50 is the New 40: 2018 Hyundai Ioniq
For years, the Toyota Prius has been corning the compact hybrid market. While other car makers like Honda and Ford have attempted to bring on the competition, it was never enough to ultimately win consumers over. With Hyundai however, the gloves are coming off with their new Ioniq – a car that’s not here to take on the Prius, but to crush it.
The Ioniq is the sister product to Kia’s latest hybrid, the Niro. The Niro steps up a premium game while the Ioniq is more playing hardball on the price. Starting at $23,035, the base “Blue” has the ability to achieve nearly 60 mpg and carries a cost difference of $2535 compared to the Toyota Prius Two. The higher up the trim chain the less advantage the Ioniq has over the Prius – options and goodies will have to be a determining factor.
Unlike Toyota’s direction, the Ioniq looks like an ordinary sedan, with modern curves and styling to age well over time. Naturally, to obtain such incredible fuel economy, compromises have to be made. Blue and SEL trim levels are accommodated with smaller 15-inch wheels, halogen headlights, a 7-inch touchscreen interface, Apple Carplay/Android Auto, while the Limited will see more of a host of premium aesthetics like 17-inch wheels, leather seats and navigation with a larger 8-inch screen. Our SEL model seen here featured LED daytime and taillights, an upgraded TFT instrument display, heated seats and blind spot monitoring.
The Ioniq’s source of power comes from a 1.6-liter four-cylinder mated with an electric motor/generator for a combined 139-horsepower. Hybrids have a tendency to be the slower mule of the bunch – somehow though, the Ioniq is a wee bit different. Sure it takes just under 9 seconds to sixty miles per hour, but what compact car doesn’t? Off the line, the Ioniq uses 195lb-ft of torque to help scoot it along. With one quick notch into Sport Mode and the Ioniq opens itself to becoming a swift operator – utilizing both electric and gas engines at the same time to bring out a more athletic side to the Ioniq.
Under normal driving conditions however, the Ioniq is stuck in Eco Mode. There is no in between with the Sport and Eco, which is unfortunate. While the concept of the Ioniq is to be economical, there isn’t a steady balance between the two modes. Driving under Eco makes the Ioniq more of slouch – its bizarre dual-clutch EcoShift six-speed transmission is clunky and cumbersome with some of the slowest shifts we’ve ever seen. Outcome however, after 700 miles, we managed to average 53 mpg with 620 miles of range. We made it from Phoenix, Arizona to Los Angeles, California without a single stop for fuel. That’s 6 hours and 400 miles of driving with still 200 more miles still left on the clock – don’t see how much better that can get.
Sport mode can obviously damper the fuel numbers, so we avoided it as much as possible – even though the digital TFT display got a whole lot cooler and the Ioniq became the peppy little hybrid that we started to love. Sport mode operates both motors for the maximum horsepower and torque capacity – this also meant that in a sprint between a Volkswagen Jetta GLI and the Hyundai Ioniq – the Ioniq was able to pull away first thanks to all of that torque.
Like any hybrid, the Ioniq shares very little driving connection with the driver. This is fine for its class. The Ioniq is comfortable and competent in its capabilities with meh handling. The ride is a little firmer than its competitors, but ultimately provides a more well-rounded driving experience. The steering is also nicely weighted feeling more in control.
Hyundai offers the Ioniq with an array of the usual safety features found on all cars. At a $1000 option on the SEL it was fitted with Lane Departure and Lane Keep Assist, Forward Collision Braking, and Adaptive Cruise Control. This is not available on the base Blue model.
As we see it, the Hyundai Ioniq is serving up its dish to the Toyota Prius at full force. With a better, well-rounded presence and driving style, the Ioniq is everything we wanted out of hybrid. Just keep an eye on the fuel gauge, with 600 miles, weeks could go by without refueling.
|2018 Hyundai Ioniq SEL:||$24,000|
|As Tested (including Options & Destination):||$26,010|
|1.6-liter Four-Cylinder & Electric/Generator Motor – 139-Horsepower, CVT Automatic Transmission – 0-60MPH: ±9.0 seconds|
|EPA Fuel Economy: 55/54/55 (City/Highway/Combined) | SSB Fuel Average: 52.4 MPG’s | Fuel Range: ±620 Miles|