Hyundai’s hybrid works like a regular hatch but leads the way for the brand’s electric cars
Hyundai is beginning an all-out assault on Australia’s hybrid and electric market. The compelling Kona Electric small SUV goes on sale early next year, preceded by the Hyundai Ioniq due for release this October. There are three variants of the latter, with a buyer’s level of electric car acceptance determining if they’d rather an Ioniq Hybrid, Plug-in or Electric.
The Electric has no internal combustion engine but its 98kW/295Nm motor and battery are good for a range of 280km between charges.
The Hybrid and Plug-in use a 77kW/147Nm 1.6-litre petrol engine with 32kW/170Nm electric motor (104kW/265Nm total), the difference being the Plug-in has a larger battery pack to give all-electric range of 63km. The Hybrid uses electric only power at low speed such as in traffic, helping it achieve economy of just 3.9L/100km.
We tested the Ioniq Hybrid ahead of its Australian on-sale date.
JULES: I thought there was a drive for hybrid cars to stop looking so hybrid-y and more like normal cars?
IAIN: There is. The Ioniq doesn’t look too tree-huggy.
JULES: The wheels look like something a futurist drew in the 1970s, and the rear looks plain weird with its split rear glass.
IAIN: Unconventional bum, I agree, but the front is attractive and looks very “normal car”.
JULES: True. Above all it’s far more handsome than the horrendously over-designed Toyota Prius.
IAIN: This Ioniq Hybrid will cost less than the UFO-esque Prius Hybrid but will be pricier than the Corolla Hybrid and about the same as the much bigger Camry Hybrid. JULES: Plenty of choice then for about $30,000. Is it worth it? What’s the fuel economy?
IAIN: This Ioniq returns an official 3.9L/100km and we got 4.4L on test. It’s good but plenty of cheaper non-hybrid small cars with turbo engines do similar.
JULES: You should go the Plug-in (1.1L/100km) or Electric version then. The Ioniq is styled to help you show your green credentials, so you may as well be as vegan, fruitarian, raw foodie, eco-militant as possible.
IAIN: They’re going to be more expensive and they make most sense for city folk and taxi drivers. And to be truly green, you need solar to charge the batteries on plug-ins. This Hybrid charges its batteries by braking and coasting.
THE LIVING SPACE
JULES: Familiar Hyundai, meaning plain but good, and the inclusions are excellent.
IAIN: Ours is the Premium version with plenty of goodies. The fauxleather seats are shaped to support and are heated and ventilated, which is superb for Australia’s climate extremes.
JULES: The touchscreen is fine although not brilliantly high-res. Having Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, satnav, sunroof, keyless entry and wireless phone charging is excellent.
IAIN: I like the heated flatbottom steering wheel and digital dashboard but it’s very grey in here. I’m sure there’ll be other cabin colours but ours needs a bit more jazz, not least as grey adorns the dashboard and door trim, too.
JULES: Some blue trim or blue ambient lighting would work, reminding you that you’re a hybrid convert.
IAIN: It has a foot-operated park brake rather than a handbrake. That’s inexcusable. JULES: I constantly forget to take it off. I’ve been told off by beeps far too often.
IAIN: Sitting it traffic is where the Ioniq makes most sense. It happily rolls along silently on electric power, using no fuel at all.
JULES: I’m impressed how it goes from electric to petrol power almost imperceptibly.
IAIN: I’d love to keep it in full electric mode for longer. If I just tap the throttle the petrol engine kicks in. It needs a button to keep you on electric power only.
JULES: It cruises well and is really smooth and comfortable. You forget it’s a hybrid in no time.
IAIN: The dual-clutch auto gearbox can be a bit jerky at low speed. That apart, really impressed.
JULES: For a hybrid with a full-size spare the boot space is superb. Where do they keep the batteries?
IAIN: Under the rear seats. This means its 456L boot is 100L-plus bigger than a Prius.
IAIN: Hyundais these days are normally brilliant to steer but the Ioniq doesn’t handle satisfyingly. Fun days out would be seeing what eco score you attain.
JULES: Doesn’t sound much fun.
IAIN: A readout gives you Economical, Normal or Aggressive percentage scores to grade your driving. I tried to be good and returned only 3 per cent Aggressive.
JULES: You soon realise there’s no point trying to coax driving thrills from it.
IAIN: You can find some. Put it in Sport mode — the digital dash turns redder and gives you a tachometer — and take control of the gears via the paddle-shifters. The electric boost gives satisfying torque pull. Not for long though. JULES: To be fair, the Ioniq’s dual-clutch auto gearbox is a lot more rewarding than a continuously variable transmission.
IAIN: The sloping roof means I have just enough headroom in the rear seat.
JULES: It’s a good size for young kids, there are rear air vents and the comprehensive safety kit is brilliant.
IAIN: The Ioniq’s a decent all-round package but the Hybrid doesn’t offer massive fuel savings compared to cheaper non-hybrids. If they’re not too expensive, I’d be more inclined to the Ioniq Plug-in or Electric.
JULES: I still don’t like the idea of plugging my car in, so the Hybrid works for me. It’s not exciting, it looks funny but it drives much like a normal car, which is probably the point.