2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
A worthy challenger to Prius
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- 08 May 2017
By James Park
With ‘The Donald’ in power, can we say f--- you to all them tree-hugging left-wing commies and be proud to bask in the rumble of good ol’ gas-guzzling American V8s once again?
Whatever the political reasons for the Trump administration’s reluctance to accept the facts, climate change and its effects are real. For the auto industry, producing cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles would be a worthwhile goal in an attempt to reduce the stress we humans have put on our planet over the years.
When it comes to utilizing the hybrid auto technology, Toyota is the pioneer. In fact, many ordinary consumers immediately think of the Toyota Prius whenever a ‘hybrid car’ is mentioned.
Making its North American debut in 1997, the Prius has proven its efficiency and reliability. Styling-wise, however, the Prius is not free from controversy. The car has transformed from pretty mundane in the first generation to perhaps too futuristic in its present fourth-gen iteration.
The gauge cluster sitting atop the centre stack and the flimsy video game joystick gear-shift lever also come off as awkward for many people.
Slapping the Prius on the cheek with a challenger’s gauntlet is the Hyundai Ioniq. Hyundai’s argument as to what a hybrid car should look like, the Ioniq comes in three flavors – regular hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full-on electric. The hybrid and the electric versions have already arrived in the dealers. The plug-in sibling should join the lineup before the end of this year.
The thing that people like about the Ioniq is that, it looks like a ‘regular’ car. This familiarity seems to carry a lot of weight with many experts and ordinary folks alike. Having the same wheelbase as the compact Elantra sedan, the Ioniq might even be described as an Elantra hatchback. Overall, it is a handsome car.
The more conventional theme is also carried into the car’s interior. The instrument panel is where it should be and cleanly designed. The gear-shift lever is sized right and works normally. The front seats and the steering wheel are heated and many safety features as blind-side monitoring and forward collision mitigation come standard.
Ioniq hybrid, the test-car, is equipped with 1.6 litre direct-injected Atkinson-cycled four-cylinder engine good for 104 horsepower. Partnering with the 32 kWh electric motor, the Ioniq hybrid develops 139 more-than-adequate horses.
Hyundai claims the Ioniq is the first hybrid mated to a dual-clutch transmission. The Ioniq’s six-speed DCT acts pretty much like a regular automatic and feels more engaging than a CVT.
Even with such a ‘conventional’ set-up, the Ioniq’s official fuel numbers of 4.2 litres of 100km in city and 4.0 litres on highway are on par with the Prius. For the week of driving mostly in city streets, this writer was able to observe about 4.7 litres. This is better than some motorcycles.
Push the ignition button and the instrumental panel lights up to say the car has turned on. Moments later the engine also fires because as a regular hybrid, the car’s battery does not have the capacity to maintain the ‘silent mode’ for any length of time. Also for the same reason, the regenerative braking does not recharge the battery as aggressively as the plug-in or the full-on electric vehicles. One wishes for the engine-motor transition to be little smoother, but it is not irritating by any means.
The Ioniq is also not a sports sedan. Its prime objective is to squeeze as many kilometers from a litre of gasoline as possible. But having said that, the hybrid hatchback does handle relatively well and the steering is accurate, if somewhat distant in feel. Suspension set up is on the softer side and the car does show a bit of body roll at the limits.
The car’s default mode is Eco. One can pull the gear-shift lever to the driver’s side to engage Sport. In this mode the Ioniq is definitely friskier, but the fuel mileage suffers as the result. The car works fine in Eco and if this strains your patience, you should be driving something else.
As it is, the Ioniq is a fuel-efficient and practical hatchback that serves well for everyday city driving. The fact that it looks and feels more ‘ordinary’ than the Prius is something worth considering. (James Park is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.)
2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
Engine: 1.6 litre four + electric motor
Power: 139 hp
Transmission: 6 spd DCT
Fuel: 4.2 litres per 100km (city), 4.0 litres (highway)
Best: fuel-efficiency, styling
Worst: engine-motor transition could be smoother
Competition: Toyota Prius