Driving Impressions: 2018 Hyundai Ioniq HybridBy: Mark Moskowitz MD
Headlines note the latest trends. Chrysler's lifelines are the Ram pickup and Jeep and so goes their emphasis. Goodbye Chrysler 200. Goodbye Dodge Dart. A recent Wall Street Journal article spoke of the impending demise of the Chevy Sonic and suggested the Impala would soon depart. (A GM official issued a denial.) Ford is abandoning most everything in its line that's not supersized. Only the new Focus and thankfully the Mustang will survive.
Hyundai doesn't seem to notice or does it? Last year, the Ioniq joined its US smorgasbord of small sedans and small SUV-Crossovers. It helps fill a void left by the group formerly known as The Big Three; the Ioniq also provides the Prius with genuine competition. The Prius, arguably the car most Americans think of when the term 'hybrid' is mentioned, has cut a wide swath through the states selling over 100,000 units each year for over a dozen years and doubling that figure from 2012-2014.
Hyundai has produced a worthy competitor, incrementally besting the Toyota in price, total horsepower, mpg, and acceleration with no sacrifice in appearance and interior quality.
It's not bad looking. The shape is modern bug slippery but still has character. A rear spoiler is well integrated and though it bisects the rear window, is pleasing from the outside. Other highlights include a blackened rear grill, deeply cut front corner vents with LED accents and George Jetson spoke covers.
The Ioniq Hybrid is powered by a 1600 cc inline 4 which produces 104 horsepower and a lithium-ion polymer battery which produces another 43 horsepower. Integration is seamless. Push the start button: gauges and dash lights appear but no sound. Motor away, it springs to life with muffled internal combustion power. Whether using Sport Mode or not, acceleration is lively around town. Merging onto or passing on a high-speed thoroughfare takes a bit of anticipation. If desired, gear changes and the Sport Mode can be controlled with the floor mounted lever or column mounted paddles up to a point. Your options are ceded to the computer after 4500 rpms. There's a bit of a lag between shifts, economy car normal but not what I would expect from a dual clutch transmission.
The Ioniq rides on a 106.3 wheelbase, the same as an Elantra. No problems with handling. At low speeds it corners as if on rails. Go a bit faster there's body lean but it's gradual and predictable. One could call it 'sporty'. Steering is light and does not suffer from an exaggerated resistance so common with sport sedans.
The 'Hybrid' comes in three forms: a base or Blue version, the SEL and the top of the line Limited. The SEL and the Limited have 10 -way adjustable driver's seats with lumbar support. Both fronts are heated and all models have dual front temperature controls. Only the Limited has a leather seating surface which enhances an already attractive and upscale interior. Both front seats offered excellent support and might accommodate a six-footer. The back seat has adequate foot room but headroom is limited by the sloping fastback. And while the wing across the rear glass is little more than a distraction, the domed hatchback window does restrict the rear view. Picking nits: I was surprised to find that the interior had no hatchback release and the fob released but did not raise the rear door. And that leather seat surface felt a bit more stiff and utilitarian than luxurious.
As with all Hyundai models there are numerous nooks and compartments. A wireless charging surface accommodates the biggest phones. The rear seats fold to augment the hatchback storage space.
The SEL and Limited come with an adequate and well placed 7' touch screen. The tech package adds another viewable inch. The infotainment system worked well and the auxiliary manual controls including radio knobs were easily accessed just beneath. A single large central speedometer dominates the driver's view; it morphs into a tachometer in Sport mode – very cool.
The Limited lists for $27550 and claims such features as a power sunroof, Rear-Cross Traffic Alert and blind spot monitoring but seems incomplete without the 'Ultimate Package' which includes adaptive cruise control, Lane Keep Assist, automatic emergency braking, an upscale Infinity Audio system, seat memory and Dynamic Bending Headlights; it costs an additional $3000.
|Hyundai Ioniq MSRP||Hybrid||Electric ||Plug-In Hybrid
|base ||$22,200 ||$29,500 ||$24,950
|SEL ||$23,950 || ||
|Limited ||$27,500 ||$32,500 || $28,300
In addition to the Hybrid there is an Ioniq Plug-In and an Ioniq Electric Vehicle. The base model Hybrid (Blue) lists for $22,200 and the base model Electric can be purchased for $7300 more, a figure nearly equaling the $7500 governmental tax credit for all-electric vehicles. A $4543 tax credit may be available for the Plug-In Hybrid.
The Ioniq's 55 mpg is a remarkable achievement. Let off the gas or activate the brakes (a regenerative power source) and a blue green graphic shows energy accumulating in the battery offering a bit of satisfaction to the driver who should revel each time he passes a gas station. And there's even more comfort for those who buy this well-equipped compact: Hyundai (already renowned for a warranty covering the entirety of the car for 5 years or 60,000 miles and the powertrain for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles) is offering original owners lifetime lithium battery replacement! Toyota with its two decade hybrid head start has sold 6.8 Priuses for every Ioniq sold in the latter's first year in the states. I'll bet that gap will narrow.