Hyundai says its new Ioniq Hybrid will be sporty, as well as efficient

The Hyundai Ioniq will be the first car to offer buyers hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric powertrains as part of the same model line, but Hyundai says it will emphasize sporty driving as much as efficiency. Aimed squarely at the Toyota Prius, the Ioniq debuts this week in South Korea, but consumers in other markets won’t get an up-close look until March.

Teased multiple times already, the Ioniq has a five-door hatchback shape that should look familiar to drivers of older Prius models. The design is a bit more restrained than the latest generation of Toyota’s hybrid icon, which may be a good thing, depending on your perspective. There’s a lot of contrasting black material, including trim that connects the Hyundai-signature grille to the headlights. Hyundai also claims a drag coefficient of 0.24, matching that of the 2016 Prius.

Hyundai will begin the rollout with the Ioniq Hybrid. This model uses a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, teamed with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack. Total system output is 139 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, which is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. Hyundai says it chose a dual-clutch unit to deliver a sportier driving experience, foregoing the CVTs that are loathed by car enthusiasts, but used in many efficiency-focused vehicles.

The Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid will likely feature a similar powertrain, but maybe with a larger battery pack and more powerful electric motor, as with Hyundai’s Sonata Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid duo. Fuel-economy figures will have to wait until the Ioniq’s U.S. launch, although Hyundai says the hybrid can drive on electric power at speeds up to 75 mph.

Shown previously, the interior looks fairly conventional at first glance, but Hyundai says efficiency was as much a focus here as on the rest of the car. The Ioniq uses recycled and “eco-friendly” materials, including recycled plastic combined with powdered wood and volcanic stone, which Hyundai says is actually 20 percent lighter than comparable materials. The carmaker also tried to rely less on oil-based products, and used soybean-based paint on some interior trim pieces.

The Ioniq features a 7.0-inch TFT instrument cluster display, as well as a traditional infotainment display in the center stack, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. Qi wireless phone charging will also be available, along with a system called Eco-Das (Eco-Driving Assistant System) that analyzes a driver’s route and coordinates battery charging and gasoline-engine use accordingly.

Finally, there’s a full array of safety systems, including blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, and lane-keep assist. Autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise control will also be available.

The Hyundai Ioniq will make its official debut at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show in March, followed by the 2016 New York Auto Show later that month. Sales should start before the end of the year, with the hybrid arriving before the plug-in hybrid and all-electric models.

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