2017 Hyundai Ioniq EV: A good start
By Chris Chase
August 10th 2017
A review of the history of the global auto industry reveals that electric cars are hardly a new phenomenon: Some of the first cars were electric, but they were quickly eclipsed by internal combustion-powered vehicles that were quicker to refuel. The popular opinion is that the electric starter motor, which eliminated the need to hand-crank a gas engine, sealed the fate of the nascent electric car segment.
It would be decades before electricity was revived as a viable means of powering a vehicle alone (though hybrids proved combining an engine with an electric motor was a good way to reduce fuel consumption). Now, it appears set to become the next big thing. Elon Musk’s Tesla is heading a push to put electric cars back in the spotlight with its high-end cars and crossovers, but at the more affordable end of the spectrum, Hyundai is among the latest automakers to stick its nameplate on an electric vehicle, a compact hatchback called the Ioniq.
Pros & Cons
- + Interior design
- + Efficient performance
- + Styling
- - Tinny doors
- - Rearward visibility
- - Driving range
The Ioniq badge is applied to a range of electrified vehicles that includes our all-electric tester, a gas-electric hybrid, and a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) set to arrive later this year that will combine electric-only capability with the extra driving range offered by its gas engine.
The Ioniq is a handsome little car that borrows styling elements from previous-generation versions of the Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius. It’s a look that works: just distinctive enough to stand out, without being so weird as to alienate more conservative car shoppers.
One of our favourite elements of the Ioniq’s interior is the rose-gold trim that rings the infotainment screen and console. We’re not sure it’s meant an as upscale dress-up — our tester had seats done in geometric-patterned cloth that reminded us of the first-generation Accent — but it’s an interesting touch.
The interior boasts interior comfort and space about on par with the brand’s Elantra. The sloping roofline doesn’t look conducive to rear-seat headroom, but will actually accommodate a pair of average-height adults.
Less appealing is the car’s rearward visibility. The angle of the main backlight necessitates a second smaller window between the taillights, and the resulting tailgate structure between the two bisects the view out the back. The sizeable C-pillars also create large blind spots.
We’d argue the technology worthy of mention here is in the electric motor under the hood and the battery stashed beneath the rear seat and cargo area. Hyundai says the battery is good for 200 km of driving range, though our use of the car’s heater in chilly weather cut that potential to around 175 km. As a first effort, 200 km is fine, but that’s already well behind the class-leading Chevrolet Bolt, which promises 380 km.
With nothing but a 120-volt wall outlet to plug into at home, I’d be looking at a 24-hour charging time from a nearly-flat battery. Using a 240-volt level 2 charger cuts that to 4.5 hours, and hard-to-find level 3 public chargers will do it in 35 minutes.
Other more conventional tech in our test car included navigation with a specialized charging station finder function, and a slick-but-straightforward LCD gauge cluster.
Hyundai talks up the Ioniq’s high-strength steel-intensive structure, which is reassuring from a crash safety perspective, but it doesn’t do much to improve the tinny sound the doors make when they close.
The Ioniq allows for one-pedal driving, thanks to a driver-selectable regenerative braking system that slows the car effectively as soon as you lift your foot off the accelerator. It’s a strange thing to use the brake pedal only when you need to hold the car at a stop, but it’s an excellent way to maximize the amount of electricity sent back to the battery in deceleration.
Once underway, road noise is about average for a compact car, but eliminating the noise and vibration created by a gasoline engine makes for a more refined drive overall. The Ioniq isn’t super-quick — that’s not the point here — but it does just fine at keeping up with traffic in city and highway driving situations.
This is no sports car, but handling is decent, aided by what we imagine is a relatively low centre of gravity due to the weight of the battery positioned just ahead of the rear axle. Set the car to sport mode, toss the car into a corner and enjoy the way the motor’s silent torque pulls you out of the curve. It’s kind of entertaining for a car advertised as having the equivalent of 120 hp.
In most cars, we’d indicate value as a measure of what standard features it comes with at any given price point, but with modern electric car technology still in its infancy, we’d rather look at it in terms of driving range per dollar.
Hyundai pegs the Ioniq EV’s starting price at $35,649 for a promise of 200 km of driving on a full charge. That’s about $1,700 more than a Nissan Leaf, whose maker says it will go 172 km, and a $4,200 premium compared to the Ford Focus Electric, which boasts a 185-km range. Meanwhile, Volkswagen says its forthcoming e-Golf will go 201 km for a starting price $351 higher than the Ioniq’s, and the Chevrolet Bolt is a $42,795 car the American manufacturer claims will cover up to 383 km.
We know every car buyer prioritizes different things when they go shopping, but if you, like us, are mostly interested in getting the most distance for your dollar, the Bolt looks like the way to go.
As we’ve come to expect from every new vehicle Hyundai rolls out, the Ioniq is a nicely-done small car; this one just happens to run purely on electricity which, at the moment, will either make you want to buy one or put you behind the wheel of an Elantra instead.
Maybe it’s because we’ve become accustomed to Hyundai pushing the value-for dollar envelope and forcing other automakers to up their games in that regard, but as good as this car is to drive, it’s a bit disappointing to see this company plunk its first EV right in the middle of the road, rather than challenge the segment the way Chevrolet has done.
Still, it’s better to have a decent, if not world-besting, product in an emerging segment than none at all, and the Ioniq is undeniably a good start.