Hybrid versions. In this review, we rate the all-electric Ioniq in the upscale Limited Trim.

Pricing and trims

The Ioniq Electric is only offered in California at this time. Rather than sell you one, Hyundai wants to offer you a three-year subscription that covers all of your needs. Like a lease, but with unlimited mileage, all required maintenance, taxes and title costs included, and Hyundai will even reimburse your charging expenses. The subscriptions start at $275 per month for the Base, rise to $305 per month for the Limited, and top out at the $365 per month Limited with Ultimate Package. An owner need only add insurance.

Our Ionic Electric Limited with the Ultimate Package had an MSRP of $36,835. In our state, a resident who could take advantage of the federal tax credit of $7,500, and who would receive the $2,500 state EV rebate, will end up paying somewhere in the mid-$20Ks for an Ioniq after dealer discounts (If Hyundai brings it to our state…). Dealers are already offering huge discounts on the Bolt here in Massachusetts, so we expect that will continue on other brands aside from Tesla.

The first question we can answer is “Can EVs be priced to match mainstream internal combustion engine-equipped cars?” In the case of this plush Ioniq Electric, the answer is “Yes, as long as state and federal government subsidies are factored in.”

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Living Electric 

With an EPA range of 124 miles and a displayed range of about 145 miles on a full charge, the Ioniq Electric never held us back from our normal routine. This is the first battery-electric electric vehicle (BEV) we have fully tested that can travel to and from loved one’s homes 60 miles away, or could commute 60 miles without recharging during the trip. It also has enough range that if kept plugged in when parked in our garage, it can keep up with the many short trips we make. During past tests, for example of the Kia Soul Electric and BMW i3, the range was too short for those vehicles to be considered “real cars.”

On our 115 Volt outlet, the Ioniq would recoup roughly seven miles per hour on the charger. Thus, overnight, we could put back about 70 to 90 miles using the slowest method available. With a 220 Volt, higher amperage charger, we would have been able to charge much more rapidly. However, that quicker rate would not be available at friends’ and family members’ homes. On one date-night trip, we intentionally went to a place we knew in Burlington, Massachusetts that had an EV charger. When we arrived, the charger was occupied and remained occupied during our 2-hour dinner, by a Prius Prime. The charge rate at that public charger was fifty cents per kWh. At that rate, any midsize car with a gasoline engine would have had a better cost per mile of energy. We found in our travels that there are no public chargers anyplace on our normal routes we would consider “convenient.”

Safety

Our Ioniq Electric Limited came equipped with active driver aids like forward collision prevention with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, cross traffic alert, and a great backup camera. All of the systems were easy to live with and we found few false positives. Our tester also had a smoothly-operating adaptive cruise control system we put to use whenever possible to save energy.

The emergency auto braking and adaptive cruise control was part of the $3,500 “Ultimate Package.”

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the similarly-designed Elantra a Top Safety Pick Plus. The Ioniq has not yet been tested.

Performance

The second question we can answer with no hesitation is, “Can an affordable EV be as fun to drive as a similarly-priced ICE car?” We answer that with a “Yes!”

In fact, compared to an Elantra Limited or Civic Sport trim, we feel the Ioniq Electric is more satisfying to drive. Is it faster? Hard to say, since they don’t feel the same. The satisfaction of the Ioniq Electric is the instant response from the power pedal in all situations. Be it at a stop light, passing on a country road, or accelerating from an already high speed on the highway, the Ioniq Electric has a lot of punch.

There are no gears to select in the Ioniq Electric, but there are buttons one actuates for Drive and Reverse. One of the coolest features of the Ioniq EV is that when you hit the “Start” button the car is instantly ready to go. Hit Start and then touch D in succession and the car will move forward as fast your fingers can touch the buttons. Making K turns, there is no need to wait between forward and reverse. It all happens instantly and with zero mechanical delays or sounds.

There are also paddle shifters in the Ioniq Electric, but they have a unique purpose. Pull the left paddle to enable more aggressive regenerative braking in three steps.

Step three will firmly slow the vehicle and put back the power you lose. Paddle shifters seem kind of silly in a conventional economy car, but in the Ioniq, you can drive the car in most traffic situations without ever touching the brake pedal. you use the paddle shifter to apply the regenerative braking system more aggressively, and the car slows as significantly as if you’d touched the brakes. Select the least aggressive regenerative mode on the other paddle shifter, and you’re free-wheeling, conserving energy while descending hills.

We loved the feature and played with it all week long. Prefer a smoother ride with almost no regen feel? Use the default setting.

Ride and handling

The Ioniq Electric Limited feels planted. In turns, it leans very little and has the sharp steering of a sporty car. It doesn’t invite you to be a hoonigan, but we did find ourselves braking speed limits accidentally and sometimes maybe on purpose. It’s that fun. There is one problem; The tires are not up to the job. On dry pavement, we chirped the tires frequently when starting out and turning into traffic. In the rain, the Ionic Electric would lock the tires in normal braking, activating the anti-lock braking system. Starting out even in a straight line could spin the tires. The green-rated Michelins selected by Hyundai may well have a low rolling resistance, but they are slippery.

Seating

The Ioniq Electric can come with cloth or leather seating. Ours had heated leather and were very comfortable. Hyundai includes the automatic retractable seat function making ingress and egress easier for those that need the help. Seats in back have plenty of room for adults.

Cargo

The cargo area of the Ioniq Electric measures 23.8 cubic feet. That compares well to the Civic Hatch’s 25.7 cubic feet. The battery is not stealing much from your trunk in this car. Hyundai did steal the spare tire though.  

Infotainment and controls

Our Ioniq Electric Limited benefited from the Ultimate Package by having a moonroof, 8-inch color touchscreen display, navigation, and a wireless phone charger. We found Hyundai’s infotainment system to be simple to operate, and intuitive. Apple Car Play and Android Auto were included as well. We would say this is the ideal setup in a vehicle of any price range, but given its $28K price-point equivalency, one of the best on the market.

Overall

The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric Limited is a great example of a mid-evolution electric vehicle. The final question we can answer is “Are electric vehicles ready to go mainstream?” The answer is “Not yet.” With a range of just 124 miles, this Ioniq cannot be one’s only vehicle. It is not capable of long trips at a moments’ notice, would not be an easy car to drive on a vacation like many we took this summer and fall, and without the government, price supports of about 33% is not competitive with other cars with its size and content.

The Ioniq electric Limited is a perfect second vehicle for many. It would work well for many commuters and is a car we enjoyed driving.

Hyundai deserves praise for pushing the electric vehicle forward with a steady pace. The Kia Soul Electric remains one of our favorite around-town cars, and the Ioniq Electric met most of our needs. The real dealbreaker remains range and charging challenges. During the week we had the Ioniq Electric we realized it would not have the range to get our son to college and back, or get us to our usual vacation spots. Given the pace of the development of EVs, we expect Hyundai to have an affordable all-electric vehicle that can do those things in the coming five to ten years. Whether an EV with those capabilities will stand on it own without subsidies is anyone’s guess. We hope to test the Ioniq plug-in hybrid soon. That vehicle may well meet all of our needs right now.

Test car: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Limited

Base price: $29,500

Price as tested, $36,835 including $835 destination charge:  

Options:

Ultimate Package: $3,500
Power Moonroof
Automatic Emergency Braking
Smart Cruise Control
Navigation
Infinity Premium Auto
Wireless Charging

Likes:

  • Satisfying Drive
  • Excellent Infotainment
  • Size and Comfort

Dislikes:

  • 124 Mile Range Limits Use
  • Limited Market Area (California Only As of Now)

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John Goreham

John Goreham