Ioniq is really a charmer on the road. This is a car that can out-eco a Prius and yet also sling itself around corners like a balanced Lotus.
50 mpg has never been so easy, or fun! No plugs needed and no range anxiety. Ioniq is good enough to make you really rethink the logic of a full EV. This just seems so much smarter and more versatile. It is a seamless normal-car replacement. Smoother than a normal sedan’s drivetrain and just as easy to own.
We spent a week testing the Ioniq’s limits in a high-performance drive video. And of course loafing through traffic to replicate everyday driving. Results are pretty clear: Ioniq is the best hybrid of 2017.
Prius has set a funky bar for what a hybrid should look like. Ioniq goes a totally different route — and its 5-door hatchback layout is perhaps its funkiest element. This is a deeply conservative set of proportions and yet is able to slipstream with the best of them. The one-piece grille is Ioniq’s most distinctive detail versus Elantra or Sonata siblings. Horizontal slatwork with active-aero shutters dominate the car’s face.
This is not really a bad thing: Ioniq wears a fairly premium design from all sides. This loaded example rocks the standard vertical LED DRLs on the lower bumper corners, but also bi-LED main beams and an LED headlamp edge accent. The stance is enough to remind us of a baby 3 series somehow.
Around the sides of this electric blue smoothie? Not much to note beyond the hockey-stick of chrome edge for just the lower edges of the window line. Techy wheels in a two-tone grey finish look like spinning circuit boards. These are the upsized rims with performance tires — something that needs the Limited or optioned trims to replicate. The wheels are respectably stylish in design and also size. A marked contrast to the embarrassingly tiny hubs on the Elantra Eco or even top Prius Four trimlines. More on why this matters in the Performance section.
The trunkline doesnt really stand out — the C-D pillar is just one large corner of painted metal. LED brake lights for the Ioniq Limited are another upgrade over cheaper trims, and do help reinforce this car’s high-tech nature. The dot design is fairly generic but the arrow shape is a nice mirror-flip of the nose LED lamp shapes.
One wishlist item is for the bumper LEDs to stay lit somehow when the main beams are on. They really make reflective road markings glow.
Overall, Ioniq is sure to make friends with anyone who thinks Prius is too strange looking. Someone who wants the hybrid benefits of silent/smooth low speed travel and aero-optimized miles per gallon.
If the Ioniq’s discreet exterior is for Prius-rejectors or midsize sedan conquests, the interior is a conventional driver’s dream. No funky shifter, no funky giant dashboard and minivan windshield. Ioniq is deeply normal inside. A premium compact that is one of the only compacts to match VW interior assembly tightness. The materials inside Ioniq are even better than thew Golf or any Jetta. Soft-touch plastics throughout and mostly elephant grey. There is quite a bit of grey inside Ioniq, so it is nice that the leatherette seats… are grey. Just kidding, they really are a much darker shade to break up the monotony.
Ioniq scores major points for its drive position and steering helm. Sitting low and back is indeed possible! The deeply shaped steering three-spoke steering wheel is great to hold. Tech inside is top of the class, with almost everything standard on the top Limited trim. This extends to lane-departure assist, active cruise, blindspot sensors and automatic city braking.
Twin high-res monitors overflow with drive info and settings. The first in the gauge cluster is giant and lets the whole display flip in Sport drive mode — to display a tacho and digital speedo.
Usability of the touchscreen nav with remote Bluelink apps is top of class. The only true luxuries this Ioniq misses are cooled seats and a panoramic glass moonroof. As it stands, you just have to make do with a normal sunroof and heated seats. Well, if we’re shooting for the moon, Ioniq also misses 3D Google Earth nav graphics, a la Audi.
The rest is credibly premium indeed.
The top Ioniq Limited does a pretty real Genesis impression. Same keyless remote, same proximity locks and same (killable) startup chime sequence.
The drive comfort inside is very silent at low speeds and in all normal driving. The most intrusive element you hear is tire rumble at highway speeds. Like most hatchbacks, wagons and even Tesla EVs.. this low-pitched hum is nearly impossible to truly silence. Even so, Ioniq might be better with more sound insulation around the trunk and floorboards.
If the weight-saving makes it drive this well, however, we’re fine with it as is.
Why is a hybrid being tested with floored throttle? Well, first, that is how we test every car and even giant trucks around here. To sense how they do under duress.
Ioniq really excites us not for its raw pace or performance numbers. It is how well it does two totally different drive styles: slowly in normal D mode and speedy in sporty S mode.
Like all hybrids with a 50-plus MPG rating, the standard drive mode needs a deep throttle prod to get you moving, let alone pass. In typical drive mode, Ioniq almost cannot drop the efficiency below 45MPG in traffic and even better whenever cruise control is engaged. Ioniq in this mood is less sparky than Prius on first drive. Just such a dull throttle.
Luckily, there is a seriously simply way to solve for this. Slide the gearstick left into S.
This brings a totally different car to life. Not a fast one, mind you, with around 8.3-seconds to 60-mph. But one that is about two seconds quicker than Prius.
Then you have the real gear ratios of the double-clutch auto. This DCT is not always a DSG snicky experience for how fast it shifts. In fact, it lacks paddle shifters altogether, unfortunately. This DSG majors in direct drive. Floor it and go. Passing brings a normal kickdown and normal upshifts. It might not be much, but versus any CVT this Ioniq driveline feels like a Porsche.
“S” gearshift mode also holds gears and resists upshifting as soon as the normal Drive mode. Staying in gear around corners leads to where Ioniq really warms the enthusiast heart.
Maybe it is the sporty suspension and chassis. Maybe it is the sticky ribber. And part of it is definitely the balanced front-rear weight distribution with the Li-ion battery pack under the back seats.
Whatever it is, Ioniq is fun and pretty genuinely fast around corners. As shown on video above, you barely have to brake at all ahead of big bends. Just chuck Ioniq in, hang on and power it out. So clean and elegant around 10/10ths corners. A universe away from Prius’s understeer, nonexistent steering feel and squealing tires in the same corner.
As noted on video above, there are places where Prius feels admirably sparky. But it runs out of pace at 40-mph and never likes fast corners at any speed.
Ioniq Hybrid is the volume model with pricing below the Plug-In Ioniq and EV Ioniq. It stickers from about $23k for the base model, or about $28k as a base for the Limited. When you consider the 600-mile range and 56-mpg for their drastic running-cost reduction, Ioniq Hybrid’s $30k loaded total starts to make damn good sense.
So, here we have the first actual Prius rival to get anywhere near its target for drive efficiency, smoothness and hybrid ease of use. On some measures, Ioniq is even better than Prius as a hardcore eco-mobile. Certainly the more mature designs outside and in make Ioniq unique versus Prius. With normal looks, Ioniq’s freaky efficiency seem like magic.
This it might be.
But what is really magic is how rewarding the Ioniq Limited is in that Sport mode. S drive mode suddenly lets your Prius-beater drive with the Euro goodness of a VW Golf. No other hybrid can say it can do this much. Ioniq deserves serious consideration among high-milers of all stripes — fast and slow.
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.