MO­TOR­ING

With the Ioniq, Hyundai is test­ing the wa­ters in a new seg­ment. Does it have what it takes to es­tab­lish it­self in the bur­geon­ing hy­brid mar­ket, asks wheels’ Sony Thomas

Friday - - Contents -

Hyundai has en­tered the Hy­brid arena with Ioniq. Is it a knock­out? It’s to early to say.

Hyundai has lofty dreams. And it is work­ing over­time to turn those dreams into re­al­ity, fast. From be­ing an in­signif­i­cant speck in the rear-view mir­ror of ma­jor play­ers a cou­ple of decades ago, the South Korean car­maker has turned it­self into a force to reckon with in the au­to­mo­tive world. A force that has Volk­swa­gen and Toy­ota in its sights. A force big enough for Volk­swa­gen’s for­mer CEO Martin Win­terkorn to pub­licly ac­knowl­edge that he sees Hyundai as a big­ger ri­val than Toy­ota. That was in 2010, and the brand has made even greater strides in those seven years, churn­ing out well-built, yet rea­son­ably priced mod­els in ev­ery seg­ment. But there was one seg­ment which it couldn’t make a mark on, and that was the green car mar­ket. While Toy­ota has the petrol-elec­tric hy­brid mar­ket cor­nered, GM, Nis­san and Tesla share the spoils of the pure elec­tric ve­hi­cle sec­tor.

So, when Hyundai de­cided to en­ter this ter­ri­tory, it had a plan. A plan that could kill three birds with one stone. And that stone is the Ioniq. Touted as the world’s first car model to have three elec­tri­fied pow­er­trains, the Ioniq can be even­tu­ally had in three flavours – pure elec­tric, hy­brid, or plug-in hy­brid. While the elec­tric and plug-in vari­ants could land here some­time in the fu­ture, the hy­brid ver­sion has al­ready made it to our shores, and we’re the first to drive it in the UAE.

There’s noth­ing ground-break­ing in the looks depart­ment. As we’ve seen with the Prius, de­sign in a green car is dic­tated by wind tun­nel rules. So for minds con­di­tioned by the unin­spir­ing lines of the Prius, there isn’t any­thing re­fresh­ing that the Ioniq brings. That said, it doesn’t look bad ei­ther. Within the lim­i­ta­tions set by aero­dy­nam­ics, Hyundai has man­aged to in­fuse a cer­tain amount of grace into the Ioniq. It es­sen­tially looks like the new Elantra with a Prius-like hatch­back. It also has the same wheel­base as the Elantra and shares many me­chan­i­cals in­clud­ing the front and rear sus­pen­sions. Even in­side, most of the but­tons and con­trols are sim­i­lar to those in the mid-size saloon. Un­like the fu­tur­is­tic cock­pit of the Prius, the Ioniq’s cabin is pretty con­ven­tional, and you wouldn’t need to spend ex­tra time try­ing to fig­ure things out. Seats

are com­fort­able with am­ple space for a driver and front pas­sen­ger of above av­er­age height. Even the rear com­part­ment is quite roomy. The big­gest prac­ti­cal ad­van­tage the Ioniq has over the Elantra is the boot, thanks to the tall hatch.

How­ever, the big sell­ing point ob­vi­ously is the petrol-elec­tric hy­brid pow­er­train. A 1.6-litre four-cylin­der engine is mated to a 32kW elec­tric mo­tor that is also good for 169Nm of torque. In com­bi­na­tion, this ar­range­ment puts out a to­tal of 138bhp and 264Nm of torque. There’s some­thing unique about the Ioniq’s hy­brid setup though. While tra­di­tion­ally, hy­brid cars used ei­ther nickel-metal-hy­dride or lithium-ion bat­ter­ies for the hy­brid sys­tem or a sep­a­rate lead-acid 12-volt battery for start­ing the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion engine. But Hyundai has used a 12-volt lithium-ion battery in­stead and packed it to­gether with the 240-volt 1.56-kWh main battery in a sin­gle com­part­ment un­der the rear seats.

While we have al­ways seen hy­brids as a stop-gap mea­sure be­fore full elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of ve­hi­cles, the Ioniq did im­press us with its thrifti­ness. It does well es­pe­cially in stop-and-go traf­fic sit­u­a­tions, and in Eco mode re­turned a very fru­gal 4.8 litres per 100km. But un­like the hy­brid Porsche, there’s a trade-off, and that’s lack of thrills. Try­ing to squeeze out de­cent per­for­mance from the pow­er­train is a chal­lenge, es­pe­cially in Eco mode. There is a Sport mode, but it doesn’t make any sense in this sort of a car. One other as­pect that I wish Hyundai did a better job in is the in­for­ma­tion dis­play. Un­like the promi­nently placed, colour­ful screens of the Prius, the Ioniq dis­plays all info re­gard­ing ef­fi­ciency, re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing etc. on a small area in the mid­dle of the in­stru­ment panel in front of the driver. It does the job al­right, but a bit more elab­o­ra­tion would go a long way in en­cour­ag­ing you to drive more eco­nom­i­cally.

As Hyundai’s first effort at mak­ing a Prius ri­val, the Ioniq is im­pres­sive. With prices start­ing at Dh75,900, it’s an at­trac­tive propo­si­tion even for those who aren’t in the mar­ket for a hy­brid. It’s more roomy and prac­ti­cal than many mid-size sa­loons in this price range and is more penny-wise to boot.

Within the lim­i­ta­tions set by AERO­DY­NAM­ICS, Hyundai has man­aged to IN­FUSE a cer­tain amount of grace into the Ioniq. It es­sen­tially looks like the new Elantra with a Prius-like HATCH­BACK

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Hyundai’s hy­brid car Ioniq has plenty of legroom, a big boot and is a de­cent per­former on the road

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