2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Premium Review
Isaac Bober’s 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Premium Review with performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Hyundai soft-launches its Ioniq hybrid in Australia, eschewing the Prius hybrids future-is-now design for something more normal, and with a locally-tuned ride.
2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Premium
Price Not disclosed Warranty five-years, unlimited kilometres Safety five start EuroNCAP Engine 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol and electric motor Power 77kW at 5700rpm Torque 147Nm at 4000rpm Electric Motor 32kW/170Nm Total System 104kW/265Nm (in frst-gear) 235Nm (from second- to sixth-gear) Transmission six-speed DCT Drive front-wheel only Dimensions 4470mm (L) 1820mm (W) 1450mm (H) Weight 1477kg Boot Space 456-750L Spare full-size Fuel Tank 45L Thirst 3.2L/100km claimed combined
HYUNDAI IS FIRING a warning shot across Toyota’s bow. The Korean car maker that’s quietly creeping into every niche on the market has soft-launched its Ioniq hybrid in Australia. A bunch of them have been loaned out to the Red Cross for real-world trials with motoring media being given several days acess.
The Ioniq is the spearhead for Hyundai’s alternative power movement. Available either as a plug-in, hybrid, conventional hybrid (the only variant available in Australia), and an all-electric variant – you can’t get just a petrol or diesel version. Plenty of car makers base their hybrids on a conventional model (Toyota Camry, Audi e-Tron, etc) although the Prius is the exception to this rule. Hyundai crafted the Ioniq line, despite its conventional design, to stand it apart from the rest of the range so that buyers and passers-by would be in no doubt as to what the thing is.
What is the Hyundai Ioniq?
As we’ve said above, the Ioniq is Hyundai’s first step into the alternative power world and because it wanted to be noticed for doing so, it crafted a new vehicle line rather than shoe-horning tech into something it already produced.
The Ioniq clearly has a more conventional design than, say, the Toyota Prius, but that doesn’t mean that fuel efficiency and energy saving isn’t the aim of the game. The Ioniq gets a teardrop design, the most aerodynamic shape in existence, realising a drag coefficient of just 0.24 Cd. Helping achieve that number are elements like the front wheel air curtains, an external active air flap, a rear spoiler and diffuser, side sill moldings, a cover underneath the vehicle and a cool-looking but closed wheel design. The idea of these things is to help make the Ioniq as slippery through the air as possible.
More than this, there’s an aluminium bonnet and boot lid cutting out 12.4kg compared to a conventional bonnet and boot. There’s also aluminium used in the front and rear suspension components to save weight. Even the cargo screen is 25% lighter than other cargo covers in Hyundai models.
Hyundai isn’t talking about dollars just yet for the Ioniq but the belief is that it’ll undercut the Prius.
While there are other variants of Ioniq available, only the petrol-electric hybrid has arrived in Australia, but the plug-in and full-electric variants will be here towards the end of the year. Like the Prius this combines a petrol engine with an electric motor. Instead of a CVT, as many of its hybrid competitors run, the Hyundai Ioniq gets a six-speed dual-clutch transmission.
What’s the interior like?
Hyundai referred to the theme behind the interior of the Ioniq as ‘Purified High Tech’ but I’m not so sure that comes across. Sure, there’s plenty of decent, usable technology inside the Ioniq, including Qi wireless phone charging and an infotainment system that offers Apple and Android phone mirroring, as well as native sat-nav, a display showing the flow of power from the engine or motor, or both simultaneously, or energy flowing back into the battery. There’s also a screen that helps to ‘coach’ your eco driving.
Indeed, use the Eco-Das…eco driving assistant system when you’ve programmed a destination into the native sat-nav and the system will look at the latest traffic data and determine when it will be able to provide the most efficient battery recharging or when extra motor assistance will be required. Clever.
The Ioniq Premium offers dual-zone climate control and in its fuel-efficiency push there’s also a ‘driver only’ setting which allows you to shut off air to passenger side and back of the vehicle. I tried this on a 30-plus degree C day this week and happily travelled like that for more than 100km. There’s also an eco-mode for the climate control.
If you’ve sat inside an i30 then the front half of the Ioniq will feel very familiar. Sure, the design is conservative, but there’s an understated class to it. That said, if you start feeling around on the lower parts of the dashboard and door trims you’ll feel more hard, scratchy plastic than you might have expected, but I’m a big fan of the upper dash material.
Climb in behind the wheel of the Ioniq Premium and the seat will slide back to make it easier to climb in, before, once you’re in, sliding you back to your pre-set driving position. The seats are comfortable but there’s very little side bolstering in the seat base although there’s decent length in them for under thigh support, and the seat back is very flat and broad too…and this all ties in with the eco driving aim of the Ioniq. This thing isn’t intended to be hurled into corners.
Our Ioniq Premium test car had leather seats and as our Paul found when he tested the Ioniq in the UK last year, the leather quality isn’t up to Hyundai’s usual standard and feels more like vinyl. That said, the front seats offer ventilation and heating. There’s also a small sunroof.
There’s one cupholder in the front of the car, a small storage space for your keys or phone (although the phone can also be placed on the charging pad) and a space alongside the centre console which is big enough to hold an iPad. There are bottle holders in the door bins at the front of the car.
Into the back and you get the same minimal seat design with almost no bolstering or contouring. That said, the seats are comfortable, although the middle seat is flat and best suited to short journey travel only; and armrest with cup holders folds down from the middle seat back. There’s good foot and okay leg and knee room in the back of the Ioniq but the sloping roofline will see those over six-feet tall feeling a little short-changed for headroom. There’s a directional rear air vent but no power outlets, nets on the hard backs of the front seats can be used for tablet (of the IT variety) storage.
The back seats are 60:40 split fold with a lever on the seat shoulder. The tailgate raises with enough room for a six-footer like me to stand underneath it without bumping my head; the shape of the boot is good and there’s 456 litres of storage space when loaded to the top of the back seats and 750 litres when you fold them down. Beneath the floor is a full-size spare.
What’s it like on the road?
As you may have gathered, while the idea of the Ioniq is like that of the Prius the execution is very different. The Ioniq runs a conventional 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine which makes just 77kW at 5700rpm and 147Nm of torque at 4000rpm, add in the electric motor which offers 32kW and you’ll get a total output of 107kW and 265Nm of torque in first gear only, and 235Nm of torque from second-gear to sixth-gear. The Prius uses a CVT, but Hyundai has opted for a conventional six-speed dual-clutch transmission and this is what helps the Ioniq edge the Prius in the driving stakes.
The Prius feels a bit weird when accelerating; you press the throttle and the thing makes a lot of noise but progress is fairly slow. Now the Ioniq won’t snap your head off when you floor it, but it feels more natural in the way it both accumulates speed and responds to the throttle. And, should you so choose you can always nudge the shifter into ‘manual’ mode and hustle it along yourself. But the Ioniq isn’t designed to be hurried.
Let’s look at the electric motor…there’s no way to select the EV mode, like you can in a Prius, rather the system determines what to use when. At start-up, the car will default to EV and when you’re reversing all you’ll hear is the gentle scrunching of the tyres and beep-beep to let outsiders know you’re reversing. If you’re pointing downhill then you’ll be able to let the car accumulate speed in its own time and then it will rely on the electric motor to do all the driving and applying gentle throttle will see the thing continue on the electric motor and battery alone. Provoke it via the throttle and the petrol engine will cut in.
Similarly, if you’re on a flat road then you’ll need to be feather-light on the throttle to avoid overloading it and having the petrol engine cut in and take over. But, unlike a Prius, the Ioniq, depending on the conditions, is happy to travel on its electric motor at up to 150km/h. In my time with the Ioniq, I managed to get more than one kilometre out of the battery before it switched over to the petrol engine, but I had a good long downhill run to start with and the roads around my house were graveyard quiet so I didn’t need to worry the throttle too much.
The battery is also different to the pack in key competitors, with the Ioniq employing more efficient Lithium-Ion polymer batteries which tend to have a lower memory sensitivity than the nickel-metal-hydride batteries and so will handle charging and depletion better. Or so the theory goes. The batteries have been mounted under the back seats too to ensure maximum storage and practicality of the boot space.
One thing that impressed was the smoothness of the transmission and the way the petrol engine cuts in and out. Too often these transitions can be a lumpy affair but not with the Ioniq. I did notice, the battery seems to take a long time to recharge… even on a non-stop 100km stint behind the wheel I couldn’t get the battery to more than three-quarters full. But that’s as much because the battery is being used to supplement grunt more of the time than it is in, say, a Toyota Prius.
Like just about every other Hyundai on-sale in Australia, including the new i30 N, the Ioniq has been given a bespoke steering and suspension tune. And it’s good. Out on the Practical Motoring road loop which covers a great cross-section of Australian road surfaces, the ride was comfortable with an un-hybrid like resistance to body roll. Don’t misread me, I’m not suggesting the ride or handling is sporty, just that the multi-link rear end and the years of local tuning experience have meant Hyundai knows how to tune a car for Aussie roads. The steering is well-weighted, direct and consistent in its action.
Unlike, say, the Prius which, despite its clever new platform, has a rather wooden suspension tune, the Ioniq soaks up the worst of our roads and insulates the interior very well, even across dirt. The 17-inch wheels are wrapped in Michelin low-rolling resistance rubber and sometimes these things can feel a little skittish and hard through the tread blocks and often transmit a lot of road noise, but not on the Ioniq. It reallys is very quiet and comfortable thanks to under body insulation, thicker window glass and “noise-cancelling” film on the windscreen.
Stepping off the throttle will quite often see a hybrid retard slightly and the brakes can be very wooden thanks to regenerative braking, but in the Ioniq those sensations are very mild. But the brake pedal is still very hard to gauge, feeling longer (as in, pedal travel) than you expect it to be. They work, but you have to start the process earlier than you normally would.
What about safety?
The Inoniq has scored a five-star EuroNCAP rating so you would expect the same when it’s rated by ANCAP given that the two agencies are now using the same methodology and weighting. There’s more than 50% high-strength, lightweight steel in the body and there are seven airbags as well as autonomous emergency braking (which operates above 10km/h), blind-spot monitoring with lane-changing assist and rear cross traffic alert. And it doesn’t stop there, with the Ioniq offering lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, like the system in the i30, I found the Ioniq’s lane keep assist to be good. On the roads near my place there are a lot of phantom lines that seem to mess with some of these systems, but not so on the Ioniq and the gentle steering it applies if you wander and it doesn’t detect a correcting action is very mild.
So, what do we think?
As a toe into the water of alternative powertrains, the Ioniq is a good one. It looks and drives just like a regular car and I think that’s it’s key. It normalises the hybrid experience rather than trying to make a feature out of it. Beyond the efficiency of the engine and motor/battery set-up, the Ioniq is good to drive and comfortable to sit in with all the creature comforts you could want.