Car review: Hyundai IONIQ

Carlton Boyce / 26 December 2016

Aerodynamic and surprisingly sporting, the electric Hyundai IONIQ is more than just a pretty face…



Score 9 /10

The new Hyundai IONIQ (great name, by the way) is a five-seat family hatchback that is available as both a hybrid and full electric vehicle.

I drove both, but am going to concentrate on the electric-only model, mainly because there’s simply no need to comprise by choosing the hybrid...

Hybrid vs fully electric cars: what's right for you?

Sleek, aerodynamic and lovely

The first surprise is the way the IONIQ looks. It’s bang up-to-date and surprisingly sporting; guilt-free cars have rarely looked this good. The battery powered version can be distinguished by the absence of a front grille (no need for any cooling, y’see) and LED headlights. The rear view features unique rear lights. Oh, and no exhaust pipe, of course.

Yet it’s more than just a pretty face. The sleek shape is as aerodynamic as it is lovely, delivering a low co-efficient of drag of just 0.24Cd. This translates into a car that can slip through the air more easily, helping it eke out the battery power over a longer distance than something more brick-like could.

Plan when to recharge and you’ll be okay

Hyundai claims that the all-electric IONIQ has a range of up to 174, and while 130-150 miles might be more realistic, the key to this (and every other electric car, come to that) is not range but your attitude to that range.

With a petrol or diesel car you refuel whenever the tank drops below your personal confidence threshold; while mine is a quarter of a tank, yours might be considerably higher or lower. Mrs Boyce, for example, is happy to drive our family car on fumes in the certain knowledge that I’ll panic and fill it for her…

Electric cars demand a different approach. The problem isn’t so much range anxiety, but recharging anxiety, so I’d suggest that if you’re going to be parked up for an hour or more you should try and top up the battery. This might sound like a bit of a faff, but it isn’t, not really, and it ensures that you always have a full battery - and so the full range - available to you.

Of course, long journeys demand a bit more forethought, but given the rapid expansion of the car charging infrastructure - there are now 11,896 public car charging points in the UK, up from just 284 in 2013 – finding one shouldn’t be too much of a struggle. A thirty-minute charge will take a near-empty battery up to 80 per cent capacity, so a toilet-and-coffee stop at a motorway services or shopping centre should see you good to go for another 100 miles or so.

Simple to own and drive

Recharging anxiety aside, the IONIQ is a simple car to own and drive. 

The considerable torque is instantaneously there if you mash the throttle from a standstill giving fiercesome acceleration, and while it does tail off a little at speed, the almost complete absence of any kind of NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) makes it feel much faster than the 0-62mph time of 9.9 seconds would have you believe. 

Sport, Normal and Eco modes help tailor the car’s driving style to your mood but remember that the faster you go, the fewer miles you’ll be covering.

Regenerative braking

To help extend the range as far as possible, the IONIQ features regenerative braking, which converts wasted energy from the overrun into electricity to recharge the battery. 

The driver can alter the extent of this regenerative braking through three levels: the lowest level is barely discernable while the greatest is equal to light braking and so triggers the brake lights to warn following drivers that you are slowing down. 

It’s way more than a gimmick and helps add back some the fun that the keen driver might feel is missing from a car that has no gears and no engine or exhaust note.

A car that fulfills its primary role

Electric cars are about far more than performance, though. It doesn’t matter how efficient they are, or good looking, or civilized and comfortable if they don’t fulfill their primary role and in this case the IONIQ delivers in full too.

It’s a decent size inside with room for five full-size adults, even if that sloping roofline eats into the rear headroom a little. The quality of the fit and finish is very good, and there are some nice flourishes like more copper-coloured trim and a usefully large touchscreen in the centre of the dash.

Should you buy one? Well, if you regularly undertake long road-trips into remote areas then no; the inconvenience of having to find charging points will drive you nuts. However, for everyone else the IONIQ brings a few nice tricks to the party. It’s very civilized and quiet, quick and rewarding to drive, carries five with ease, and should prove very cheap to run.

Hyundai’s usual five-year warranty is extended to eight years or 125,000 miles for the battery pack, giving you the reassurance you might be looking for before you take the plunge to explore the technology a fully electric car offers.

Stats

Power – 118bhp

Torque – 218 lb ft

0-62mph – 9.9 seconds

Top speed – 103mph

Kerb weight – 1,420kgs

Official average fuel consumption – range 174 miles

CO2 emissions – 0g/km

VED class – Band A

Warranty – 5 yrs/unlimited miles and 8yrs/125,000 miles on the high-voltage battery

Price – £24,495 (inclusive of Government grant of £4,500)

Price as tested - £24,495

Best-in-class

The Hyundai IONIQ squeaks into poll position, for the time being at least.

The best of the rest

The Nissan LEAF is a worthy alternative to the Hyundai IONIQ, so you should drive both and decide for yourself.

Left-field alternative

The Kia Soul EV is worth a look, if for no other reason than it looks like nothing else on sale today.

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Carlton Boyce If you enjoy Carlton's inimitable style of writing, you'll love his motoring column - to have each one delivered straight to your door every month, subscribe to Saga Magazine today!

 

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