The new Hyundai Ioniq is not a copy of the Prius. It is more than that and a step in a direction that will drive EV advocates nuts.
What is it?
After decades of consumer gluttony, a significant portion of the U.S. population became fed up with bloated vehicles that wasted gasoline, and in their mind, are the cause of many bad things. The proposed solution was to go cold turkey and quit on gas. Unfortunately, for much of the driving public, today’s electric vehicles do not work. There is a middle ground, and the Prius has proven that. What this Hyundai Ioniq and its sibling at Kia, the Niro, are now proving, is that the drivetrains that get double what the U.S. Average fuel economy is are not magic, and they don’t require much sacrifice on the part of owners.
The all-new Hyundai Ioniq (eye-on-ick) is a five-passenger sedan/hatchback that looks conventional. You might be surprised to learn that the Ioniq is not a subcompact, not a compact and not even a mid-size car according to the EPA classification, which judges vehicles strictly on their interior volume. It’s a “large” car. It feels relatively normal when driven, requires no special treatment, there is no plug, and the EPA and Hyundai say it gets 55 MPG. There is another trim that is rated at 58 MPG. Do we really need all the hassles of electric cars if we can drive a “large” car that gets this mileage?
Pricing and trims
Like the Prius family, and we suspect many more models from many more manufacturers to come, the Ioniq is a family of green vehicles. There is a conventional hybrid like our test vehicle, a more extreme hybrid version, an electric-only version, and a plug-in hybrid coming. Together, the Ioniq will allow Hyundai to corral all the needs and wants of the green buyers of vehicles this size and shape into one product family.
The base Hyundai Ioniq hybrid starts at about $23,000. Hyundai fills in some trims, and the top-spec Ioniq hybrid with all of the luxury items one expects costs about $31,500. Here is the really interesting part. If one factors in the federal and state taxpayer-funded incentives, the plug-ins and the battery-electric Ioniqs will also fall roughly into that range of prices, just as the Prius cars do (Prius does not offer an all-electric version -yet). For that reason, as you will see in our conclusion, we suggest buyers seriously consider the plug-in hybrid trims first.
Our test vehicle was the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited with the Ultimate Package. Unlike some reviewers, we feel the options a car has can make a world of difference in the driving and ownership experience, so we caution readers to consider the goodies our test car came with when reading our observations and conclusions. We can’t say with any confidence a base model would have impressed us as much.
Hyundai is now a leader in safety in every category in which the brand competes. This new model has yet to be tested by IIHS. However, Hyundai, like Toyota, is now acing every crash test and every active safety system thrown at them. We would be shocked if it was not a Top Safety Pick once tested, but it is worth checking back if you are not buying today.
Included in our “Ultimate Package” Ioniq Hybrid Limited was the all-important forward collision prevention system with emergency autobraking. The six-figure 2017 Tesla Model S just got this technology yesterday – literally yesterday. In addition to once saving our bacon in a real world situation, it enables the superb adaptive cruise control our Ioniq included. This system is one of the best we have ever tested. There is no jerky stopping when a vehicle merges into a lane in front when the system is on and it makes commuting in highway traffic much more relaxed. Hyundai brands this “Smart Cruise” and we feel it is aptly named.
Our tester also had all the other active safety systems one should expect on any new car costing $31,460. For example, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and an excellent rear camera. Going way beyond the call of duty, the Ioniq we tested also had bending headlights that swivel when one turns the car. We love that feature and so too do the testing folks at IIHS, who feel it offers safety benefits.
The 2017 Ioniq Hybrid Limited uses a small four-cylinder engine and an electric motor to power the vehicle. The total system power is 139 hp. That is the same power that the top-selling sedan this approximate size has, the Toyota Corolla. The more significant specifications to many buyers will be the incredibly low CO2 production per mile of 163 grams and the 55 MPG Combined, 55 City, and 54 Highway mileage numbers the EPA estimates the Ioniq will return. Our testing did not yield those lofty numbers. Over 221.9 miles of highway and suburban driving, we consumed 4.6 gallons of fuel. Thus, our miles per gallon rating was 48.2 MPG. The Ioniq’s information display said that we had averaged of 52.7 MPG. During our test we used the AC only for a short time, maybe 10% of the miles driven, and we drove the same way we always do on public roads (mature and carefully). We checked the tire pressures were set to the Ioniq’s recommended pressure. We can’t explain why the Ioniq did not live up to its EPA combined rating or even the lower highway rating. Almost every vehicle this tester drives does so. When we tested the Kia Niro last month the Niro did meet the EPA’s estimates. That said, 48.2 MPG is still impressive. We paid $2.26 for fuel, so our cost per mile was 4.7 cents. That rivals the cost of electric vehicles energy per mile in our test area.
Throttle response is muted in the Ioniq Hybrid Limited. For whatever reason, we felt the Niro from Kia we tested with this same basic drivetrain was peppier. Around town, the Ioniq Hybrid Limited is not quick off the line and it requires an added push of the power pedal on hills. However, there is a sport mode easily accessed by tapping the shifter to the left that resolves all concerns about power. We tried it on back roads and when approaching a few on-ramps to get the extra bit of boost we felt was appropriate for normal driving. By comparison to its peers, the Ioniq is well inside the norm. Just don’t expect it to be sporty and powerful. If you want that, Hyundai and Kia have some fantastic offerings, but they get “normal” mileage, not the crazy-high 55 MPG this car is rated at.
Oddly, Hyundai opted to use a six-speed dual synchronous gear (DSG) transmission in the Ioniq Hybrid, just like Kia does in the Niro. We say oddly because a continuously variable transmission (CVT) would almost certainly have added an MPG or two. We love CVTs after having become accustomed to driving them, but the DSG worked well. Those who want the sensation of shifting might like that this car offers it.
Ride and handling
In around town driving the Ioniq Hybrid Limited is a well handling car. Not sporty, but why should it be? It feels like most mainstream family cars its size and price. Bumps are handled with comfort and broken up spring roads caused us no discomfort. On the highway, we feel the Ioniq Hybrid Limited is superior to most vehicles its size and price point we have tested. Hyundai nailed its straight-ahead driving sensation and the drivetrain is so quiet the Ioniq feels like a premium vehicle on the highway. We would sum this car’s handling up by saying it is a perfectly-tuned car for everyday use and ideal for long commutes.
The Ioniq Hybrid Limited has perforated leather seats with heaters that we found the hottest we have tested in a long time. We loved that, and also the general comfort of the power driver’s seat with lumbar support. The seats are comfortable on long trips and Hyundai includes the auto-retract feature we usually associate with premium models. The seats go back automatically to make getting in and out of easier, and you can turn that off if you don’t like it.
Rear seats are adequate and five adults can fit. The passenger seat is shown all the way back in the image. We would say Hyundai sized this space perfectly for its mission.
The Cargo area of the Ioniq is deep, square, and has a high height due to the hatchback design. With 26.5 cubic feet of space, it beats the Prius, which has 24.6 cu ft. Unfortunately, there is no spare tire and the Ioniq does not use run flats. There is no viable flat tire plan except to be towed if a tire is damaged. Hyundai is not the only automaker guilty of this crime, but that does not make it right. Under the cargo floor is ample room for a spare.
Infotainment and controls
The Ioniq Hybrid Limited does not use a massive tablet for the infotainment screen like the Prius now does. Instead, it has a conventional, easy-to-use and excellent eight-inch touch-screen display. We found it very easy to synch our phone and the Pandor App worked flawlessly. We also like that at this $31,460 price point the Ultimate Package adds navigation.
Android Auto and Apple Car Play are included and Hyundai made the Ioniq very phone-friendly. The front console has an ideal setup with a great phone pad that also wirelessly charges one’s phone and the USB port is in direct view. There is also room for the passenger’s phone in the center console in a custom slot. Hyundai nailed this car’s infotainment. The gauge display is a seven-inch TFT screen. About ten minutes ago that technology was only found on pricey premium models. The icing on the cake is that Hyundai makes the heated seat controls easy to use and separate from the infotainment. The only luxury item missing was a heated steering wheel.
Hyundai’s new Ioniq line is a great addition to an already very eco-friendly brand. The Ioniq is not just a copy of the Prius and has its own personality, strengths, and advantages.
The Ioniq will appeal to any practical green-car shopper and anyone who commutes will find it a fantastic option that has many benefits beyond just being a low cost-per-mile car that is friendly to the environment. The Hybrid Limited with Ultimate package is a well-appointed trim that checks all the right boxes as a family car and a comfortable commuter car.
We loved the Ioniq Hybrid Limited. However, buyers that value the option of plugging in a hybrid should wait to see how the Ioniq Plug-In is priced and how it drives. We have driven the Prius Prime back-to-back with a Prius Hybrid and they feel basically the same. The added EV range is part of why we suggest looking at that coming model, but really it is the price. If a buyer qualifies for the federal EV tax incentive and if that buyer’s state has EV incentives, a plug-in hybrid Ioniq may be a better value overall.
2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited
Base price: $23,000
Price as tested, $31,460 including $835 destination charge and package below:
Options: Ultimate Package $3,000
Automatic Emergency Braking
Smart Cruise Control
Lane Departure Warning
Rear Parking Sensors
Carpeted Floor Mats: $125
- Comfort, Fit and Finish Inside
- Highway Ride
- Safety and Technology Features (included in package)
- No Spare Tire
- No Heated Steering Wheel
- Would Prefer a CVT over a DCT