by: Mike Ginsca
As the search for alternative fuels continues, gasoline engines are continuing to get a helping hand from electrical motors. The latest new Hybrid to hit the market is the Hyundai Ioniq and it has its sight set on the Toyota Prius. At a starting price of just over $24,000, it is over $3,000 less expensive than the normal Prius (not the Prius C). But how does it compare to the industry standard?
Engine(s) – The internal combustion engine is a 1.6L inline-4 that produces a modest 104hp. Mated to it is a 43hp electric motor for a total output of 139hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. In normal everyday driving conditions, the power feels lacking despite the fact that the electric motor always helps to accelerate the Ioniq. When the shifter is in “Sport” mode, the transmission downshifts by one gear and all of the battery’s power gets sent to the wheels. In this mode it definitely feels like the car has 195 lb-ft of torque but fuel economy takes a big hit. In normal “Eco” mode if you try really, really, really hard you can achieve the claimed 4.4 L/100km combined fuel economy figure. But you have to have a lot of patience when accelerating and plan ahead about what your next move is going to be. “Do I need to brake now or just coast?”, “Can I accelerate light enough to not turn on the gas engine?” etc. If you drive like a normal person, you’d be looking at about 5.5 – 6.5 L/100km of combined fuel efficiency.
Transmission – Normally hybrids are matched with a CVT transmission. But in the efforts to make the Ioniq a bit more fun to drive than other hybrids, Hyundai put a twin-clutch 6-speed automatic in the Ioniq. Like other twin-clutch transmissions, this one is smooth and quick at shifting. In normal Eco mode, it quickly tries to get to the top gear while in Sport mode it holds each gear for a longer period to provide the most of the engine’s power.
Brakes – Slowing down in the Hyundai Ioniq is tricky and not confidence inspiring at all. Under light braking applications, the Ioniq uses regenerative braking to slow itself down. Beyond that, the disc brakes take over but it’s that transition from regenerative to friction braking that feels weird and takes some getting use to. Also not helping is the spongy feeling brake pedal.
Handling – Despite receiving a 6-speed transmission and a Sport mode, the Hyundai Ioniq does not feel very sporty when going around corners. The suspension is too soft and under heavy braking, the front nose-dives dramatically which can be unsettling for some. The soft suspension also has a poor effect on the car when driving over bumps. It reacts very slowly to hitting a bump and jostles up and down a few times making for an uncomfortable ride.
Ride Comfort – For the most part the Ioniq is comfortable over smooth roads. But as mentioned before, it becomes uncomfortable once it drives over rough or bumpy roads. The seats provide ample comfort but a plus is the amount of room for front passengers and finding the right driving position is easy thanks to the multiple adjustments that are available for the front seats. Rear seat spaciousness is a bit tight for taller occupants but legroom is ample and the trunk space is generous for a hybrid vehicle.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – When the Ioniq is in EV mode, it’s just like any other electric vehicle, quiet. When the engine is running it is a bit noisier but not obtrusive. The most obtrusive noise coming into the cabin is the road and wind noise at highway speeds. Overall the Ioniq is smooth whether it’s in EV mode or using the gas engine but when stopped and the gas engine turns on to recharge the batteries, a quick jerkiness can be felt.
Interior Design – The Ioniq will probably not win any style awards for the interior but it has a well thought out dashboards and instrument cluster. The heated seats and steering wheel buttons are near the shifter while the dual zone climate controls are just below the touchscreen and very easy to use. Buttons for other features such as the blind spot monitor or lane departure system are situated to the driver’s left knee. The instrument cluster has the car’s battery capacity, speedometer, and driving habits as the predominant features. When in Sport mode, the speedometer becomes a tachometer and is a more sporty red/orange colour.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – One of the Ioniq’s strongest points is the amount of gadgets you get for the money. This Limited with Tech package Ioniq is just under $32,000 CAD (before fees and taxes) and you get: navigation, blind spot monitor, lane departure warning with keep, automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, heated seats and steering wheel, sunroof, wireless phone charging, backup camera with parking sensors, HID headlights with adaptive cornering, and adaptive cruise control among other standard features. For a hybrid with that much tech, it’s a good bang for your buck.
Exterior Design – The Hyundai Ioniq has a traditional overall shape but the design does make it stand out from other compact cars on the road. One thing worth noting, the tall hatch design does impede on rear visibility because there is a crossbar that separates the sloped glass and the bottom glass of the hatch.
Hyundai’s attempt at a compact hybrid to take on the Prius isn’t quite there yet. It is fuel efficient and packed with features for a relatively low price but the driving dynamics and ride comfort hold it back from overtaking the Prius as the better compact hybrid hatchback.
Thank you to Hyundai Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Hyundaicanada.com
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.