Road Tests

First Drive: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid and Ioniq Electric

Plus a peek at the plug-in hybrid coming for 2018

GOLETA, California — Here’s some shocking news: by the end of the year, Hyundai’s Ioniq platform will offer three electrified low- and zero-emission powertrain choices for EV and hybrid fans.

Up first is the 2017 Ioniq Hybrid, which arrives with an estimated fuel economy of 58 mpg combined and is the most fuel-efficient non-plug in vehicle in the U.S., according to Hyundai. It starts at $23,035, which is at least a thousand bucks cheaper than a similar Toyota Prius.

Next in line is the Ioniq Electric, which offers a 124-mile range on a full charge. It goes on sale in California in April. The all-electric sedan starts at $30,335 and the price does not include the discount you may receive for the Federal Tax Credit of $7,500, which means you can now buy an all-electric vehicle for about $23,835. Look out Chevy Bolt!

And finally there’s the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid, which offers 27-miles of all-electric propulsion. It goes on sale in the U.S. by the end of the year. Prices haven’t been announced yet, but we imagine Hyundai will want to undercut the similar but looks-challenged Toyota Prius Prime, which retails for $27,100.

“Ioniq will attract an entirely new group of eco- and efficiency-oriented buyers,” Mike O’Brien, Hyundai V.P. product planning, tells us from the backseat of an Ioniq Electric.

There’s no doubt about that. O’Brien is about 6’2” and he doesn’t look too crammed back there either.

“It drives like a normal car and it doesn’t feel like something different,” O’Brien adds.

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The latest buzz from Hyundai

A 1.6-liter I-4 engine that produces 104 horsepower and 109 lb-ft of torque powers both Ioniq hybrid variants. A 32-kW electric motor adds another 43 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque to the hybrid. (The same powertrain also powers the new Kia Niro.)

Like the Niro, both hybrid Ioniqs get a six-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) that offers a more engaging ride than the CVT that’s typically found in hybrids.

Sport and Eco modes are the two main drive options, but if you want to get the stellar miles per gallon, you should opt to keep it in Eco mode. We averaged about 52 mpg with a heavy foot in Eco mode driving north on the 101 freeway along the Pacific Ocean in the rain.

Hyundai uses a lithium-ion polymer battery pack for all Ioniq models. It resides beneath the car’s rear seats, giving the car a lower center of gravity and allowing for more storage space in the back as well. The company claims that the total interior volume of the Ioniq Hybrid is an estimated 122.7 cubic feet.

Plug-in and electric versions have larger battery packs and offer about 120.0 cubic feet of interior volume. As an added bonus, the hybrid battery gets a non-transferable lifetime warranty from Hyundai. Go team.

Both hybrid versions use a multi-link rear suspension that felt superior to that of the suspension in the all-electric Ioniq during our brief initial drive.

Also, despite the damping in the floor panels, some road noise can be heard coming from beneath the back seat and trunk areas in both the hybrid and electric versions.

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Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

The Ioniq Hybrid is the best choice for drivers looking for a fun, roomy ride that offers great gas mileage. The sedan looks conservative compared to the unique looks of the Toyota Prius, Ford C-Max, or the CUV styling of the Kia Niro.

Our tester was an SEL with the $1,000 Tech Package that wore Ceramic White with a black interior. The Tech Package adds automatic emergency braking, smart cruise control, and lane departure warning, bringing the total price to $25,910.

The hybrid was built in Ulsan, Korea and it has a light and rigid body structure thanks to reinforced connection joints and structural adhesives, chatty engineers on site tell us.

The car’s regenerative braking system helps keep a steady state of charge, which means you don’t ever have to worry about plugging it in for a recharge — ever.

Looks-wise, the hybrid gets wrap around headlights, C-shaped LED daytime running lights, a hexagonal grille, mirror mounted turn signals, and 15-inch or 17-inch wheels. We recommend the larger wheels, which will provide a smoother ride at the expense of a better overall fuel economy.

Ionoq’s integrated split-view window and rear spoiler are the least appealing feature of the car and recall the strangeness going on in the back of the Toyota Prius Prime.

Despite the lackluster mileage numbers it returns, the Ioniq’s sport mode is highly recommended. It is activated by shifting the transmission into manual mode, which forces the gas engine to operate at all times with the electric motor providing additional power. Good times.

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Hyundai Ioniq Electric

The Hyndai Ioniq Electric is another niche vehicle for EV enthusiasts that faces off against the Chevrolet Bolt, Ford Focus Electric, Nissan Leaf, and Volkswagen eGolf.

To tell it apart from other Ioniqs, aside from the badging, the Ioniq Electric gets a closed front grille design, LED headlights, and 16-inch wheels with Michelin rubber.

The Ioniq Electric has a 28-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery and a driving range of approximately 124 miles, but that really depends on how you drive it. That’s not as much distance as the Chevrolet Bolt’s 238-mile range, but it is at least $7,000 cheaper.

An 88 kW electric motor offers 118 horsepower and 218 lb-ft of torque. The motor is mated to a single-speed reduction-gear transmission.

The electric gets a high voltage 360V battery system and a different suspension than the multi-link rear one on the other two versions.

“The Ioniq Electric has an EPA-estimated 136 MPGe rating, the highest efficiency rating of any electric vehicle sold in the U.S. market,” O’Brien points out after bumming another ride after lunch.

Sport mode is engaged on the center console and via the 7-inch touch screen. It also offers a Normal mode for more balanced performance and there’s Eco mode to save energy for mileage misers.

The Ioniq Electric gets fancy brake-level control panels that offer four levels of regenerative braking. The left paddle increases regenerative braking levels for more energy capture and the right paddle decreases it for a more natural coasting effect.

Inside, the Ioniqs get a dose of eco-friendly, recycled materials. Apparently, sugar cane extracts account for a substantial percentage of the raw materials used for the headliner, carpet, and cloth seats.

Recycled plastic combined with powdered wood and volcanic rock is used for the A-Pillar and headliner that helps reduce weight by 20 percent. And if that’s not enough, there’s even soybean oil used in the Ioniq’s eco-friendly metallic paint. Yum.

Other interior highlights include an integrated tablet holder between the seats, a sporty flat-bottom steering wheel, and LCD information screens on the dash.

Hyundai says charging the Ioniq Electric’s lithium-ion polymer battery up to 80 percent only takes approximately 23 minutes using a SAE Combo Level-3 DC, 100 kW fast charger. It’s standard equipment and no extra charge.

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Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid

The Plug-in Hybrid has a charging portal above the left front fender and it rolls on 16-inch alloy wheels. It offers an all-electric range of about 27 miles according to Hyundai and is powered by an 8.9 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery.

The 45kW electric motor offers 60 hp and is combined with the 1.6-liter I-4 engine. It shares the same engine and dual clutch 6-speed transmission with the hybrid. Hyundai’s Plug-in Hybrid requires an 8-hour Level-1 charge for its meager electric range.

When the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid eventually arrives at the end of the year, it will try to compete with the Toyota Prius Prime, Ford C-Max Energi, and the Chevrolet Volt. Better late than never, right?

Isn’t it Ioniq?

Hyundai’s latest EV line is also Android Auto and Apple CarPlay friendly. Blue Link is another option, as well as wireless charging for smartphones. Ioniq offers the latest advanced safety tech, previously mentioned as well as smart cruise control.

It’s available in five basic shades: Black Noir Pearl, Symphony Air Silver, Electric Blue Metallic, Ceramic White, and Summit Gray. Interior choices are either Beige or Charcoal Black.

2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid; Ioniq Electric

ON SALE Now; April 2017 (California)
PRICE $23,035 – $31,335; $30,335 – $36,835
ENGINE 1.6-liter DOHC 16-valve I-4/104-hp, 109 lb-ft plus 32kW electric motor/43-hp, 125 lb-ft; 88 kW electric motor/118-hp, 215 lb-ft
TRANSMISSION 6-speed dual-clutch auto; 1-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine; electric motor, FWD hatchback
EPA MILEAGE 57/59 mpg city/hwy; 136 mpg-e city/hwy
L X W X H 176 x 71.7 x 57.1 in
WHEELBASE 106.3 in
WEIGHT 3,172 lb; 3,164 lb
0-60 MPH N/A
TOP SPEED N/A

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Buying Guide
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2017 Hyundai Ioniq

2017 Hyundai Ioniq

MSRP $22,200 Blue Hybrid Hatchback

EPA MPG:

55 City / 54 Hwy

Horse Power:

139 @ 5700

Torque:

109 @ 4000