Love them or hate them – and these cars really do polarise opinion – there’s no denying that hybrids have been a huge success, with Toyota’s Prius being the biggest seller so far. Now Hyundai has a competitor. How does it fare against the current favourite?

The Range

There are two versions of the Ioniq currently available in New Zealand: a full electric model and the one tested here, the hybrid. There will be a plug in hybrid (PHEV) available in future.

For each of the two available drivetrains there’s either Entry or Elite spec.

Entry spec on the hybrid at $46,990 gives you a decent level of kit, including ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, stability management, traction and stability control, 7 airbags, smart cruise control, tyre pressure monitor, Lane Keep Assist, reversing camera with parking sensors, Auto lights, cloth seats, 5” in-dash touch screen, 15” steel wheels.

Elite spec at $52,990 adds 17” alloys, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot detection, rain sensing wipers, front parking sensors, leather seats with more adjustment and memory on the driver’s seat, 7” TFT Supervision Cluster, heated seats and steering wheel, 8” in-dash touch screen, Infinity 8 speaker sound system. The quoted combined fuel consumption figure is 0.5l/100k higher on the Elite at 3.9, presumably because of the extra electronics. Quoted weight is the same.

First Impressions

The ioniq is a smart looking car, with a side profile not dissimilar to hybrids from other manufacturers. There are various small touches around the car to tell you it’s a hybrid, without pushing it in your face too much: small BlueDrive wing badges, and blue highlights on the front and rear bumpers. The wheels are different to the norm too, alloys but with dark grey plastic inserts on the spokes.

Inside it’s a similar story, with blue piping in the seats, and blue brushed-finish trims around the vents and buttons. Overall it feels like a good quality car, with a light, pleasant interior.

One thing that stood out for me it that it has a very flat nose, almost like an SUV front, but on a medium hatch. It’s not bad looking but seems unusual at first.

The Inside

The ioniq’s interior feels spacious and light, thanks to its sunroof and beige headliner.

The materials used are good too, with soft-touch plastics and padded surfaces, giving everything a quality feel. To increase the Ioniq’s eco-credentials Hyundai have used some unusual materials, such as plastics combined with powdered wood and volcanic stone, and carpets and headliner containing materials derived from sugar cane. Soybean oil is used in some of the paints. This is all to reduce fossil-fuel-derived materials.

There’s a large central display used for the media system as well as various settings screens, or it can show a hybrid power usage display if that’s your thing. The instrument cluster is mostly digital, with a plastic overlay to define the various display segments. In the middle is a large round speedo, with various selectable information shown in its centre. To the left is a gauge showing what level of power usage or charge you’re getting and to the right is a battery level gauge. A large panel next to the speedo can show road speed, satnav directions, a smaller version of the power distribution display, or various other options.

The centre console has a good-sized flat storage area for your phone, with an inductive charger, and three 12V power sockets – two in the centre and one in the central armrest/storage cubby.

As well as looking good, the seats are comfortable, with good side support and plenty of adjustability, electrically on the driver’s seat, manually on the passenger side. All seats front and rear have heaters, much to my daughter’s delight in the back! There’s even a heated steering wheel. And it’s a flat-bottomed wheel too, for added sporty feel. Controls are well laid out and fall easily to hand. Everything’s where you’d expect. There’s dual zone climate control, with the option to run only the driver’s side to use less power.

Rear legroom is good, with comfy seats and decent headroom too. There’s a pretty big boot, but it does have quite a high floor. Rear seats fold flat and split 60/40 for bigger load-lugging. I was impressed to see that Hyundai include a first-aid kit, fire extinguisher and a hi-vis vest in there.

The stereo in the Ioniq is very good, with decent bass and no noticeable distortion at higher volumes. This is certainly helped by the fact that the car is so quiet, with little road or wind noise and very little engine noise. The loudest thing inside the cabin is the air conditioning fans – it was mid summer when we had the car so the fans were blowing pretty hard. The only minor niggle I have with the media system is that it doesn’t switch back to Bluetooth audio after it reconnects to a device, you have to hit the media button each time.

The Drive

I’ve driven a few hybrids, so I thought I knew what to expect with the Ioniq, but I was very pleasantly surprised. It feels very much like other recent Hyundais to drive, and that’s definitely a good thing. There’s that eco-car squashy pedal feel to the throttle, tuned to help you drive in a more efficient fashion, but if you do need to set off with a bit more urgency, a hard press on the throttle gets the car going pretty smartly.

Flipping the shifter to the side switches the Ioniq into sport mode, changing the speedo display to a rev counter and engaging both motors at all times. In a hybrid I didn’t expect to see much difference in performance but it sharpens up the throttle a lot, and lets you have a bit of fun. It’s quite nippy in this mode! This is helped by the Ioniq’s suspension, which is firm enough that the car handles surprisingly well, but with no detriment to ride quality. Modern Hyundais really seem to have sorted out that balance well.

The Ioniq Hybrid uses a 77kW 1.6l petrol engine and a 32kW electric motor, situated side-by-side in the engine bay and mated to a 6 speed dual clutch transmission. The transitions between petrol, hybrid and full electric modes are seamless, with completely smooth engine stops and starts. It really is very well tuned. With the aircon and stereo on, the only way I could tell what mode the cars was in was by looking at the displays.

The parking brake is manually operated and is to the left of where the clutch would be in a manual car, operated with your foot. It soon becomes habit to use. Talking of brakes, the regenerative braking takes some getting used to, it can be a little grabby when braking firmly and it takes some practice to be able to brake as smoothly as in a non-hybrid car.

The dual clutch transmission is great, though you have to be aware of a slight delay in switching between first and reverse. Until I got used to that I had a couple of roll-back situations when turning the car around on sloping roads.

The Ioniq has radar cruise control, which is a feature I love to use in heavy traffic. It does turn off if you go below 10kph though and has to be re-started once you’re rolling. It’s a shame it can’t come to a full stop then resume.

Some hybrids feel like they’ve put all of the effort into the drivetrain and making it as eco-friendly as possible then kind of phoned-in the rest. The Ioniq feels like they designed a decent car platform first, to house the full electric or hybrid powertrains. In day-to-day use, in most ways, it’s just a car. And I mean this in a positive way. It doesn’t feel gimmicky or awkward in any way. Saying that it does become a game to use the battery system as efficiently as possible. I found myself taking pride in getting the batteries up to full charge, or using the pure EV mode as much as possible. There’s something pretty cool about doing a whole trip on battery, knowing you’re creating no emissions, making barely a sound, and most of all driving for free on power that you’ve generated.

The Ioniq seems to have better-tuned software than other hybrids I’ve driven, making it easier to use pure EV mode more. For example cruising along the highway at 65km/h it was maintaining the speed on battery only, where most hybrids seem to insist on having the engine running.

DriveLife had the Ioniq Hybrid for a few days between two drivers, and we covered 730km, with a range of 380km still showing. This was an average 5.2l/100km, This was a lot of commuting and shorter trips, with average speed being 38kph, so I suspect it could be a lot more efficient on longer runs.

The Competition

Brand / Model Engine Power Fuel L/100km Price Highest to Lowest
Toyota Camry Atara SL 2.5l 4 cylinder with electric motor 118kW/213Nm 5.2 $56,290
Toyota Prius ZR 1.8l 4 cylinder plus electric motor 72kW/142Nm 3.4 $54,990
Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid 1.6l 4 cylinder petrol plus electric motor 77kW/148Nm Petrol, 32kW electric 3.9 $52,990
Toyota Corolla Hybrid 1.8l 4 cylinder plus electric motor 73kW/142Nm 4.1 $38,490

The pros and cons

Pros Cons
  • Efficient
  • Quiet
  • Comfortable
  • Spacious
  • Feels solid and good quality
  • Radar cruise doesn’t work below 10kph
  • Stereo doesn’t switch back to Bluetooth

What we think

When I picked up the Ioniq I was expecting to get a fairly bland eco-car, but what I actually got was a really good all-round hatchback. It’s better to drive than the competition I’ve driven, has a pleasant and good-quality interior, good interior space, it’s not bad looking, and it’s very light on fuel.

Rating – Chevron rating 4.5 out of 5

Vehicle Type Medium sized hybrid hatchback
Starting Price $52,990 + on-road costs
Tested Price $52,990 + on-road costs
Engine 1.6L GDI Atkinson Cycle 4-cylinder

Interior-Permanent Magnet Synchronous Electric Motor

Transmission 6-speed EcoShift Dual Clutch Transmission
0 – 100 kph N/A
Kerb Weight 1370 kg
Length x Width x Height 4470 x 1820 x 1460 mm
Cargo Capacity 443 Litres
Fuel Tank 45 litres
Fuel Efficiency Advertised Spec – Combined – 3.9 L / 100km

Real World Test – Combined –  5.2L / 100km

ANCAP Safety Ratings 5 stars
Warranty 3 year, 100,000km mechanical warranty and roadside assistance

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Rob Clubley
I love everything about cars! Driving, looking at them, modifying. It's great to see what people do with cars, the different car cultures. If I was rich, my garage would be bigger than my house!


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