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A Week With the 2020 Hyundai Ioniq HEV Limited

Beat back big oil with this affordable, green commuter car

Todd LassaWriter, PhotographerManufacturerPhotographer

The disruption in the daily way of life that keeps us locked up, or windows-up in our cars as we make our way to grocery stores, meant I didn't want to pull over in the 2020 Hyundai Ioniq HEV Limited. But there was a rattling noise coming from the cargo area, and this One Week With review needed photos. So, before I returned the Ioniq to Hyundia on a Thursday morning, I lifted the hatch lid to take a few quick snaps.

"Of course," I thought. There was an ice scraper/snow brush in the cargo area making that occasional racket, and why not? There's still a chance of snow here in the metro Detroit mid-spring forecast.

2020 Hyundai Ioniq HEV Limited Overview

As it turned out, the 2020 Hyundai Ioniq HEV Limited is tight as a drum, built with the level of quality we've come to expect from the automaker. The Ioniq HEV is part of an intriguing line of sub-models offering various levels of electrification, all on a common transverse-engine, compact hatchback platform. The hybrid-electrics are basically the "standard" models, with plug-in hybrid versions costing $1,750 more, at least in my test car's top-trim Limited level.

2020 Hyundai Ioniq HEV Limited Pricing and Specs

The 2020 Hyundai Ioniq BEV Limited—the fully electric one—starts at $34,000, which makes it one of the most affordable fully electric cars even before the $7,500 federal tax credit. With its 134-hp motor, its EPA MPGe rating of 145 city/121 highway is better than the Chevrolet Bolt and Nissan Leaf (both base and SV/SL trims), but its 170-mile maximum range tops only the base Leaf. My 2020 Hyundai Ioniq HEV Limited test car, in comparison, starts at $32,155 and combines an Atkinson cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine rated for 104 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 109 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm, before factoring in the electric motor's boost.

2020 Hyundai Ioniq HEV Limited Interior Goes Green, Too

The 2020 Hyundai Ioniq HEV Limited's—and all Ioniqs'—green credentials go beyond the powertrain options. The model line uses recycled and eco-sensitive materials inside, including a combo of plastic and powdered wood, and volcanic stone for the interior door panels for a softer and "more natural feel" achieved with "less reliance on oil-based products." Additionally, Hyundai applies sugar cane-based raw materials to the headliner and cargo area (perhaps helping that ice scraper bounce around back there), and covers the exterior with paint made using renewable ingredients extracted from soybean oil.

Frankly, I didn't find a softer, "more natural" feel to the interior door panels. They looked a bit more plasticky than what we've come to expect from upper trim-level Hyundais, but that might have been a perception exacerbated by a dove gray color that seems to be the new beige. Either way, eco-friendly interior materials are worth it, whether or not the look and feel is up to the standards of traditional interior materials. Still, as much as I liked the heated and cooled perforated seats in the 2020 Hyundai Ioniq HEV Limited, I'd prefer something like the StarTex recycled material seats of the new Subaru Outback Onyx Edition XT, one of our 2020 Automobile All-Stars contenders.

2020 Hyundai Ioniq HEV Limited Driving Impressions

Once underway in the car, the 2020 Hyundai Ioniq HEV Limited

feels light and stiff over expansion strips and bumpy roads. My very limited cornering test revealed decent turn-in with moderate yaw, though the P225/45 R-17 tires—no doubt low-rolling-resistance hard, and mounted on "Eco-Spoke" alloys—did the car's natural tendency toward understeer no favors. This is not a car for driving fast, but it is for driving to and from work while your sports car remains tucked in the garage for the weekend.

As a commuter car, the Ioniq is very good. The 1.6-liter transitions to and from the 32-kW motor, powered by a 1.56-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery, more seamlessly than any other hybrid I've driven. It's no more or less quick than your average conventional gasoline-powered compact. Whether it's the stop/start function at stoplights, or shifting into full-electric reverse gear, there's virtually no seat-of-the-pants indication of a transition between gas and electricity.

2020 Hyundai Ioniq HEV Limited Safety Features and More

Being the top Limited trim level of the Ioniq, the tester came with the full complement of Hyundai's updated Smart Sense safety and convenience gizmos, including front-collision warning and avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, cyclist detection (new for 2020), driver-attention warning, lane-keeping assist, lane-follow assist, high-beam assist (a dubious feature in most cars), blind-spot collision-avoidance assist, and rear cross-traffic avoidance.

Hyundai's Ioniq line provides a good argument for my contention that efficient, affordable, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric commuter cars would do more good for the environment than premium-price luxury hybrids and electrics. If you can do without every one of those Smart Sense items above or the leather and pleather heated and cooled seats, the base model Hyundai Ioniq Blue starts at just $23,955, and it manages an extra 2 mpg city, 5 mpg highway over all the other hybrid trim levels. I've scoured the spec sheets and have found no difference in powertrains, so I'm guessing the Blue's advantage is the result of falling into a lower weight category. The Blue barely slides under the ton-and-a-half level, at 2,996 pounds, while all other Ioniqs weigh more than 3,000 pounds.

Whichever trim level or level of electrification best fits your budget and needs, the Hyundai Ioniq seems like just the car to beat an oil industry already down on its luck into alt-fuel submission. It's better looking and more affordable than a Toyota Prius, and it's a versatile, comfortable four-seat (marginally five-seat) hatchback for savvy urbanites.

2020 Hyundai Ioniq HEV Limited Pros:

  • Low base price
  • Seamless stop/start, gas-electric transitions
  • Versatile commuter car

2020 Hyundai Ioniq HEV Limited Cons:

  • Plasticky interior, not up to top Hyundai trim standards
  • Hard, fuel-efficient tires contribute to understeer
  • Pricing of Ioniq plug-in hybrid and even full battery-electric models make them better value propositions
2020 Hyundai Ioniq HEV Limited Specifications
ON SALE Now
PRICE $32,155 (base)/$32,310 (as tested)
ENGINE 1.6L DOHC 16-valve I-4 with 32-kW permanent magnet synchronous motor/139 hp @ 5,700 rpm, 195 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD hatchback
EPA MILEAGE 55/54 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 176.0 x 71.7 x 56.9 in
WHEELBASE 106.3 in
WEIGHT 3,115 lb
0-60 MPH 8.4 sec (est)
TOP SPEED 95 mph (est)