Hyundai Triple Eco Play: Ioniq Hybrid, Electric, Plug-In

By Frank A. Aukofer, June 24th, 2017

As alternative powertrains proliferate, Hyundai goes all-in on a trifecta: the 2017 Ioniq with a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and a dedicated electric model.

Manufacturer photo: Hyundai unveils the Ioniq Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid, and Electric models for 2017
Manufacturer photo: Hyundai unveils the Ioniq Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid, and Electric models for 2017

Depending on the consumer response and government fuel economy requirements, the payoff could be substantial. Regardless, the choices deliver a win for the motoring public.

The Ioniq is an all-new four-door hatchback from the South Korean manufacturer. Its name comes from "ion" an electrically charged particle, and "unique" or one of a kind.

By itself, the Ioniq doesn't qualify as unique. But a manufacturer that develops three different motive forces for a single car certainly qualifies as special. Honda has done something similar with its new Clarity, which comes as a pure electric, plug-in hybrid, and as a hydrogen fuel-cell electric model.

Because the three variants are being phased in separately, the emphasis at the Ioniq introduction was on the electric and hybrid models. The plug-in hybrid differs from a standard hybrid because, with a fully charged battery pack, it can be driven up to 27 miles on electric power alone. A standard hybrid runs on electricity and gasoline, with only short bursts of pure electric power.

Manufacturer photo: Hyundai unveils the Ioniq Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid, and Electric models for 2017

For owners whose daily driving consists mainly of short trips, it would be possible to avoid many stops for gasoline, as long as the plug-in is plugged in regularly. Range anxiety, however, is not a problem; once the battery pack is discharged, the Ioniq plug-in runs on its gasoline engine.

The Ioniq electric has a range of 124 miles, which the EPA works out to 136 miles per gallon equivalent of a gasoline-engine car. It delivers instant power off the line, cruises silently except for some road noise, and has capable handling and good road feel.

Its disadvantage is that an owner who wants to take a trip must plan the route to take advantage of charging stations -- or at least places to stay where the Ioniq electric can be recharged overnight.

The electric and plug-in models come with a dual port for charging from a standard 110-volt outlet or a fast-charging 240-volt charger. Full charging time with the fast charger is two hours, 30 minutes for the plug-in and four hours, 25 minutes for the electric.

The Ioniq Hybrid is likely to be the big seller. It incorporates a 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with a 32-kilowatt electric motor. Combined, they deliver 139 horsepower. Driven for this review was the Limited model.

Manufacturer photo: Hyundai unveils the Ioniq Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid, and Electric models for 2017

Unlike some other hybrids that use continuously variable automatic transmissions, which have no shift points, the Ioniq comes equipped with a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, which provides rapid shifts up or down and delivers city/highway/combined fuel economy of 55/54/55 miles per gallon.

A driver-selectable sport mode enhances performance by shifting the transmission at higher engine revolutions. It also delivers a heftier feel to the steering. Of course, increased performance comes with reduced fuel economy.

Hyundai claims that the base Ioniq model, called the Blue, is the most fuel-efficient hybrid on the market. Its city/highway/combined rating is 57/59/58 miles to the gallon.

The hybrid also consolidates a standard 12-volt battery, used for lights and accessories, into the hybrid battery pack. If it dies, you simply touch the "12-volt battery reset" button and you're on your way. No calling for a jump-start.

Depending on the model, the Ioniq comes with advanced safety equipment including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot detection, and rear cross traffic alert. Also offered are Blue Link connectivity, Apple Car Play, Android Auto, and wireless smart phone charging.

Manufacturer photo: Hyundai unveils the Ioniq Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid, and Electric models for 2017

The Ioniq is being marketed as a compact, though generous cargo space of 27 cubic feet under the hatchback bumps its interior volume into the large car class. Its total volume is 123 cubic feet; any car with more than 120 cubic feet is classified by the EPA as large.

But the Ioniq belies that classification and, at 4 inches shy of 15 feet, looks and feels more like a compact. There's plenty of elbow and headroom up front, but the outboard back seats are tight on head and knee room. The center rear position, as on most cars these days, is an uncomfortable perch and a small hump intrudes on foot space.

Prices range from $23,035 to $31,335 for the hybrid and $30,855 to $36,835 for the electric, including the destination charge. The electric qualifies for federal and state tax incentives.

Specifications

Base price $28,335 (as tested: $28,335)
Curb weight 3,172 lbs.
Displacement 1.6-liter
Engine type 4-cyl.+ 32kW electric motor
Epa mileage rating 55 mpg city, 54 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 11.9 gal.
Horsepower (net) 104 at 5700 rpm // 139 total
Overall length 176.0 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 109 at 4000 rpm // 125 electric
Transmission 6-speed automated manual
Vehicle type 5-passenger compact FWD hatchback
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