Once considered rolling science experiments 15 to 20 years ago, electric vehicles are seeing a resurgence in both relevance and importance to a new generation of car buyers.
When I was growing up in Metro Detroit, it was in a GM household, and the infamous EV-1 was the symbol of GM’s brief but compelling trip into the world of mass market vehicle electrification. Tremendous progress has been made since then (case in point the Chevrolet Bolt), and electric vehicles are slowly making the transition from curiosity, to mass market reality.
But does this mean that electric vehicles are at long last a viable alternative to traditional gasoline powered automobiles? Or is there still work that needs to be done? To find out, we slipped behind the wheel of the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric, and were determined to answer this compelling question.
The exterior styling of our Electric Blue tester does not stray too far from the standard Ioniq, which in turn was designed to blend into traffic versus being a flashy billboard for its clean driving virtues. The Ioniq is designed to be a fast hatchback, with inspiration evenly split between the second generation Toyota Prius and the first generation Chevrolet Volt.
The end result is a conservative suit of clothes that still features enough creases and lines to maximize its aerodynamic footprint.
Despite its best efforts to blend in however, our tester still managed to standout and draw stares out on Michigan roads (thanks in part to its rarity here in the mitten state,) as well as its distinctive styling differences. These include the blocked off front grille, LED DRL’s at each end of the front bumper, as well as an EV exclusive design for the tail lights.
While the Chevrolet Bolt maybe the center of attention at the moment, we suspect that the Ioniq will ultimately be the one that ages better in terms of aesthetics, thanks to its conservative suit of clothes as well as its Prius like shape.
This conservative theme also carries over to the cabin which eschews electronic gimmickry and futuristic design in lieu of a straightforward layout that balances function and design. This is blended with some of the unconventional yet environmentally friendly measures that Hyundai engineers undertook when they constructed the cabin.
This includes plastics that were designed with a mixture of volcanic stone and powdered wood, as well as soybean oils for some of its painted areas. As a bonus, many of the soft touch plastic elements contain sugarcane which is the same plant that also gives select variants of soda their sweetness.
With all of this eco-friendly focus, it is refreshing to see that Hyundai designers still managed to squeeze in helpful pinches of fun into the design. This includes the flat bottomed steering wheel, as well as the strategically placed splashes of metallic trim. Many controls are easy to use and alot of the functions are controlled by familiar touch controls.
The Ioniq also offered good amounts of leg and headroom, but like the Elantra, the seat bottoms are short, and they also deliver sub-par thigh support.
The Ioniq also comes with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability which makes integrating electronics a breeze, a big plus for tech savvy millennials.
In fact we only managed to find two gripes during our time with the Ioniq with overall rear visibility being cleaved by the integrated rear spoiler, as well as the excessively loud chimes emitted by the blind spot monitoring system. The latter item forced us to formally turn it off during freeway driving, before a later trip to the owners manual revealed how to turn down the volume.