South Korea's largest automaker introduces an all-new, three-in-one vehicle offering three distinct high-mileage powertrain platform choices available in one compact, five-door body style.
Welcome Ioniq, Hyundai Motors all-new fuel-conserving entry constructed from the bottom up as an alternative-powered transport, rather than simply shoe horning updated technology into an existing frame, allowing engineers to design lighter-weight construction (aluminum in the hood and tailgate) around three available power sources.
The three powertrain choices include an all-electric (EV) format requiring nightly and/or periodic outlet plug ins to recharge the on-board battery pack; a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) with backup gas powertrain allowing hundreds of extended miles once an on-board battery pack extinguishes its juice and a hybrid electric vehicle (HEV), a self-charging gas-electric combo and the sole version not necessitating a wall socket.
The self-charging, non-plug-in gas-electric hybrid is the version shoppers would recognize most readily. It's similar technology utilized in the first-generation of the Prius, which Toyota introduced in the U.S. back in 2000.
Fast forward to 2017 and Toyota itself now offers multiple Prius versions, including one with plug-in hybrid electric technology (PHEV) complimenting the non-plug-in gas-electric selection.
Hyundai's rolling out powertrains in phases. First out of the gate was this week's tester; the 2017 gas-electric hybrid (HEV) sans the plug. The pure electric (EV) followed shortly thereafter. Due out this fall as a 2018 model year entry: the plug-in hybrid electric version (PHEV).
But what does IONIQ sound like (phonetically, not mechanically)? The first two syllables sound out as 'Eye On' (as in a charged particle from chemistry and physics) while the tail syllable resembles 'ick' (as in, 'ick, this medicine tastes horrible'). Combine both, and enunciate 'Eye-On-Ick,' or in Hyundai speak... Ioniq.
If remembering the name requires multiple attempts, enticing pricing may trigger better recall. The gas-electric Ionic hybrid's $22,200 starting point checks in approximately $2,500 less than Toyota's gas-electric hybrid Prius. Ionic out duals Prius' fuel estimates as well.
Ioniq's exterior cues are similar in nature to Hyundai's recently redesigned (in 2017) sixth-generation compact Elantra, featuring a stylish, 'fluid' exterior design. Ioniq's 179.9 inches of overall length identically matches that of Elantra. One stand-out difference: Ioniq's lift back rear with sharply angled glass top contributes to a flexible cargo region. The 2017 Elantra boasts a sedan body style.
From a driver's perspective, this gas-electric Ioniq's drive routine is closer to a conventional gas-powered engine than EV or PHEV versions, both of which require electric plug ins. Get in, drive and fill up with gas when the gage indicates so.
Subtle differences, though, exist from conventional engines. At prolonged stops, start-stop technology shuts down and quiets the gas engine to conserve fuel. Step on the accelerator pedal firmly and the gas engine motors to life.
Auditory senses may also note a silent start as the electric motor kicks up first in eerie silence. If the ventilation blower or air conditioner is activated, the four-cylinder gas engine may purr sooner rather than later to handle increased accessory loads.
The Ioniq gas-electric hybrid comes in three trim levels: Blue, SEL and Limited. Blue delivers the most efficient fuel rating in the U.S. market for a vehicle without a plug: 57 mpg city and 59 mpg highway. Both SEL and Limited punch out a not-so-shabby 55 mpg city and 54 mpg highway.
Our Limited tester started at $27,500 and included a $3,000 Unlimited Package, the only option package available in this trim. The bottom line ended at $31,460 with $835 destination charge and $125 floor mats. The extended-mileage Blue trim offers no option packages while SEL offers a $1,000 technology package (lane departure warning, radar cruise control).
The Unlimited Package includes radar cruise control, lane departure warning, rear parking sensors, in-dash navigation with larger 8-inch in-dash screen and wireless charging for compatible Smartphones. All trims allow easy Smartphone integration with Apple Car Play and Android Auto.
Our tester managed corner turns with pleasant authority, although this vehicle prioritizes fuel economy over performance. Suspension tilts cushioned, rather than a harsh, sports-minded version. Dual propulsion systems (electric and gas) working together at low speeds create quick starts from a standing stop.
Inside, the interior doesn't overwhelm, it just welcomes occupants. No futuristic screens or speedometer high atop the center dash; just a quintessential format, with buttons and dials in logical locations and a two-tier vertical layout.
The eight-inch in-dash touch color screen includes a row of push buttons below to navigate screen selections. The home screen includes a 'hybrid' icon that, when selected, animates the energy flow from battery, to electric motor to engine while indicating if the battery is 'charging' or if the hybrid engine is 'engaged' or 'idle'.
A flat, round center circle anchors the instrument panel displaying miles per hour in an animated, needle-driven speedometer. Flanking the speedometer's left, a bar-type illustration regarding' power,' 'eco' and 'charging' dynamics.
Most gas-electric hybrids during the past 17 years embraced continually variable transmissions (CVTs), a fuel-friendly design with unlimited forward gear ratios, but delivering minimal driving excitement. Ioniq
takes a different course, with a performance-minded dual clutch transmission, without paying much of a penalty regarding fuel usage.
Both dual clutch and CVTs require no foot clutch and operate, as far as the driver is concerned, like a traditional automatic transmission; shift the selector located between bucket seats to the appropriate PRND and be off.
Bio-fabrics and recycled plastics (incorporating sugar cane and volcanic rock derivatives) are just some ingredients tossed together creating functional, easy-on-the eyes dashboard. As with most gas-electric hybrids, push-button start comes standard.
Back in the 1990s, Hyundai introduced a game-changing marketing strategy vastly changing its fortunes for the better. By introducing a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, Hyundai provided extended peace of mind to potential shoppers while creating miles and miles of great PR. Plus, it's an easy concept to grasp.
Now, for those who may need an extra nudge to 'go alternative,' Hyundai offers a lifetime warranty on Ioniq's hybrid battery.
Ioniq's self-charging lithium-ion battery stows under the rear seats, maximizing interior volume. In fact, with 122.7 cubic feet of interior volume, Ioniq boasts more rider room than Toyota's Prius, fitting three adults in row three (at least for short jaunts).
The diminutive fuel and holds 11.9 gallons of regular, 87-octane fuel. When multiplied by 55 (the EPA's estimate of combined city/highway fuel economy), a potential range-before-next-fill up of 654.5 miles is reached.
Hyundai's South Korean automotive partner, Kia, also offers a similar multi-powertrain platform (hybrid, all-electric, plug-in hybrid) with its 2017 Niro crossover. The big difference: Niro incorporates a traditional hatch back design. Plus Niro sounds snappier (sorry Ioniq).
At a Glance
Price as tested: $31,460
Gas Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder
Battery: Lithium-ion polymer
Combined Horsepower: 139
Overall Length: 179.9 inches
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Overall Width: 176.0 inches
Fuel economy: 55 mpg city, 54 mpg highway
Lithium Battery Warranty: Unlimited
Assembly: Ulsan, Korea