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First drive: Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid and Electric. Image by Hyundai.

First drive: Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid and Electric
Two of the three EV choices for Hyundai's clever Ioniq hatch tested.


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Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid and Electric

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Hyundai is offering three different eco-conscious drivetrains for its smart new Ioniq five-door hatchback: there's a basic petrol-electric parallel hybrid model, a plug-in hybrid version and then a full zero-emissions battery-electric car. To keep things simple, Hyundai has called these Ioniqs the Hybrid, the Plug-in and the Electric. The Plug-in arrives in early 2017, while the Hybrid and the Electric will be first to market this year, and we've driven both of them. They're really rather excellent.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
Pricing: Ioniq Hybrid starts from 19,995; Premium SE as tested from 23,595
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder GDI petrol with 32kW permanent magnet synchronous motor and 1.56kWh lithium-ion battery
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed dual-clutch automatic
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 79g/km on 15-inch wheels; 92g/km on optional 17s fitted to Premium SE (either version, VED Band A, 0)
Combined economy: 83.1mpg (15-inch wheels); 72.4mpg (17-inch wheels)
Top speed: 115mph
0-62mph: 10.8 seconds (15-inch wheels); 11.1 seconds (17-inch wheels)
Power: petrol 105hp at 5,700rpm, electric motor 43.5hp, combined system maximum 141hp at 5,700rpm
Torque: petrol 147Nm at 4,000rpm, electric motor 170Nm instantaneous, combined system maximum 265Nm at 4,000rpm

Model tested: Hyundai Ioniq Electric
Pricing: Ioniq Electric starts from 28,995; Premium SE as tested from 30,795 (both prices exclude Government's 4,500 grant for plug-ins, see copy)
Engine: 88kW permanent magnet synchronous motor and 28kWh lithium-ion battery
Transmission: front-wheel drive, single-speed reduction gear
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 0g/km (VED Band A, 0)
Combined economy: 11.5kWh per 100km (62.5 miles), maximum potential EV range 174 miles
Top speed: 103mph
0-62mph: 9.9 seconds (Sport mode); 10.2 seconds (Normal or Eco modes)
Power: 120hp instantaneous
Torque: 295Nm instantaneous (Sport mode); 265Nm instantaneous (Normal or Eco modes)

What's this?

The Hyundai Ioniq, which is a ground-up, bespoke new platform from the Korean company. That's not really the big news, though, because the headline here is that you can have your Ioniq as a Hybrid (for those who don't have time to plug-in), as a Plug-in (for those that do have time to plug-in, but who perhaps still like the reassurance of some petrol power to go with their volts) or as an Electric (for those who are truly avant-garde and scoff in the face of range anxiety). Three different electric vehicle (EV) drivetrains in one model - that, claims Hyundai, is a world-first.

They all look very similar externally, although there are some differences, specifically between the two hybrids and the full EV. The former cars wear blue exterior detailing along the lower sections of the front and rear, there's black plastic trim higher up on the bumpers, they run on 15-inch alloys as standard (17s are an option on the range-topping specification) and they have aero-flap-equipped radiator grilles to cool the combustion engines behind them. The Electric, however, swaps the blue for copper (the metal used in electrical wiring, as if you didn't know), receives larger 16-inch rims as standard and plumps for grey/silver plastic trim, which is most noticeable on the Ioniq's face as it forms a smooth nose cone that replaces the radiator grille. Very eagle-eyed types might also have noticed that the rear light clusters, while the same shape, have a subtly different configuration between the hybrids and the EV.

This blue-versus-copper motif continues within, where the stitching on the seats and the surrounds for the air vents and the transmission tunnel are in the appropriate hue for whichever type of drivetrain you've picked. All Ioniqs get a fully digital TFT instrument cluster (it's a seven-inch item on higher-spec cars) and a wealth of equipment, plus they qualify for the usual five-year, unlimited mileage warranty of all Hyundais. There's an eight-year, 125,000-mile warranty offered for the lithium-ion batteries, which are located under the rear seats on all cars.

The materials used inside were chosen in an 'ecologically sensitive way', which means bits of it are made out of volcanic rock and vegetable oil, for instance. We reckon it's fine within, neither feeling cheap nor boring. The headroom in the rear is a little tight thanks to the sloping roof, and the boot stands at 443 litres up to the luggage cover in the Hybrid, or 350 litres in the Electric due to its bigger lithium-ion battery; neither of these figures are particularly huge for a mid-sized hatchback. Nevertheless, it's spacious and attractive within, and well-built too.

The Plug-in's prices and trim grades are not yet confirmed ahead of its 2017 on-sale date, but we'll be getting both the Hybrid and the Electric here in the UK in October this year. And Hyundai's pricing is aggressive, to say the least. The Hybrid comes in three specs, which are SE, Premium and Premium SE; these start at 19,995, 21,795 and 23,595 respectively. Even on base trim you'll get adaptive cruise control, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, lane-keep assist, auto headlights, dual-zone climate control, a 4.2-inch TFT cluster and Bluetooth, among more. Step up to Premium and keyless entry and go, heated front seats, wireless phone charging, satnav on an eight-inch LCD screen, an Infinity eight-speaker stereo and the seven-inch TFT are added, as are Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and TomTom Live Services. Premium SE gets such luxuries as leather seat facings, ventilated and heated front seats, heated seats in the rear (outer chairs only), a heated steering wheel, auto wipers, front parking sensors and blind-spot detection. The only options are metallic or pearl paint for 565, and the ability to have 17-inch wheels on the Premium SE for 400; that will affect the performance and economy, though (see Tech Specs).

The Ioniq Electric does away with SE and just offers Premium (from 28,995) or Premium SE (from 30,740), which are practically identical to the same grades on the Hybrid/Plug-in cars. Those numbers look steep, until you realise that, as yet, the Ioniq hasn't been confirmed as eligible for the revised Plug-in Car Grant of 4,500. There is no reason it won't qualify, though, so really these are 24,495 or 26,295. Its powerful 88kW motor and 28kWh Li-ion battery means it can go up to 174 miles on a charge, which means the Hyundai is competitively priced when stacked up against the equivalent 'long-range' versions of the Nissan Leaf (24,490) and the BMW i3 (27,830). So far, so good for the Ioniq family.

How does it drive?

Before we get onto the driving, let's just talk about appearance again. It could be said that the Ioniq is a bit reserved on the outside, its sweeping roof shape no different to that found on a Toyota Prius, the defunct Vauxhall Ampera or Honda Insight rivals, while the current fourth-gen Toyota hybrid is clearly the more striking car, thanks to its somewhat melted looking exterior. However, when you see the Ioniq up close and personal it's a really tidy machine. Compact and handsome, it has some visual interest at the rear thanks to the split screen, while it can wear the necessarily small alloys for maximum eco-goodness without looking under-wheeled. Same for the interior; Hyundai has blessed it with a cabin that speaks of normalcy, rather than some overtly futuristic appearance, but it has also added just enough of a sprinkling of EV fairy dust to ensure it's not dull. Visually, we think it's a winner.

So, the Hybrid. It uses a 1.6-litre Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) petrol four-cylinder engine with no turbocharger, mated to a 32kW permanent magnet synchronous motor (PMSM) and... and... what's this? First big, big plus point to the Ioniq: it is not hobbled by an awful continuously variable transmission (CVT). Instead, Hyundai has opted to give it a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, as it says it can get 96 per cent efficiency out of such a unit without having to put up with the large refinement and performance sacrifices a CVT would incur. It's a simply marvellous decision and one that immediately puts the Ioniq ahead of a Prius, in our view.

It doesn't, however, turn the Hybrid into some sort of eco-sports car. It drives like you would expect a modest parallel hybrid to: it's smooth, it's quiet, it's composed, but it's not exciting. Sure, with a smaller 1.56kWh Li-ion battery, the Hybrid can have more advanced multi-link rear suspension where the packaging constraints of the Electric (with its bigger battery) mean it has to make do with a torsion beam design, but that doesn't turn the HEV Ioniq into a hot hatch. Sport mode does alter the TFT cluster to a driver-focused display and it weights up the steering too, yet there's little information coming back to the driver and the engine isn't really up for high-revs high-jinks.

Better to revel in the refinement of the Hybrid, which is magnificent. A 0.24Cd aerodynamic figure means it slips through the air with ease, which in turn limits wind noise within. Unless being ragged to within an inch of its life (and why would you?), the drivetrain is muted and that DCT gearbox is the masterstroke, giving the car immediate responses to throttle inputs that help to mask its rather middling performance provided by maximum outputs of 141hp and 265Nm. It's not ground-breaking, the Hybrid, but it is remarkably proficient for a first attempt and it's easily up with the best-in-class.

And then you drive the Electric, and it's evident which is the shining star in the Ioniq cluster. This is clearly how Hyundai wanted the Ioniq to be, but the continuing spectre of range anxiety presumably meant it felt it had to put some hybrid options on the table. Bizarrely, the Hybrid has a choice of just Eco or Sport modes, whereas the EV has an extra intermediary 'Normal' mode, which it could conceivably do away with. Select Sport and it actually liberates an extra 30Nm from the motor, providing the Ioniq Electric with plenty of zip from standstill and enough grunt to keep pace on the motorway. It is, of course, even higher in the refinement stakes than the Hybrid, thanks to its lack of a noise-and-vibration-inducing combustion engine, and the ride is improved by the torsion beam rear.

As for the range, on our test route it covered 56 miles including motorway work and was still showing a range of about 70-80 miles on the remaining battery, so careful motoring should see it prove to be more than useable on a daily basis for most owners. You can tap the paddles on the steering wheel to set the force of the regenerative braking effect to one of four levels, with the top two making it eminently possible to drive the Hyundai using one pedal alone. And for charging purposes, you're looking at 10-12 hours on a three-pin domestic socket, 4-6 hours on a fast home charger or untethered public charging point and it would take just 33 minutes to replenish the battery to 80 per cent on a rapid, tethered public charging point. Note of interest: Hyundai provides the cables for the first two types of charging as standard with the Ioniq Electric.


The Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid is a fine car and one that should give the 122hp/163Nm Toyota Prius plenty to think about. It's not as visually wacky as the Toyota, it has an interior that doesn't look like a cheap Star Trek set and it drives in a very pleasant, quiet fashion, plus it's a good 3,300 cheaper as well, thanks to Hyundai's bullish pricing strategy. It's perhaps technologically not a game-changer in the parallel hybrid world, but it's a very good execution of the formula nonetheless, from a company that currently has no track record in this department. And it also points to the forthcoming Plug-in model being a seriously capable piece of kit.

However, it's the Electric that wins the major plaudits. A 174-mile range is absolutely incredible stuff for a fresh-design machine like this and while it might not quite attain that distance day in, day out in the UK, something like a reliable 150 miles wouldn't be out of the question; that's fantastic for a pure EV. It's nothing like as oddball to look at as the Nissan Leaf or Renault Zoe - or even, for that matter, the much more expensive BMW i3 - and, once again, if it qualifies for the 4,500 grant (which it will do) it will be 26,295 in absolutely top specification. That it'll also be very easy to live with, thanks to its appealing interior and fine driving manners, means this is our favourite Ioniq for the moment. It's a four-star header at the top of this review and that's for the Hybrid; add an extra half-star on for this superb Electric model.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 11 Jul 2016    - Hyundai road tests
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- Ioniq images

2016 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid. Image by Hyundai.2016 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid. Image by Hyundai.2016 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid. Image by Hyundai.2016 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid. Image by Hyundai.2016 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid. Image by Hyundai.

2016 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid. Image by Hyundai.2016 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid. Image by Hyundai.2016 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid. Image by Hyundai.2016 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid. Image by Hyundai.2016 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid. Image by Hyundai.


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