Ticket to the future
At first glance the Ioniq looks like a Hyundai copy of the Toyota Prius, and in some ways it is, from its five-door hatchback body — with a splitlevel rear window — to its impressive 0.24 drag coefficient. But it’s much more, as Hyundai is using the Ioniq (based on the mechanical platform of the previousgeneration i30) as the basis for real-world testing and sales of its advanced fuel technology. The Ioniq may look like it came from the same mould as the Prius and driving it in South Korea shows it does a similar job on efficiency with economy around 4.1 litres/100km. But it has a chunkier feel than the landmark Toyota and is quieter, helped by thicker glass. The dashboard display is not as space-age as the Prius but it’s sportier, gripping the road better through corners for more driving enjoyment. It has a conventional six-speed twinclutch auto with its 1.6-litre petrol engine. A plug-in hybrid is in development and a major focus for future Euro sales.
A fully plug-in Ioniq is available for city driving in Seoul and it’s typical of the battery-car breed, accelerating briskly and almost silently. There is a lithium-ion polymer battery, an 88kW electric motor and a claimed range of 200 kilometres between charges. It has driver adjustable regenerative braking with switches on the steering wheel, a first for a Carsguide drive, which means you can tune the braking effort for more fun. It feels more like the Nissan Leaf as an electric conversion of an existing car, not a true future car like the BMW i3. It’s being used for self-driving development work at Hyundai’s giant research and development base at Namyang, with various radar and lidar systems and fluourescent yellow trim pieces in the cabin that shout about its ability. It drives itself competently through a 10minute demo run, although it’s jerkier than an autonomous BMW 7 Series. It’s not doing anything special but Hyundai believes autonomous driving is the future and wants an early ticket to the action. There are definite plans to bring the Ioniq to Australia as a hybrid, even if the launch date has been pushed back from 2016 into the second half of this year. The electric Ioniq is also on the radar, but European consumers want the plug-in hybrid as a priority and that could hurt the local timing. Based on American pricing the Ioniq hybrid should be at least $3000 cheaper than the Toyota Prius and it’s the sort of car that can help to polish the Hyundai badge alongside the highperformance N-division cars at the opposite end of the action.