Hyundai Ioniq: Green, Greener, Greenest

By Sue Mead, June 17th, 2017

Hyundai says its all-new Ioniq is a "mission impossible made possible" with three green cars in a single lineup: a green Ioniq Hybrid that achieves up to 58 mpg, and a greener Ioniq Plug-In that gets up to 27 miles solely on electric power, plus its greenest Ioniq Electric that brings a range of up to 124 miles (and up to 136 mpg of e-range).

Manufacturer photo: Hyundai unveils the 2017 Ioniq Hybrid, Ioniq Electric, and 2018 Ioniq Plug-In
Manufacturer photo: Hyundai unveils the 2017 Ioniq Hybrid, Ioniq Electric, and 2018 Ioniq Plug-In

The lineup truly offers something for everyone looking for a compact hatchback with a hybrid powertrain. While the market is still small today, it is projected to grow as the Millennial generation shows more interest in hybrids and prefer living in urban environments, where parking spaces are not just limited, but also small. And, although gas prices are low at the present, an increasing number of car buyers are looking for more fuel-efficient vehicles to benefit both their pocketbook and the planet.

The beauty of the Ioniq portfolio is threefold: this trio of models has been designed in an average/compact length, but crafted with more interior space than the Toyota Prius, the Kia Niro, and the Ford C-Max with electric power. It's been engineered to have high fuel economy and be fun to drive, with a sport mode that adds more motoring character and paddle shifters; plus, it's competitively priced in its segment.

The 2017 Ioniq Hybrid starts at $22,200 with a 690-mile driving range; it comes in Blue, SEL, and Limited trims and Hyundai says it's the most fuel-efficient hybrid in the U.S.

The 2018 Ioniq Plug-in will be available in the fall; as such, pricing, packages and exact fuel economy have not been released. The Electric model is on sale in California only with a base price of $29,500. The Ioniq Electric is eligible for up to $7,500 in Federal tax credits and a $2,500 California Clean Vehicle Rebate.

Manufacturer photo: Hyundai unveils the 2017 Ioniq Hybrid, Ioniq Electric, and 2018 Ioniq Plug-In

Hyundai's first dedicated "green" vehicle seats five in a new platform that is dedicated to the hybrid models. All Ioniqs wear Hyundai's family genetics, sport four doors, and have an aerodynamic profile. Design cues include a bold front end with cat-eye lighting, a low coupe-like roofline, and the slightly up-swung backend of a hatch.

The battery-powered version has a unique grille and interior, with buttons and a controller on the dash display, rather than a gear-shifter. The battery pack is positioned under the rear seat, which makes for less rear-seat headroom and cargo volume, although Hyundai claims the Ioniq Electric model has more passenger and cargo volume than the Chevy Bolt EV or the Nissan Leaf.

On our 200-mile-long drive in Southern California, we were able to sample each level of "greenness"; once inside, they all feel and drive like quiet and well-mannered compact sedans, with attractive interior materials and trims. We enjoyed the drive of the hybrid and plug-in models and liked the sport mode that changes the shift points and makes shifts quicker. The electric motor is extremely powerful, well-mannered, and quiet.

The Hybrid Ioniq is powered by a 1.6-liter engine that produces 104 horsepower and 109 lb.-ft. of torque joined with a 32-kW electric engine that makes 43/125; power is stored in a 1.56 kWh lithium-ion battery pack for a total of 139/195 combined.

Shifting comes from a six-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT). The Plug-In Hybrid is set up with the same gasoline engine and transmission, but adds a larger 8.9-kWh battery pack and a more powerful 44.5-kW (60-horsepower) electric motor; it can be charged in 2.25 hours and has an electric range of about 27 miles.

Manufacturer photo: Hyundai unveils the 2017 Ioniq Hybrid, Ioniq Electric, and 2018 Ioniq Plug-In

The Electric 88 kW e-motor gets 188 horsepower and 217 lb.-ft. of torque, and carries the largest lithium ion battery pack at 28.0 kWh. It takes four hours to charge on a standard level 2 EV charger; it also has standard DC fast-charging capability that allows it to get an 80 percent charge in 30 minutes.

Both Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid models feature multi-link rear suspensions which make for decent handling. The larger battery pack takes up more room beneath the Ioniq's body, so Hyundai chose to equip the EV with a more compact, but less sophisticated, torsion beam rear suspension rather than the same multilink that underpins the hybrids. Somehow, the EV managed to still feel composed enough on the twisty bit of wet road that I was able to test it on.

The front-drive model benefits from regenerative and friction brakes; standard paddle shifters control the amount of regeneration. The EV boasts very good amounts of instant torque when I needed to pass and smooth acceleration thanks to its single-speed transfer case -- the power is never interrupted by shifting.

strong>Of note: Hyundai has announced an experimental EV leasing program as well as an "Ioniq Unlimited" leasing program that includes all maintenance and reimbursement for charging costs for 36 months and up to 50,000 miles. All Ioniq models feature a lifetime warranty on the lithium-ion battery packs, in addition to Hyundai's 10-year powertrain warranty.

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