Having cracked the impossible by establishing itself as a genuine alternative to the mainstream, Hyundai’s next challenge is to prove that it has what it takes to tackle electrification. The result is the IONIQ, a mid-sized hatchback with a unique selling point; you get to choose between petrol-electric hybrid, petrol-electric plug-in hybrid, or pure electric derivatives.
In plug-in hybrid form you get a 1.6-litre normally aspirated engine which uses direct injection and the Atkinson cycle to achieve record beating 40% thermal efficiency. Designed to work with a 43 bhp electric motor, the petrol unit is tuned for maximum efficiency with the motor picking up the slack. Unusually the gearbox is a 6-speed dual clutch system, rather than a CVT or e-CVT favoured by Toyota. Electrical power comes from a 8.9 kWh (gross) lithium ion battery. Hyundai provides an 8-year 125,000 mile warranty for the battery and 5 year unlimited mileage cover for the whole car.
Encouragingly Hyundai has aimed to produce a hybrid that you will want to drive; multi-link rear suspension, high strength steel (53% of body), aluminium bonnet, tailgate and suspension, an energy dense space-saving lithium-ion battery, DCT gearbox and a low centre of gravity all help to make the case. But does it translate to the road?
Yes and no. The IONIQ plug-in hybrid is more fun than a Prius and certainly doesn’t disgrace itself in the twisty stuff but it falls short of being genuinely entertaining. If you get a chance to try the pure electric version it quickly becomes apparent that it does a better job of meeting the original brief, but in terms of hybrid competitors the IONIQ is the most rewarding to drive.
Real world efficiency is where the IONIQ really hits the mark. Normally the real world electric range of plug-in hybrids is a fair way short of the official figure, but in the case of the IONIQ it’s right on the money. Given that the powertrain is shared with the hybrid version it’s no surprise that when the EV range runs out it is astoundingly efficient in hybrid mode too. We recorded 60 mpg on a 70 mph motorway run and an incredible 77 mpg at 55-60 mph on a round trip of 351 miles.
Although the IONIQ falls into our Small Family Car section it isn’t that much smaller than the Toyota Prius (check out Family Cars) and it is easy to see customers seriously comparing the two. If you don’t need the extra space the IONIQ is the pick of the two, offering more fun and better looks at a substantially lower price.
Estimated real world range: 37 miles (electric)
Official range: 39 miles (electric) 660 miles (combined with petrol)
Official electricity consumption: 94 Wh/km
Battery pack: 8.9 kWh (gross) lithium ion; 8 year / 125,000 mile warranty
Recharge time: 240 v 6 hours; 3.6 kW charge 2 hours 15 mins
Please note that CO2 emissions quoted for electric cars are not directly comparable to diesel and petrol cars. This is because CO2 emissions quoted are calculated by Green Car Guide and include the emissions created at the power station turning fuel (e.g. gas etc) into electricity and in transmitting and distributing the electricity to an end user. They do not include the actual production of the fuel (e.g. gas extraction and refinery emissions). Petrol and diesel emissions are supplied by car manufacturers and are based solely on the fuel burnt in the engine (tailpipe emissions) and do not include the production of the fuel or distribution to a fuel station. In practice this means that electric car emissions are over-estimated relative to petrol and diesel. For instance if an electric car, a petrol car, and a diesel car are all reported to emit 100 g/km CO2, the electric car actually has lower emissions.