Electric vehicles (EVs) are quickly moving from early adopter toys to mass-market essentials. You no longer need $90K (Tesla Model S money) to noiselessly scoot around town. This shouldn’t come as a surprise; affordable EVs like the Nissan Leaf have been on sale for years. The difference now is that a $30K e-car won’t strand you in the middle of a freeway during your lengthy commute.
The reason your contemporary EV is less of a safety hazard is largely due to exponential improvements in battery technology. More efficient, more innovative batteries have doubled, and in some cases, tripled electric range in the past few years. Combined with the expansion of charging infrastructure and the urbanization trend, the dreaded concept of “range anxiety” is fading fast.
Hyundai is the latest automaker to offer a pure EV for the growing pool of alternative energy customers. The Ioniq is a single hatchback platform with three variants: a gas-electric hybrid, fully electric model, and plug-in hybrid (PHEV). This tiered system of electrification suits the needs (and apprehensions) of a broad consumer base; it also challenges three market segments at once.
To see whether Hyundai’s new hatch can tackle the fastest growing of these categories, we recruited an Ioniq Electric for a week’s worth of real-world testing.
The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq is a completely new model from the Korean automaker. Though the Ioniq shares its platform with sister-brand Kia’s Nero, the body, powertrain combinations, and several interior components are fresh elements. Notably, the Ioniq Electric is the automaker’s first battery-electric model.
Trim Levels & Features
There was a time when Hyundai was a one-trick pony; with questionable build quality and unoriginal designs, Hyundai relied on aggressive pricing to win sales. Today, Hyundai products are competitive without discounted prices, yet they’re still loaded with value.
The 2017 Ioniq Electric keeps things simple when it comes to trims and packages. Highlights of the base trim ($30,335, including destination) include LED daytime running lights, proximity door locks, push-button ignition, automatic headlights, automatic climate control, power windows with auto driver’s window, heated front seats, two USB ports, Bluetooth, HD radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a three-month Sirius XM trial.
For an additional $3,000, the Limited trim adds leather seating surfaces, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, LED headlights, auto front passenger windows, power folding side mirrors, and chrome door handles.
Limited variants can also opt for an Unlimited package ($3,500) that features a power tilt-and-slide sunroof, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, HID headlights with turning headlamps, an 8-inch infotainment display with navigation, an eight-speaker Infinity premium audio system, Hyundai Blue Link guidance for three years, and LED ambient interior lighting.Hyundai designs seem to vacillate every few years from conservative to dramatic. Either it’s the unremarkable fifth generation Sonata or the off-the-wall Veloster three-door hatchback. Lately, Hyundai has returned to refined aesthetics, meaning the Ioniq Electric sports a familiar fastback hatch silhouette. This is either a blessing or a curse, depending how you look at it.
The status quo for quirky means the Ioniq’s shape is irregular in its regularity.
Automakers can’t seem to resist distinguishing their EVs with oddball styling. Nissan’s Leaf looks like an egg, BMW’s i3 is choppier than a hurricane swell, and Ford’s C-Max Energi was evidently dropped on its face at a young age. The status quo for quirky means the Ioniq’s shape is irregular in its regularity. Some might consider the Ioniq Electric boring; we prefer to think of its as “mature.” Electric cars are no longer novelties, so why must they be styled for shock value?
At the front, Hyundai’s Ioniq wears a solid piece of black plastic, cut to the corporate hexagonal shape. At each end, the grille is stretched to underline the Ioniq’s narrow HID headlights. Below, C-shaped LED daytime running lights sit within black cutouts. Standard 16-inch five-spoke wheels are positioned with little overhang at the front and rear, and are separated by a lower sill insert. The sloping roofline splits the rear window, which is bordered by curved LED taillights.
It’s a stretch to call the Ioniq Electric “striking,” but its understated figure and clean lines certainly won’t ruffle any feathers.
Contemporary Hyundai vehicles lack little in the way of interior gadgetry. The Ioniq Electric comes standard with a 7.0-inch infotainment system and 7.0-inch + 4.2-inch digital driver display. The vivid TFT screens show energy distribution on the left, speed and remaining range in the center, and a host of telemetry data on the right.
The 7.0-inch infotainment system doesn’t dazzle with size or resolution, but its intuitive layout, fast processor, and range of useful information makes us for its lack of sophistication. Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto fill in the gaps to sufficiently modernize the Ioniq’s cabin.
Our fully loaded tester is equipped with the optional 8.0-inch center display, navigation, wireless phone charging, and Infinity premium audio system. While we have a tough time justifying navigation when smartphone guidance is vastly superior, the larger screen’s crisp resolution and the improved acoustic quality are worth the package premium.
Interior Fit & Finish
The Ioniq’s conservative exterior design pairs with a refined, handsome cabin. Glossy metal trim accents the steering wheel spoke, door handles, air vents, and gear selector controls for a premium touch. On the tactile front, soft leather covers the steering wheel, seats, center console, and door panels. If you look hard enough, you can find budget materials, but those are exceptions to a high-quality cockpit.
In addition to offering more cargo capacity, hatchbacks tend to feel more spacious for all passengers. We found a relaxed seating position in the front and back, with sufficient head and legroom everywhere except perhaps the middle rear slot (which is to be expected). Though EVs aren’t typically a first choice for road trips, we imagine the Ioniq Electric would remain comfortable for any distance. Our only nitpick is that the front chairs have truncated seat bottoms, which limits thighs support.
Like the Toyota Prius, Hyundai’s Ioniq has a raised trunk shelf to accommodate its battery. Combined with the sloping roofline, there isn’t a tremendous amount of room without folding the 60/40 split folding rear bench. However, 24 cubic feet of volume with the seatbacks in place is still far more than a typical compact sedan and enough to accommodate most errands.
Driving Performance & MPG
Powering the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric is an 88 kWh electric motor mated to a 28 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery. A single-speed automatic transmission sends 118 hp and 215 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels for what independent sources estimate is an 8.0-second sprint to 60 mph. Hyundai says the Ioniq Electric runs out of pep at 90 mph.
Now that we’ve got the numbers out of the way, we’ll tell you to immediately forget them. Why? Output and acceleration times mean very little when it comes to an EV’s performance. Yes, the Tesla Model S P100D makes over 600 horsepower and is therefore absurdly quick, but even this low-powered electric vehicle behaves differently from an internal combustion car. Power is instant – not “minimal delay” like a naturally aspirated car – legitimately instant. You don’t need to downshift; throttle bodies don’t have to open; fuel and air don’t need to combust; the car just goes.
The Ioniq’s settled, comfortable ride over any type of pavement more than makes up for its excitable steering.
The Ioniq EV and its respectable 3,164 pounds sprints ahead of traffic at every stoplight and has enough guts to maneuver between lanes on the highway. To tailor your throttle response and steering weight, Hyundai includes three drive modes: Eco, Normal, and Sport. In reality, the differences are minimal, but you’re welcome to think the Ioniq morphs into a supercar at the push of a button.
We aren’t surprised the Ioniq accelerates quickly, but what does shock us is how well the car handles in the corners. The Ioniq’s suspension is made up of a MacPherson strut front assembly and a torsion beam rear end. Keeping the hatchback planted is a set of 205-section Michelin tires. This translates to stability and grip in the bends, albeit with the electronic stability control freaking out in most situations.
While the Ioniq Electric handles with confidence, its over-boosted electric steering rack becomes a jittery letdown on the highway. The responsiveness we appreciate in corners mutates into hypersensitivity when cruising in a straight line. Constant nannying is required to keep the Ioniq from darting around within the lane. Blemish aside, our driving impressions end on a high note; the Ioniq’s settled, comfortable ride over any type of pavement more than makes up for its excitable steering.
If you drive the Ioniq Electric (or really any EV) with a lead foot, none of the EPA ratings will make much of a difference. Those with restraint, however, will appreciate best-in-class city (150), highway (122), and combined (136) mpg equivalent (mpge) ratings. Our real-world test only returned an average of 122 mpge, but our driving mix favored highway travel.
With 124 miles of all-electric range, the Ioniq Electric has sufficient juice for almost any round-trip commute (assuming you don’t drive the length of your state to get to work), and if your office has charging infrastructure, you’ll have enough charge to run errands after-hours. Assuming you top off the battery every night (a full charge takes over 8 hours from a standard 120V outlet or 4.5 hours from a 240V source), range shouldn’t be a concern. If you’re in a pinch, a DC3 fast charger will replenish 80 percent of the Ioniq’s battery capacity in just 23 minutes.
Hyundai packs the Ioniq with seven airbags, ABS, automatic headlights, stability control, a rearview camera, and driver blindspot monitor as standard. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has yet to grade the Ioniq EV, but given Hyundai’s track record for five-star performances, we expect the Ioniq to be a very safe ride.
In addition to its standard safety features, the Limited trim plus Unlimited package adds emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and dynamic bending lights (pivoting headlights). While we wouldn’t call the Ioniq’s adaptive cruise the most finely tuned system on the market, the car’s complete safety picture is rosy.
How DT Would Outfit This Car
Given the Ioniq’s generously priced option packages, we’d check every available box. A loaded Ioniq Electric will set you back $36,835, which sounds like a chunk of change, but don’t forget federal and state incentives (which can total up to $10K). For as little as $27 grand, all said and done, the range-topping Ioniq is brimming with desirable convenience and safety features.
As paint options go, Hyundai limits the color palette to silver, white, black, or blue. We say why make an already conservative car blend in more; go with Electric Blue Metallic.Our Take
You can look at the Hyundai Ioniq Electric a few different ways, but we choose to evaluate it as a car first and an EV second. In other words, would we like the Ioniq if it ran on petrol? In short, yes. The Ioniq drives well, is built with quality materials, has ample creature comforts, and is handsomely styled. Layer on class-leading mpge and rush of electric torque, and the Ioniq Electric becomes a very attractive proposition indeed.
Is there a better alternative?
Alas, we come to the “but” of our shakedown. At 124 miles of range, the Ioniq Electric only trails the Volkswagen e-Golf by a single mile of total range. However, the Chevrolet Bolt EV flat-out embarrasses everything in its class. With a full charge, the Bolt EV can travel for 238 miles without needing a plug. On top of that, its 200hp and 266 lb-ft of torque make it significantly quicker than Hyundai’s Ioniq EV. All that range and power comes at a $7K premium over the cost of an Ioniq, but if you’re after the best EV performance (for under $50K), the Bolt is uncontested.
How long will it last?
As a brand new model, Hyundai is at least three years away from a refresh and seven or more years from a full redesign. Rest assured, if you buy an Ioniq Electric now, you wouldn’t miss any major updates for several years. In terms of reliability, Hyundai’s recent products hold up very well, and are backed by an industry-best 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and 5-year/60,000-mile new car warranty. Hyundai even goes on step further to offer a Lifetime Hybrid/Electric Battery Warranty.
Should you buy it?
If you’re considering the Ioniq Electric or any other pure EV, you’ve already decided that a limited driving range (compared to gas-powered cars) is worth the liberation from petrol. Now you need to decide how much limitation you can tolerate. Until the Bolt EV arrived on the scene, approximately 100 miles of juice was your only option. However, the Bolt has changed the game. If budget restricts your decision or 124 miles is enough for your routine, the Ioniq Electric is a very wise purchase. If you want to forget the meaning of “range anxiety,” you’re better off with a Bolt.