Pedal power

A hy­brid that pro­vides an each-way bet, but is it worth the punt?

Wheels (Australia) - - Fortune Special - BY­RON MATHIOUDAKIS

The Q7 E-tron dis­cour­ages lead-footed driv­ing by us­ing a hap­tic feed­back sys­tem on the loud pedal. This puls­ing of the pedal works to en­cour­age a speed­ing driver to lift off the throt­tle slightly, the car then de­cel­er­at­ing to the posted limit. The pedal feed­back is sup­ported with an icon on the head-up dis­play to re­mind you when you’ve be­come a lit­tle over-en­thu­si­as­tic.

LIKE teth­ered sky­div­ing and any ‘edited for con­tent’ air­line movie, the Ioniq Plug-in petrol-elec­tric hy­brid ex­udes more than a hint of en­trée along­side its Elec­tric sib­ling’s culi­nary smor­gas­bord. Why not just go for the main?

Hyundai’s head-first dive into low-to-zero emis­sions ve­hi­cles is am­bi­tious, with a pair of ‘taster’ elec­tri­fied Ioniqs for buy­ers un­cer­tain and/or anx­ious about com­mit­ting to the full Ioniq Elec­tric EV ex­pe­ri­ence.

And fair enough. As Hyundai’s Prius, the starter Hy­brid from $33,990 brings a 77kw/147nm 1.6 petrol/six-speed dual-clutch trans­mis­sion in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine (ICE) combo with 32kw/170nm elec­tric mo­tor and 1.56kwh bat­tery as­sis­tants, for a 3.4L/100km av­er­age. It never runs elec­tri­cally – un­like in the $41K Plug-in, us­ing the same ICE pow­er­train but a larger (44kw/170nm) elec­tric mo­tor and 8.9kwh bat­tery, for up to 63km of EV driv­ing, be­fore switch­ing to petrol (and just 1.1L/100km). Both have to­tal sys­tem out­puts of 104kw.

Mir­ror­ing the suc­cess­ful Mit­subishi Out­lander PHEV, it is pos­si­ble to com­mute daily in pure-ev mode, as long as the Plug-in is fully charged (up to five hours on a house­hold plug) at the out­set. The ICE will kick in when the HEV but­ton is se­lected or ‘Sport’ is ac­cessed, help­ing recharge along the way.

All good so far, es­pe­cially as the Plug-in’s EV per­for­mance is sur­pris­ingly ea­ger given the mod­est out­put; ad­di­tion­ally, the steer­ing is re­spon­sive (if re­mote in feel), with sim­i­lar han­dling and road­hold­ing con­trol to the re­lated i30 hatch – fur­ther nor­mal­is­ing the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion ex­pe­ri­ence. How­ever, stiff sus­pen­sion, an un­set­tled ride and om­nipresent dron­ing from the (multi-link) rear end erode the Ioniq’s re­fine­ment qual­i­ties.

Fur­ther­more, spir­ited driv­ing drains the volts pretty quickly, and when the ICE does kick in, there’s even more me­chan­i­cal ca­coph­ony to as­sault ears hith­erto lulled into an elec­tric seren­ity – though the ac­com­pa­ny­ing ex­tra ac­cel­er­a­tion (and about 900km com­bined range) is ap­pre­ci­ated.

The thing is, for only $4000 more, there’s the near­si­lent, torquey smooth­ness of the po­tent Elec­tric, while still of­fer­ing 230km of real-world range; the EV is just as spa­cious and comfy in­side, but brings a less mun­dane dash, gain­ing elec­tronic trans­mis­sion con­trols, flash in­stru­ments and stop-and-go adap­tive cruise con­trol ca­pa­bil­ity, while ditch­ing the Plug-in’s foot-op­er­ated park brake. It sim­ply feels more spe­cial in­side. And the (tor­sion beam) rear sus­pen­sion seems both more ab­sorbent and bet­ter-iso­lated.

The Plug-in, then, is a ca­pa­ble if flawed gate­way EV of ques­tion­able value, lack­ing the charm­ing and en­joy­able Elec­tric’s more rounded ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Good as it is, if you’re this close, cut the ICE um­bil­i­cal cord and savour the su­pe­rior EV ex­pe­ri­ence the all­bat­tery Ioniq of­fers.

6.5/10

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