Hyundai Ioniq — A modern hybrid

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

We were already convinced the all-new Hyundai Ioniq hybrid was a gas-sipping compact car we could live with, but it took a 600-mile round trip mostly on the rough and tumble world of interstate highways on the east and west coasts to really appreciate Hyundai's efforts in building a gas-electric vehicle that rivals anything in the segment — including the industry standard, Toyota Prius.

The Ioniq effortlessly maintained speeds necessary to keep up with the traffic whether it be 70 or 80 mph. The cruise control kept us at a constant speed, the interior was soothingly quiet and comfortable. And we achieved 48 miles to the gallon, slightly below the EPA rating of 55 for combined driving, but we think a good result considering our lead-foot driving techniques and the fact that we always used the more aggressive Sport mode. We really enjoyed the drive.

The Ioniq, that Hyundai added to its portfolio this year, is the world’s first dedicated vehicle with three electrified low-and zero-emission powertrain choices on a single platform. There is the conventional gas-electric hybrid system, a plug-in version, and a fully electric model, all of which are now on sale here in the U.S.

While Hyundai already offers a hybrid variant of its popular mid-sized Sonata, Ioniq (eye-ON-ick) — whose name is an amalgamation of the lithium-ion battery it uses and the word “unique” — is the brand’s first dedicated alternative-fuel nameplate.

According to product planning manager John Shon, the Ioniq isn’t about jumping on the alternative-powertrain bandwagon, nor is it about having a new entrant into the compact-car market that actually shrunk 5.2 percent in 2016. And it isn't about trying to conquest the Toyota Prius.

Rather, he says the Ioniq is Hyundai's first answer to the looming societal sea change that’s expected to transform the automotive marketplace, with trends like the generational shift from boomers to millennials who will be responsible for 40-percent of new car sales; and it's about meeting government CAFÉ standards

Both the Ioniq Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid are powered by a 1.6-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine delivering 104-horsepower, connected to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The hybrid uses a 43-horsepower 32 kW electric motor and a 1.56 Kwh battery pack fitted underneath the back seat. The plug-in has a more potent 60-horsepower version. Combined output of the hybrid is 139 horsepower.

We never felt outclassed on the speedway, pointed out by its good — for a hybrid — 0-to-60 time of 8.9 seconds and a quarter mile rime of 16.9 seconds @ 82 mph as recorded by a major magazine. And we like Hyundai's decision to avoid the continuously variable transmission (CVT) used in virtually all hybrids, for a dual clutch six-speed shifter. It gives the Ioniq a more traditional feel with distinct gear shifts avoiding the intense engine noise associated with a CVT under hard acceleration.

Inside, the dash is clean, intuitive and attractive with sensible gauges, buttons and knobs, and an infotainment system that’s a no-brainer to use. Passenger space is adequate with, but taller passenger may find headroom on the short side.

Hyundai is also attempting to do its part by using recycled and ecologically-sensitive materials in the cabin, like blending powered wood and volcanic stone with plastic in the door panels. Raw materials extracted from sugar cane are partially applied on the headliner and carpet, and paint with ingredients from soybean oil is used in metallic colors on key components.

The Ioniq comes in three trims — Blue, SEL and Limited. The Blue trim is Ioniq's ultra-high mileage version EPA-rated at 58 mpg which sets a new record for a non-plug-in hybrid. While the Blue comes with extraordinary mileage, it also carries no options such as heated seats, navigation or any of Hyundai's advance safety features. The best bets for most people who can "live" with 55 mpg are the top two trims that can be outfitted with all the good stuff. The Blue goes out the door at $23,085. The mid-trim SEL begins at $24,835.

Standard equipment on the SEL includes a 7-inch touchscreen interface, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with smartphone integration, rearview camera, heated front seats, a power driver's seat, and blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert. A Tech package is available for $1,000 that features adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning.

Our Limited test car that carried a base price of $28,385 had a bottom line of $31,385 with the Ultimate package that includes the above safety features as well as other items such as a premium audio system.

Base price: $23,085; as driven, $31,385
Engine: 1.6-liter 4-cylinder; 32kW electric motor
Horsepower: 139 total
Torque: 195 pound-feet
Transmission: 6-sped dual-clutch automatic
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length: 176 inches
Curb weight: 3,173 pounds
Turning circle: 34.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 26.5 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: NA
Fuel capacity: 11.9 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 55 city, 54 highway, 55 combined
0-60: 8.9 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Toyota Prius, Ford C-Max, Chevy Cruze Diesel

The Good
• Nice range of safety equipment
• Well-done interior
• Exceptionally fuel efficient

The Bad
• Best mpg trim has no options available

The Ugly
• Price can hit mid-30s