Review of: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited Technology
2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid: Still needs some dialling-in
By Jil McIntosh
Sep. 22, 2017
If you’re going to do something, you might as well take it all the way, and that’s what Hyundai has done with its new-for-2017 Ioniq. It’s not offered as a conventional car, but as three models with batteries: an all-electric, a plug-in hybrid, and my tester, the Ioniq Hybrid.
That driveline also shows up at sister company Kia, which stuffs it into the Niro, which is – at least for now – only offered as a hybrid.
The Ioniq Hybrid comes in four trim levels, starting with the base Blue at $24,299. It works up through the SE at $26,499, the Limited at $29,749, and ends up at my tester, the Limited Technology, which cashes in at $31,749 before freight and taxes.
Pros & Cons
- + Transmission shift quality
- + Build quality
- + instrument panel
- - Not big on driver involvement
- - Driver's seating position
- - Steering feel
The Ioniq comes strictly as a four-door hatchback. Given that car sales are generally in decline in favour of utility vehicles, I wonder if Hyundai erred in giving Kia the crossover design for the Niro. It should be interesting to see how sales play out over the two brands.
While the Ioniq is angular, it doesn’t have quite the angry face of its Prius competitor, with a wide grille that swings up to capture the headlights. The rear looks a bit bulky with the high-mounted taillights and wide lower valance, and there’s a bit more lift-over than I’d like when filling the cargo hold. Like the Prius, the hatch contains a larger window up top and a smaller one under the lip, separated by a thick bar that’s right in your line of sight whenever you glance in the rearview mirror.
The top-line Limited trim adds a few features to the exterior that aren’t found on the lower levels, including chrome door handles and quirkily-handsome 17-inch rims.
The cabin follows Hyundai’s signature styling, piling the infotainment screen and controls neatly up the centre stack, and with a lot of hard buttons that make it easy to make adjustments on the fly.
All trim levels include heated front seats, split-folding rear seat, rearview camera and dual-zone automatic climate control, while the SE adds heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, sunroof, and power driver’s seat. The Limited builds on that with leather upholstery and faux-leather door trim.
But as nice as those seats look, I found it very difficult to manoeuvre the driver’s chair to a comfortable position. If I put it down low, my leg was out too straight and it cramped, and if I put the seat up higher to get some bend to my knee, I couldn’t see the speedometer over the steering wheel. Knee space is a bit tight in the rear seats, but there’s lots of room under the front chairs for slipping one’s feet, which makes it a bit easier for longer-legged passengers.
Pairing a phone is quick and easy, and all trim levels include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. On the electronic nanny side, blind spot monitoring arrives on the SE, while the Limited tacks on adaptive cruise control, emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and lane departure warning.
The Limited is the only trim level available with the Technology Package, as my tester had, which adds adaptive bi-xenon headlamps, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system (up from seven-inch on other levels) with navigation, premium audio system, and seven-inch instrument cluster panel display.
The Hybrid is powered by a new 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that makes 104 horsepower and 109 lb-ft of torque on its own, and a combined 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft when working in conjunction with the hybrid system. Most hybrid use a CVT, but the Ioniq sends its power to the front wheels through a slick-shifting, six-speed dual-clutch transmission.
As with other hybrids, the Ioniq alternates automatically between gas, electric, or a combination of the two as needed, and the switchover is so smooth that it’s almost imperceptible. You can do some pretty impressive motoring on the battery alone if your foot is light enough, and I cruised along the highway at 105 km/h on electricity alone.
Still, acceleration is smooth but unspectacular. Granted, you don’t buy a mainstream hybrid so you can whip away at each traffic light, but when you add in the light-but-dull steering, the performance leaves much to be desired. It’s a little snappier in Sport mode, but still not what I’d expect. The Ioniq isn’t a bad car overall, but it just doesn’t nail it. The Prius definitely isn’t a sports sedan either, but its steering is crisper and it’s more fun to drive than Hyundai’s version.
Fuel economy is the payoff, of course, and in the Ioniq’s case, the published figures are 4.2 L/100 km in the city, and 4.0 on the highway. I’m usually pretty light-footed, but for some reason I couldn’t come anywhere close to them, managing a still-respectable 5.0 L/100 km in combined driving.
The technology that goes into hybrids also inflates the price tag, but overall, the Ioniq does a pretty good job when you compare its sticker to its rivals. Its starting price of $24,29 undercuts the competition, including the Kia Niro at $24,992; Toyota’s Prius at $27,190; Ford’s Fusion Hybrid at $28,888; Honda’s Accord Hybrid at $31,300; and even Hyundai’s other gas-electric, the Sonata Hybrid, at $29,699.
At $31,749, the top-line Ioniq Limited Technology comes in over the Prius’ top sticker of $30,425, but that’s all. All of the other rivals come in over it, from the Niro’s highest price of $32,995, to the Ford Fusion Hybrid that tops out at $41,988.
So overall, what have we here? Quite frankly, for an all-new model from a successful automaker, I expected a bit more. Despite its power numbers and its dual-clutch transmission, the Ioniq is unexciting and stodgy, and lacks the more coveted tall-wagon crossover styling of its Kia cousin. On the other hand, if all you want is the fuel-saving powertrain, the price is right. The package is there and it’s good overall, and with any luck, Hyundai can take it back into the shop and dial this one in to become a real contender.