► Understated yet accomplished hybrid tested
► The shrinking violet’s Toyota Prius?
► Available in self-charging or plug-in guises
Hybrid cars fall into two main camps – vehicles designed from the ground-up to be a hybrid, where the powertrain is the main focus, or regular cars that have had hybridisation thrust upon them.
The Hyundai Ioniq is one of the former, and on launch in 2016 it was the first car to be offered with hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and fully electric propulsion options. That’s an accolade now shared with the Kona as well as the Kia Niro, but unlike its SUV siblings the Ioniq’s sights are still set firmly upon the perennial (and still popular) Toyota Prius.
Taking the form of a slinky five-door hatchback, the Ioniq offers plenty of practicality, good value, and an attractive ownership package. It’s also more conventionally-styled – unlike the Prius and its insane cuts and slashes, this is plainer and much less contentious. Points for Hyundai, here.
You can read our review of the Ioniq Electric here, but this review will focus on the Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid models.
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What’s under the bonnet?
Both hybrid and plug-in models use a naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre, four-cylinder petrol paired up to an electric motor and battery pack. In fact, the only difference is in the size of the battery, with the plug-in getting an 8.9kWh unit to allow for up to 29 miles of pure-electric driving, at speeds of up to 75mph – if you’re very gentle with the throttle.
Unusually, Hyundai puts a six-speed dual-clutch transmission between engine and motor, rather than a continuously variable planetary gearset as Toyota does. This makes for a more natural-feeling powertrain, especially when you ask it for some beans. On the flip side, it’s not as smooth at low speeds as a Prius, nor is it as efficient overall.
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With 139bhp total, it has a surprising turn of pace – 0-62mph comes up in 10.2 seconds, but the immediate torque surge from the 60bhp electric motor means initially it feels rather quicker than that.
Does it drive well?
Very rarely does something this singularly focused on efficiency add fun into the mix, and so it is with the Ioniq. Hyundai’s concentrated instead on comfort and ease of operation, and done both highly effectively. There’s nothing about the way the Ioniq drives that’s going to scare anybody off, and were it not for a few additional hybrid controls on the dashboard you’d be forgiven for barely noticing this is anything but a standard petrol automatic.
At around 1,400kg, it’s no lightweight, and combined with fairly soft and pliant suspension body roll is definitely present.
There’s a Sport mode, which flips the all-digital instrument cluster over to a rev-counter and weights up the steering, but you’re offered no other control over the drivetrain, meaning the Ioniq Hybrid makes its own decisions about when the battery is used. Overall it left us with the impression of disinterested competence – a car that demands scant effort from its driver, but elicits scant enthusiasm in response.
Is the interior as sci-fi as the powertrain?
Thankfully not, though since it was facelifted in 2019 some of Hyundai’s trademark straightforwardness has been lost. There are plenty of good points – an impressively no-nonsense digital instrument panel is a highlight, as is a conventional drive selector. Hyundai’s latest 10-inch infotainment display is another good addition – it’s very easy to use, set within easy reach and sight of the driver and doesn’t distract on the move.
Just underneath it, though, lie touch-sensitive climate controls, which are unnecessarily fiddly. They’re awkward to use and a step backwards from the basic buttons that existed pre-facelift.
Equipment is generous, all models getting keyless entry, a heated steering wheel, a wireless charging pad and that infotainment screen. There’s a good amount of space inside, too – room for four in comfort, albeit with slightly limited headroom in the rear due to that sloping roofline.
Hybrid models get a useful 443-litre boot, but the plug-in hybrid only has 341 litres thanks to that bulky battery pack underneath the floor.
How efficient is it?
Hyundai claims a combined WLTP figure of 62.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 102g/km for the Hybrid. That’s a little down on the Toyota Prius and its claimed 68.4mpg, which is a shame given the Ioniq is physically smaller and lighter.
During our time with the car we achieved around 50mpg, no matter how carefully we drove. That’s a bit disappointing compared with the genuine 60mpg we scored in a Toyota Corolla hybrid not long before, but the Ioniq is more powerful.
The Plug-in’s official combined fuel economy is a meaningless 247mpg with CO2 of just 26g/km. The latter figure is useful, contributing to low tax bills. The former will depend entirely on how you drive the car – charge up overnight and use a majority of electric power, and you’ll see big numbers. Never plug in and drive only as a hybrid, and you won’t.
The Ioniq is a good alternative to a Prius, and though it’s slightly undercut on price by the larger Toyota it hits back with impressive standard equipment, a good turn of pace from its relatively powerful hybrid engine and nice, subdued styling.
Poorer fuel economy than the Prius is a pity, though the Ioniq is slightly nicer to drive thanks to that dual-clutch gearbox. It’s also practical and should prove painless to own. It’s not a class-leader, but it’s a fine example.
If you’re considering the the plug-in Hybrid, though, we’d encourage you to take a look at a full EV – our review of the Ioniq Electric is here.