2017 Hyundai Ioniq review – international first drive
Paul Horrell’s international first drive 2017 Hyundai Ioniq review with performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
IN A NUTSHELL: HYUNDAI IS TAKING A SWIPE AT THE TOYOTA PRIUS, WITH A PLUG-IN HYBRID AS WELL AS A NON-PLUG-IN VERSION. WE TESTED THE LATTER IN EUROPE. UNLIKE THE PRIUS IT USES A CONVENTIONAL SIX-SPEED AUTO TRANSMISSION, AND ITS STYLING ISN’T SO POLARISING. IT FEELS PRETTY ORDINARY, WHICH MAKES IT A SUCCESS ON HYUNDAI’S OWN TERMS
2017 Hyundai Ioniq
PRICING TBA WARRANTY 5 YEARS UNLIMITED KM ENGINE 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol POWER 77KW AT 5700RPM TORQUE 147NM @ 4000RPM PLUS ELECTRIC MOTOR POWER 32KW TORQUE 170NM TOTAL SYSTEM POWER 104KW TORQUE 265NM TRANSMISSION 6 SPEED DCT AUTOMATIC DRIVE FRONT-WHEEL DRIVE BODY 4470MM (L); 1820MM (W EXC MIRRORS); 1450MM (H) TURNING CIRCLE NOT SUPPLIED SEATS 5 TARE WEIGHT 1477KG FUEL TANK 45L Thirst 3.9L/100KM COMBINED CYCLE FUEL PETROL 95 RON SPARE SPACE SAVER TOWING TBA
THE INONIQ IS Hyundai’s alt-power car. There is no straightforward petrol or diesel version. Instead, it has been developed with three other powertrains: a hybid and a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) and a pure-electric vehicle. Actually, in international markets the hybrid and pure-electric are going on-sale slightly sooner. We’ll talk about the hybrid here because the pure-electric isn’t likely to come to Oz.
Many hybrids and PHEVs look like regular petrol cars. See the Audi A3 E-Tron we recently tested. But Hyundai wants the presence of the Ioniq to signal more that an owner, and the car company itself, are part of this tech revolution. So whenever you see an Ioniq you know it’s not just an ordinary car.
Besides, by prioritising energy saving in every aspect of the car, as Toyota did with the Prius, then it will get better fuel figures – in the case of the hybrid – or electric range for the PHEV and EV. Hence the very aerodynamic shape, some weight-saving aluminium panels, and even the energy-saving climate control system.
So far Hyundai Australia hasn’t confirmed an intro date. But it leads us to expect around autumn 2017. And that it’s likely to be the plug-in version first. But that could yet change.
WHAT’S THE INTERIOR LIKE?
No surprise, there’s no shortage of tech in here. The centre display houses the usual navigation, but also has phone mirroring if you’d rather use your Apple or Google maps. It also runs a series of apps including economy-logging data and real-time power graphics showing how the effort is divided amound the motor and engine. The graphics and resolution are strong. The main instrument display also has plenty of eco-coaching info.
The furniture design is modern, but most of the dash and door plastics are pretty hard, cheap-feeling and scratchy. The leather on the top version’s seats frankly resembles vinyl too. And the seats are a bit flat, failing to support you in corners. But hard cornering isn’t the mission of this economy special.
Storage space isn’t bad, with a big bin behind the transmission lever, and another in front which houses a Qi induction charging plate. The seat-backs have nets for holding papers and books.
Back seat space isn’t bad for a car of this length, offering tolerable legroom and just enough headroom. Rear passengers get a token vent outlet. The seat back is a 60:40 split-fold, and the boot is more than enough for a car this size (the plug-in version has a bigger battery and so a shallower boot, losing about 100 litres).
For maximum fuel saving it’s best to reduce the load on the climate system and the Ioniq has a few ways of doing this. The top-spec version has heated and vented seats, and a heated steering wheel. All Ioniqs have an eco mode for the A/C, as well as a ‘driver’ mode so that if you’re alone then only your quarter of the car is climatised.
WHAT’S IT LIKE ON THE ROAD?
Hyundai has done something different from Toyota’s dominant hybrid system. Toyota uses one main drive motor and another separate generator/motor, and splits the duties between them in continuously variable ways with no fixed gear ratios. It’s efficient but sounds odd and can be unresponsive – like revving up an outboard motor then gaining speed gradually.
Hyundai in contrast fits a reasonably conventional dual-clutch transmission, with the electric motor sandwiched between the four-cylinder petrol engine and the transmission. This is very similar to the engineering of the Audi A3 e-tron.
Result is it feel very ‘normal’. The engine is a 1.6 making just 77kW, but with the electric motor chiming in there’s a lot of extra mid-range torque with no lag, and the total system power rises to 104kW. The electric motor can power the car alone, but only at creeping rates of acceleration, and it won’t go far before the hybrid battery is depleted and the engine comes in. Maybe only about a kilometer. The engine also switches off on the over-run, and the motor swtches to a generator to charge the battery. In stop-go city traffic the electric motor might not be operating solo for a high proportion of the distance, but it will be for a high proportion of the time.
The Ioniq switches between its different drive sources seamlessly, the engine cutting in and out with no lumpines. Shifting of the six-speed auto box is also super-smooth. It always feels natural and responsive when you floor the accelerator too, and you can even nudge the transmission lever into a manual over-ride ‘sports’ mode, but in all honesty it hardly adds to the party. You’re better off going with the flow.
Of course the absence of power is one reason Hyundai could make it work so smoothly. Even so, all-out performance isn’t too tediously sluggish. Weight-cutting measures benefit acceleration away from a stop, and low drag lets it gain speed more easily on the highway.
(The plug-in hybrid model will have a bigger battery and slightly more powerful electric motor, so it’s claimed to operate electrically-only at gentle acceleration for up to 50km. At the end of that, it starts to act much like the normal hybrid version until you plug it in again.)
The suspension is tuned for comfort not chuckable handling. No surprise there then. The ride is supple and there’s not too much road commotion. The steering is reasonably well-weighted, holding a line on highways and weighting up sensibly in bends. At any sane speed, you’ll find reasonably precise cornering reactions, thanks in part to a multi-link rear suspension.
Like most hybrids the brakes are hard to gauge, but they do stop the Ioniq satisfactorily. Smooth progressive stops are the issue, not safety.
WHAT ABOUT THE SAFETY FEATURES?
There isn’t an NCAP crash-test result, but then there’s plenty of time for an Inoiq to go through the process before it comes on sale here. The bodyshell uses a lot of high-strength steel so it can be rigid without sacrificing the lightness needed for an eco-car. The airbag count is seven, including one for the driver’s knees.
It gets a whole heap of active-safety and driver-assist kit. The radar cruise control works smoothly.
But the radar is a bit trigger-happy warning you of hazards ahead: it’ll sometimes warn you a vehicle ahead has stopped suddenly when in fact it’s just ‘seeing’ a parked car at the kerb which you are aleady steering around. That said it it never actually jammed on its brakes autonomously for me. It obviously sensed the warning was a duff one before it got to the stage of braking. But if there really is a vehicle or pedestrian in your path, it’s designed to brake at the last moment if you fail to. Similar systems are becoming common across the industry, and they are becoming more and more effective so it’s likely this one will also work as designed.
Lane keeping assist operates well, smoothly nudging the Ioniq back into the centre of its lane on the highway, even in poor light or tunnels. Bind-spot assist warns effectively if you’re about to change lanes into the path of another car that’s passing you. If you reverse out from a parking space into traffic, it warns of vehicles coming across your tail. There’s a reversing camera too.