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I’m glad the Hyundai Ioniq 6 isn’t just a smaller Ioniq 5

Profile view of the 2023 Hyundai Ioniq 6.
Stephen Edelstein/Digital Trends

Finally, we’re at a point where carmakers other than Tesla are moving on from their first generation of electric cars, and releasing their second and even third models. The Hyundai Ioniq 5 and its sister the Kia EV6 both made headlines for being stellar alternatives to the Tesla Model 3 or Model Y, thanks to their innovative designs and high-tech features. But with more models finally coming out, carmakers have a choice: Should they just build smaller and larger versions of the EVs they already have? Or, should they try to keep pushing the design envelope with each new model?

Hyundai has decidedly taken the latter approach. The Ioniq 5 didn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, but it certainly offered a fresh take on the midsize crossover, with retro-looking pixel lights, a scaled-back interior, and more. But with the Ioniq 6, the company has gone back to the drawing board. There are similarities, to be sure — but the Ioniq 6 is far from just a smaller version of the Ioniq 5.

The design of the Ioniq 6

There are plenty of similarities between the design of the Ioniq 6 and Ioniq 5, but at first glance, they look totally different. The Ioniq 6 is much sleeker, and frankly, Porsche 911-inspired. Its sleek curved lines culminate in a bar-light spoiler along the back of the car, and its slanted headlight cutouts give it a classic look. Only small details, like the pixel light accents sprinkled throughout the car, hint at its shared heritage with the Ioniq 5.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 in silver.
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

I really like it. Not everyone does, and that’s fair. It admittedly doesn’t look quite as refined or as premium as the Porsche 911 it draws inspiration from. But it still looks sleeker and more interesting than the majority of combustion engine-powered sedans out there.

It wouldn’t be the first

To be clear, there’s definitely precedent for all of the EVs from a company to offer a similar design. And, that precedent is from the largest EV maker of them all: Tesla.

All of Tesla’s cars look … pretty much the same, so far. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — plenty of people really like the Tesla style, and there’s something practical about the uniformity. With design differences out of the way, Tesla’s cars, or at least its cheaper cars, are completely differentiated by size. Want a smaller car? Get the Model 3. Bigger one? The Model Y is the Tesla for you.

A Tesla Model 3 electric car.
Tesla / Tesla

Of course, that does start to fall apart at the higher end, where Tesla begins to differentiate each model with extra features. The Model S has a longer range than any of Tesla’s other cars, and the Model X has those cool gull-wing doors. Then there’s the Cybertruck, which isn’t out yet, but will be a whole different beast when it is.

But most customers aren’t looking in those price ranges. Most customers who buy a Tesla will entirely be basing their decision on whether or not they want the big one, or the small one. There’s utility in that, but it’s also just a little boring.

Not just a pretty face

The Ioniq 5 wasn’t just great for its cool design, but also for its awesome features. I love the blind-spot cameras, the super-fast charging support, and the ability to use the charging port to power external accessories. I even don’t mind Hyundai’s infotainment system — though I still tend to hook up and use CarPlay instead.

Hyundai Ioniq 6 Interior.
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

But these are features that Hyundai really can’t, or shouldn’t, price-gate with its cars. They’re features that Hyundai wants to be synonymous with its new lineup, heightening the experience of owning an EV overall. So the Ioniq 6 gets them, too.

The company can’t really play much with driving dynamics either. The fact of the matter is that there’s only so much room for uniqueness in how an electric car feels, at least right now, and especially in a given price range and size. They all offer immediate acceleration and great response, and that’s a good thing — but it means that unless you’re very attuned to how cars feel, you’re unlikely to notice much of a difference.

Pushing the envelope

I hope Hyundai continues to play with design as it rolls out more and more EVs — and by all accounts, it looks like it will. The upcoming Ioniq 7, at least according to early renders, will look like no other SUV we’ve seen so far. While the design doesn’t jump out to me as particularly stylish, at this point I trust the company to make good design choices.

Until then, the Ioniq 6 is a great option for those who want an electric sedan with a little more style to it than much of the competition. Yes, it makes the buying decision a bit more complicated than Tesla’s model, but lots of different choices are a good thing. And if the swoopy design isn’t for you, the Ioniq 5 certainly isn’t going away anytime soon. No matter which car you go for, you’re still getting one of the best EVs available.

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Christian de Looper
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