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2018 Hyundai Ioniq Review

2018 Hyundai Ioniq Review
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With a plug-in hybrid joining hybrid and electric versions, the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq normalizes green powertrains: it’s relatively fun to drive, and doesn’t look strange.

The 2018 Hyundai Ioniq added a plug-in powertrain this year to join its electric and hybrid powertrains from last year. The trio of five-door hatchbacks are among Hyundai's most efficient cars and priced between the Elantra and Sonata sedans.

The hybrid version is offered in Blue, SEL, and Limited trim levels, while the electric and plug-in hybrid models are offered in base and Limited trim levels.

We like the little Ioniq and think Hyundai succeeded in making green cars both normal-looking and more fun to drive than hybrids historically have been. That said, the competing Toyota Prius hybrid and Prius Prime plug-in hybrid have improved greatly in that respect, so Hyundai’s advantage is smaller than it was when the car was first conceived. The Ioniq’s design, however, is that of a normal hatchback with a high tail, in vivid contrast to the bizarre lines of the latest Prius.

We gave the Ioniq a score of 6.2 out of a possible 10 points, with extra points for its superbly intuitive cockpit and controls. It rates high on our green scale, too, and as always Hyundai has carefully grouped its features to provide good value for money.

With the plug-in hybrid variant rounding out the three-powertrain lineup this year, the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq offers something no other car does: a choice of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or electric powertrains. The Hybrid will be the big seller, with the other two available for special order nationally but only actively marketed in a handful of states.

Global demand for the Ioniq has reportedly been higher than expected, perhaps indicating that Hyundai has a winner on its hands. Its small hatchback design and low gas prices here in the States make it a tougher sell than the company expected four or five years ago when it set out to produce the car that would get the highest fuel-economy rating of any vehicle with an engine.

The company succeeded in that goal; the fact that it has produced a pleasant vehicle that’s easy to live with as well is a welcome bonus. The sole missing element is a range longer than 124 miles for the Ioniq Electric. Reports suggest this could happen by 2019 or 2020.

The 2018 Hyundai Ioniq lineup proves that high efficiency doesn’t have to look strange, and that’s a good thing.

While the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq shares some hidden structure and components with the subcompact Elantra sedan, the greenest Hyundai is very much its own model. There’s no gasoline-only variant; it’s a dedicated hybrid or electric model, with slightly different styling for each.

We rate the Ioniq at 6 points out of 10 for its design, giving it an extra point for its absolutely normal and relatively handsome interior. Why would that merit a higher score? Because virtually all other contenders, from the Prius hybrid to the current Leaf electric car, have highly stylized interiors that require learning and adaptation. You can get into the Ioniq and drive it just like any other small car. 

The Ioniq necessarily shares a high-tailed hatchback shape with other ultra-efficient cars. That’s all about aerodynamics, and cutting energy-sapping wind drag. But the execution is skillfully done to hide that shape as much as possible. You could well think this is just another small car, never know that it’ll return 50-plus mpg or transport you entirely on electrons.

The Hyundai trapezoidal grille is flanked by swept-back headlights. The Electric model has a blanking plate, rather than a grille, and it along with the Plug-In versions have LED headlights. The windshield is raked back, but a horizontal accent line divides relatively flat body sides, leading into conventional taillights. Hyundai says its 0.24 drag coefficient is among the lowest for production cars, and it goes to show that being energy-efficient doesn’t mean overly odd or instantly noticeable shapes.

Inside, the interior could be that of any small Hyundai, with a few individual touches on top of the standard black, matte silver, and optional two-tone shapes and materials. Inside, Hyundai has replaced the conventional shift and parking-brake levers on the tunnel with a set of buttons and the controller for the interactive display in the center of the dashboard. We’re fans of the look and feel of the latest Hyundai interiors, which we find quietly stylish but tastefully restrained for mass-market vehicles. Any Elantra or Sonata owner should find the Ioniq’s cabin instantly familiar.

Each of the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq powertrains is energy efficient and comparatively enjoyable to drive against other hybrid and electric models.

Rating the performance of the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq lineup requires comparing it to quite a few different cars. The compromises made to let it house all three powertrains mean that apart from the Hybrid’s fuel-economy ratings, it doesn’t excel in all facets against more specialized competitors.

Power output is just average for the category, though the Kia Niro wagon that shares its underpinnings feels slower, likely due to its larger size and greater weight. Hyundai’s done well in making the Ioniq hybrids smooth, given the limitation that their single-motor design and conventional transmission will never offer the smoothness of the dual-motor designs used by Toyota, Ford, and Honda.

We rate the Ioniq lineup at 6 points out of 10, giving it an extra point for its combination of pleasant ride and comparatively sporty driving. The rating is weighted toward the high-selling Hybrid version, which is challenged in comparison to the quieter but also pricier Ioniq Electric, which is better to drive yet. 

The two hybrid versions use a direct-injected 1.6-liter inline-4 that’s paired to a single electric motor sandwiched between the engine and the 6-speed dual-clutch automated transmission that delivers power to the front wheels. The Ioniq Hybrid uses a 32-kilowatt (43-horsepower) electric motor, for total maximum output of 139 hp. Otherwise wasted energy from engine overrun and regenerative braking is fed into a 1.6-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack under the rear seat. At low speeds and light loads, the Ioniq Hybrid can run on electric power alone; otherwise the motor adds torque to the engine output or acts as a generator to recharge the battery.

The Ioniq Plug-In is similar in layout, but its electric motor produces higher power (45 kw, or 60 hp) and its battery pack holds 8.9 kwh, for a rated range of 27 miles. It’ll switch on the engine under maximum acceleration, unlike the Prius Prime and Chevrolet Volt, but it’s possible to drive it largely, if not fully, on electric power while the battery still has charge. After that it behaves like a conventional Ioniq Hybrid until it’s recharged.

Electric efficiency
The 28-kwh battery pack in the Ioniq Electric is EPA-rated at 124 miles of electric range, but it earns this year’s laurels as the single most energy-efficient vehicle on the market, with a rating of 136 MPGe.  Its electric motor is rated at 88 kw (120 hp), only slightly down on the power rating for the lighter Hybrid model. And like any electric car, it’s simply calmer, quieter, and more peaceful to drive than any vehicle with a combustion engine—a difference underscored by back-to-back drives in the Hybrid and Electric versions of the Ioniq.
Hyundai worked hard to make the Ioniq lineup fun to drive, trying to combine efficiency and enjoyment. The pair of hybrid versions use a multi-link rear suspension, though the larger battery pack of the Electric model limits it to a simpler torsion-beam rear axle. The suspension is tuned to work with a variety of 15-, 16-, and 17-inch wheels carrying low-rolling resistance tires, and the center of gravity is relatively low due to the low positions of the various battery packs.

The Ioniq’s regenerative braking system is largely satisfactory, with the exception of a few blending misses in the hybrid models during transitions among their regenerative braking, dual-clutch transmission shifting, and friction brakes. Sans a transmission, the Electric is extremely well-blended.

With only average power, the light weight of the Ioniq keeps its acceleration passable. We didn’t see a lot of impact on fuel economy if we drove the Hybrid model aggressively, and that proved more enjoyable than trying to baby it for maximum efficiency. Hyundai gets points for making a car that stays economical even when it’s driven to keep up with faster traffic; not every hybrid can do that.

Comfort & Quality
The 2018 Hyundai Ioniq prioritizes the comfort of front-seat occupants over those in the rear; the cabin is otherwise pleasant.

The Hyundai Ioniq, as the brand’s most efficient vehicle, is likely to be used more for commuting in North America than as a family vehicle. Its selling points are the “normal” appearance, intuitive and standard controls and displays, and good interior volume and cargo space for a subcompact hatchback.

The way the interior space is laid out, however, indicates the compromises Hyundai made to achieve those goals. It’s smaller than the latest Toyota Prius, and lower and less upright than competitors like the Chevy Bolt EV or Nissan Leaf. We give the Ioniq 4 points out of a possible 10, docking it one point for the minimal rear-seat head room that results a sloping roofline combined with a battery pack sited under the rear seat.

Hyundai says the well-bolstered front seats are in the same position as in its relatively low Elantra sedan. On roads with increasing numbers of taller crossovers, Ioniq occupants sit low too. The car is wide, though, and the front compartment feels spacious.

In the rear, there’s leg room and shoulder room for two adults, but taller riders will be cramped between the seat cushion and that declining roofline. The hybrid Ioniq has 96.2 cubic feet of passenger volume, Hyundai says—more than even the larger Prius, though less than the Ford C-Max or Kia Niro—but it’s definitely prioritized for front-seat riders, and adults in the rear may not be happy.

Hyundai interiors usually offer ample trays, bins, cubbies, and cup holders, and the Ioniq is no exceptions. The hybrid Ioniq has 26.5 cubic feet of cargo volume, more than the Kia Niro or Ford C-Max, though it’s less than that of most Prius Liftback models. The electric and plug-in Ioniqs have 23.8 cubic feet of volume for cargo, beating the the Chevy Bolt EV and Ford C-Max Energi.

Noise suppression is good, and while engine revving is noticeable, it’s not particularly intrusive. The direct shifts of the 6-speed dual-clutch automated transmission reduces what’s sometimes called the "motorboating" engine howl under hard acceleration. Sustainable or recycled materials for interior elements include door covers made of a plastic that includes powdered wood and volcanic stone. They differ in feel from standard plastics, and overall, the pricier end of the Ioniq range has somewhat more hard plastic than you might expect, especially inside the Electric model, which runs upward of $30,000.

The 2018 Hyundai Ioniq hasn’t been fully crash-tested, but it earns a Top Safety Pick score from the IIHS

The 2018 Hyundai Ioniq has only been evaluated in independent crash-testing, so we can't give it a score here until the federal government gives it a go.

The Ioniq lineup comes standard with seven airbags, and offers most of the latest active-safety systems. On introduction, those included adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, and forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection. For 2018, Hyundai has upgraded the lane-departure warning to active lane control on all versions of the Ioniq.

The IIHS says that an Ioniq earns a Top Safety Pick award; only "Acceptable" headlights hold it back.

The 2018 Hyundai Ioniq has roughly average features, but they’re well packaged and its active-safety systems tick all the boxes.

There are essentially two sets of trim options for the Hyundai Ioniq: one for the high-volume Hybrid that’s sold nationally, and a different set for the Ioniq Electric and the new Plug-In model added for 2018 that will go on sale late this year. The Hybrid comes in Blue, SEL, and Limited trim levels, while the other two offer base and Limited trims.

We gave the complete Iineup of 2018 Hyundai Ioniq models 6 out of 10 possible points for the cars’ features. This year, Hyundai has upgraded one of its active-safety systems, replacing lane-departure warning with active lane control, though it continues as an option only at the highest trim level. Otherwise, while the Ioniq has no unique or exceptional equipment, the various trim levels are carefully packaged and generally good value for money against the larger and pricier Toyota Prius.

The highest-mileage version is the base Ioniq Hybrid Blue, which includes keyless ignition, a 7.0-inch touchscreen for the audio system that includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a 4.2-inch multi-function display in the instrument cluster, six-way manually adjustable front seats, dual automatic climate control, and 15-inch alloy wheels. A rearview camera is standard.

The mid-level SEL version of the Hybrid adds heated front seats and door mirrors, LED taillights and daytime running lights, a 7.0-inch display in the instrument cluster, a power driver’s seat, and blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist. Added amenities include more chrome trim and an armrest for the rear seat that includes cupholders. An optional Tech Package adds adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and automatic emergency braking.

The top of the Hybrid range is the Limited, with leather seats, interior LED lighting, a power sunroof, 17-inch alloy wheels, more trim embellishments, and BlueLink telematic services. Five paint colors are available, along with tan or black interiors.

For the Plug-In and Electric Ioniqs, the base versions are roughly comparable to the Hybrid SEL trim, with a few detail differences and, of course, their very different plug-in electric powertrains.

An optional Ultimate Package for all three versions adds more active-safety systems—adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, active lane control, swiveling headlights, and rear parking sensors—along with an 8.0-inch touchscreen and built-in navigation, an eight-speaker Infinity premium audio system, wireless device charging, memory for the power driver’s seat, and rear vents.

Fuel Economy
The 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid has the highest fuel-economy ratings of any car on sale without a plug; the electric model is the most energy-efficient car in the U.S. this year.

The 2018 Hyundai Ioniq lineup is now complete with the addition of the Plug-In variant that joins the Hybrid and Electric models. Designed for maximum efficiency, all three versions have a slippery shape and lightweight structure. The pair with engines includes active grille flaps, and the electric model has predictive energy management that takes elevation along a mapped route into account when calculating power delivery and regeneration.

The Ioniq Hybrid will be by far the highest-volume model; it comes in two versions, with the Ioniq Hybrid Blue earning EPA ratings of 57 mpg city, 59 highway, 58 combined. The standard Ioniq Hybrid comes in slightly lower, at 55/54/55 mpg. Both sets of ratings are slightly higher than the larger Toyota Prius Two Eco (56 mpg) and Prius (52 mpg) that Hyundai has targeted. Those ratings earn the Ioniq lineup 9 points out of 10, although on their own, the Ioniq Electric and Plug-In models would earn ratings of 10 out of 10.

The battery range of the Ioniq Electric is rated at 124 miles, which equals the 125-mile Volkswagen e-Golf and is better than any electric that isn’t a Tesla (all rated at 210 miles or more) or a Chevrolet Bolt EV (238 miles).

Its rated energy efficiency, at 136 MPGe, makes it the single most efficient car sold in the U.S. today. It beats the much pricier and higher-tech BMW i3 electric car and the recent Prius Prime plug-in hybrid, at 124 MPGe and 133 MPGe respectively. (Miles Per Gallon Equivalent, or MPGe, is the distance a car can travel electrically on the amount of energy contained in 1 gallon of gasoline.)


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