On the Road Review: Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid

Make note of this name, Ioniq (I-on-ik). Hyundai is going to vastly expand its hybrid and electric vehicle offerings under this banner in the coming years, in effect creating a brand within the brand. Consumers who recognize the current Ioniq, a compact hybrid hatchback sedan that mimics much of Toyota’s Prius, but wins hearts and minds with better styling, longer warranty and greater EPA ratings, will be eagerly watching the Ioniq’s expansion.

Currently, the front-drive Ioniq comes in four trim levels over three models. The base hybrid features a 1.6-liter four-cylinder and electric powertrain running through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. The plug-in Ioniq adds 29 miles of pure electric driving capability and the new Ioniq EV — completely electric operation starting at $33,045 — will debut early in 2021. 

All of these Ioniq models closely share the same fundamental measurements as the Hyundai Accent and the Kia Niro (176 inches long, 106-inch wheelbase, 3,000 pounds), which is a few inches smaller than the Elantra sedan and approximately the same size as the Prius.

Also like the Prius, the Ioniq uses a slippery shape to cheat the wind in an effort to maximize its fuel efficiency. Grille shutters here, plus slotted wheelcovers and that sloping rear hatchback window over the rear-facing window below are similar to the Toyota. Two thoughts here: rearward vision is obviously affected in the name of airflow, however a rear wiper would certainly improve inclement driving, while a rear-view camera view instead of a rear-view mirror view would greatly improve driving comfort. At least the bar that separates the glass panels blocks tailgating headlamps. 

Ride compliance and overall handling matches the rest of the compact car class, while the cabin continues a recent tradition from Hyundai and Kia — offer a lot of features that are easy to access and employ while driving the vehicle. The touchscreen is user-friendly and intuitive, the knobs and dials are common sense, plus the assembled safety features are driving aids that you can deactivate or activate as you want. Road noise could be better suppressed, and I found it odd that the car could be unlocked but not driven until the keyfob unlocks the plug-in cord. 

The Ioniq even has a flat-bottom steering wheel, like sportier Hyundai models, and the paddle shifters aren’t for power but to select various levels of regenerative braking — to extend your battery power and EV range, which is closer to the single pedal driving that actual EVs utilize.

Pricing starts at just $23,100 for the most efficient 139-hp Blue model with forward collision warning and automated braking plus lane departure warning. Ioniq Blue also achieves EPA ratings of 57/59 mpg — the most fuel-efficient hybrid for sale in America. SE trim bumps the sticker to $25,150 (55/54-MPG), SEL adds sunroof, Smart Cruise, Forward Collision assist for $28,400, while our sampled Limited Plug-in rings in at $31,200 with heated leather seating, Harmon Kardon audio, 10.25-inch info/navigation/entertainment screen, power driver’s seat w/memory, plus much more. Limited trim brings sustainable interior materials — like sugar cane and volcanic rock — for some of the surfaces that you interact with. 

The Ioniq Plug-in earns an electric and gas operation rating of 119 mpg-e. Under gasoline/hybrid mode only, EPA ratings are 52-mpg highway, an unrealized number with winter driving. With a full battery, and a full gas tank, the Ioniq Plug-in has a theoretical range of 630 miles. The Ioniq Plug-in will also earn its owner a $4,543 federal tax credit; the Ioniq EV will generate the full $7,500 tax credit. 

All Ioniqs come with three years/36,000 miles of complimentary maintenance. The Prius does not.

During the second quarter of 2021, Hyundai plans to roll out the sleek Ioniq 5 crossover — the first of three new EV models scheduled over the coming months. Pricing estimates are higher than the current Kona EV ($38,000), yet range is expected to reach 300 miles per charge with this new 800-volt architecture. 

Much of the industry seems to be punch-drunk on the Tesla mystique, believing they all can recreate the EV magic enjoyed by Tesla while ignoring their own legacy costs, existing money-making products, as well as existing buyers. It bears watching how Hyundai could slip under the radar and offer the first mass-access EVs that consumers actually want and can afford. The Ioniq series suggest that scenario is very possible.

Next week: GMC Canyon AT4

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.
Tim Plouff

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