CAR REVIEW: HYUNDAI IONIQ – ELECTRIC, PHEV AND SELF-CHARGING HYBRID – Island Echo


The future is eclectic. No, that is not a typo. The future of your vehicle is a choice.

Eventually, one fuel source will be so reliable, it will weed out the lesser used and we’ll be left with just one; probably pure electric. But in the meantime, we have a choice of Self-Charging Hybrid, Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV), and pure electric.

In layman’s terms a Self-charging Hybrid is a petrol engine assisted by an electric motor, powered by a battery that recharges itself. A plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) has a much bigger battery, and therefore a longer electric range, as well as a petrol engine. You’ll plug it in to charge the battery, but when there is no more charge you still have a petrol engine to get where you are going. And then there is pure electric, which doesn’t have the benefit of relying on a engine – when the charge is gone, your only way home is with your boots or the bus.

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Hyundai was the first manufacturer in the world to put all three drivetrains into one model; This is Hyundai Ioniq. These hatchbacks subtle good looks disguise a look at the near future.

Looks

The Hyundai Ioniq looks modern. Not Honda ‘E’ futuristic, simply modern. It is a car of it’s time, with clever design technology hiding in plain sight. It’s a car of the future designed for today. And all the smart science isn’t just tucked away under the bonnet, but right in front of you.

Consider the Toyota Prius Self-Charging Hybrid, the industry’s best-known hybrid. It drip feeds on petrol and silently screams “ultra-efficient” in it’s design, but the Hyundai is just as economical and has reined in its looks. The high back is part of the “wing” design, to glide thought the air efficiently and reduce drag. But, to the unsuspecting owner, it just means a little extra boot space.

The difference between the three Ioniq‘s is also subtle. Besides the PHEV’s charging port on the front passenger-corner and the “Plug-In” badge on the back, you’d struggle to spot the difference between the two hybrid variants. The pure electric version doesn’t need a radiator on the front, and so replaces the grill with a sleek silver diamond as a giveaway.

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The Ioniq has been updated recently and now features unique quad-LED Daytime Running Lights that appear to run downwards under the paint from the LED headlights. They surround the active airflow intakes, which reduce turbulence around the front wheels.

Interior

The update to the Ioniq has done it some serious favours. The wannabe contemporary hexagon-print interior has been done away with, and replaced by a gentlemanly slate herringbone cloth on ‘SE Connect’ & ‘Premium’ models, while the range topping ‘Premium SE’ is finished in quality leather.

The three specifications are generously packed with features. Expect to find a Reversing Camera, Climate Control, Intelligent Cruise Control, Parking Sensors, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, and a suite of Hyundai’s active safety features on the starting ‘SE Connect’ model. Then add luxuries like Wireless Phone Charging, Heated Seats & Steering Wheel, an upgraded Infinity Sound System, Wing Mirror Puddle Lights, and Air-Conditioned Leather Front Seats.

‘Premium’ and ‘Premium SE’ models benefit from Hyundai’s huge new 10.25” touchscreen that dominates the dashboard, which pairs with devices in an instant. Hyundai’s strength is in its software and the screen makes parking a pleasure thanks to the camera on the back of the car, and the widescreen sat-nav turns pin-point positions on the sat-nav into a certainty.

The back seats comfortably seat two tall adults, or two ISOFIX child seats fit with plenty of room for little legs against the seats in front. These passengers’ benefit from their own air-conditioning vents in the driver’s armrest.

The boot space isn’t as deep when compared to a Honda Civic or Ford Focus, because the batteries have got to go somewhere, however it offers just as much floor space for prams, suitcases, or golf clubs.

Engine

Same car, different drive – this where your choice makes a difference.

The Self-Charging Hybrid is powered by a 1.6 petrol. The brakes and other clever technology recharge the battery, which powers and electric motor at lower speeds. It is the most convenient form of electrification; you simply add petrol and drive – as this model will charge itself. When the electric motor plays it’s part don’t be surprised if you see 65mpg.

The Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) is a little more complicated, but there is a payoff. It has a larger battery, which needs to be plugged in occasionally. It has a pure electric range of 39 miles, and then becomes a self-charging hybrid. That range may not sound like a huge amount, but on a long term test drive I would charge once a week at work and not use a drop of fuel all week. Then at the weekends I would use it like a Hybrid and return over 60 MPG. Hyundai claim – and I can personally attest to this – that if you keep the PHEV fully charged and in Hybrid mode, you will see over 250mpg.

The Ioniq electric is simply that; electric. You charge, you press the drive button, you go. Driving an electric car is in fact easier than driving a manual petrol car. The Ioniq is bigger and more spacious than a lot of electric hatchbacks, and it has a smaller battery. So, how is it that the Hyundai has a better range? The answer is in the Ioniq’s tame profile. That “Wing” design I mentioned earlier makes the car ultra-efficient, and means every spark, jolt, amp, and volt is squeezed from the battery for 195 miles on one charge. Think of it this way: if you only charged it once a week, you would cover over 10,000 miles a year – which is plenty for most Island drivers.

Competition

Toyota are the Self-Charging Hybrid specialists. The Prius and new Corolla offer quality competition, but Hyundai have made a serious effort to claim the crown. If Toyota’s angular exterior and shiny interior designs aren’t to your liking, then Hyundai makes a great alternative with an equally appealing five-year warranty.

The Prius is the lone Toyota Plug-In offering, while Kia’s XCeed & Ceed Sportswagon might make you think twice about which PHEV to choose. But, you can rest assured knowing that the Hyundai and both Kia’s are using the same efficient drive technology.

The Electric Ioniq is the ‘affordable’ hatchback electric car with a decent range. Previously this was purely Nissan Leaf territory, but the Hyundai’s shape and clever battery cooling technology means the 195-mile range dwarfs Nissan’s 178, and it’s smaller battery means it will charge faster. The Ioniq’s real attraction is that it drives just like a traditional automatic, in that it doesn’t race off the line as soon as you touch the accelerator, it’s glides in a much more easy-going affair.

The Ioniq’s real competition is itself. Choosing between the Self-Charging Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid, or the Plug-in Hybrid and the pure Electric will depend entirely on the demands of your daily drive.

Business User

All three models are going to benefit the company car user. The aero-efficient shape means that it sits in low tax backets. The Self-charging Hybrid produces only 102 g/km, meaning it is more efficient than the dinky VW UP!. The Plug-In Hybrid is in the 10% bracket, and for this year the Electric is 0%.

The difficulty is weighing these up against the monthly costs. At the moment manufacturers need to up their electric sales, due to changes in EU law that could see them face an enormous fine at the end of the year, and so currently on a lease the Ioniq Electric is almost a cheap as the Self-Charging Hybrid – even though there is nearly £10,000 difference between the retail prices.

For those that cover long distances the two hybrids are going to make the most sense, but an annual bill of zero for company car tax will attract many that can live with a two-hundred-mile range.

Island User

If you’re looking for an electric car, the Ioniq has just enough range to be useful off the Island as well as on. Theoretically, you could drive to the Scottish boarder with just one stop on the way – though, I haven’t personally tried. However, it could easily replace your primary car – providing you have the foresight to charge it regularly. And at nearly 200 miles, it should easily manage a week of your daily chores before needing to be charged again.

If you’re a one car household and fear the possibility of running out of charge the PHEV is great alternative. With an engine and a motor, it’s the best of both worlds. Your weekly drives can be done in full-electric mode, and those long weekends away can be powered by petrol – saving you from having to recharge every few hours on the motorway. Similarly, choose the Self-Charging Hybrid and forego charging at all. Chances are that you’ll save enough on the monthly costs to pay for the little extra fuel that you use.

Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid

Choices

Value Choice: Hyundai Ioniq ‘SE Connect’ 1.6 Self-Charging Hybrid
Range Topper: Hyundai Ioniq ‘Premium SE’ Electric
Local Favourite: Hyundai Ioniq ‘Premium’ 1.6 Plug-In Hybrid

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a new vehicle, we’re in the “VHS or Beta” era. Whatever you pick will be great for the short & medium term, but will inevitably be superseded by advancements in battery and hydrogen technologies.

The Ioniq is a glimpse into the near future. Manufacturers are going to build one model with multiple drivetrains, and it will be down to the customers to decide which suits their lifestyles. Customer demand will decide which variation succeeds. Hyundai have done it first, and they’ve done it without the Ioniq having to look too garish. The Ioniq does a job, does it well, and is packed with features you would expect on a much more expensive model. The Ioniq I test drove had more features than my ‘work from home’ office, so it encouraged being productive on the go, and delivered the economy figures I had expected.

If you want my advice; don’t tie-up your savings into something so temporary, choose flexibility with PCP finance or a lease.

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