First drive: Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Premium SE

The Ioniq signals Hyundai’s intent to launch a range of ‘green cars’ and spearheads the company’s move to become an eco-friendly vehicle leader. With three electrified powertrains in one body style, Richard Gooding finds out how the hybrid – the most conventional of the trio – lives up to its eco billing

What is it?

South Korean car manufacturer Hyundai claims its new Ioniq is unique, the first car range to offer a choice of three electrified powertrains in one body shape, ensuring ‘low- to zero-emission mobility accessible to everyone’.

First seen at the Geneva motor show in spring 2016 in electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid forms, the Ioniq faces a range of competitors.

They vary from hybrids including Toyota’s ubiquitous but very capable Prius and in-house rival the Kia Niro, to all-electric cars such as the BMW i3 and Nissan Leaf. The Ioniq Hybrid and Electric arrive first and are on sale now, while the plug-in hybrid is due to be launched in the second quarter of 2017. 

How does it drive?

The Ioniq Hybrid (or ‘HEV’: Hybrid Electric Vehicle) shares its five-door body with its electric and plug-in siblings. A handsome but conservative car, the Ioniq’s looks echo those shared by its most obvious rival, the Toyota Prius.

An extremely aerodynamic Cd figure of 0.24 is helped by front wheel air curtains, side sill skirts, and a floor undercover. Whereas the electric Ioniq has a sealed front end, both versions of the Hybrid come with a more conventional grille with active air flaps to help aerodynamic efficiency. 

Blue highlights on the bumpers and selected interior touch points ensure drivers know they are in the petrol-electric model.

Aimed at the more ‘premium’ end of the market, all versions of the Ioniq feature soft-touch, leather-trimmed, and interestingly-surfaced plastics throughout their cabins.

Hyundai claim a brand first, in that the Ioniqs are the first European Hyundais to be fitted with a new high‑resolution seven‑inch TFT driver instrument display, which changes when various driving modes are selected.

The display shows lots of information including mpg, range, energy flow as well as driver settings, and is pin-sharp clear and well organised.

Cabin storage is down a little on the electric version thanks to the six‑speed dual-clutch gearbox, but, overall, the whole car feels very well built, and very ‘normal’ – something which won’t alienate drivers new to hybrid technology.

Just as we found with the Ioniq Electric (GreenFleet issue 100), ‘normal’ is one word which can be used to describe the driving experience, too.

It’s obvious that the Ioniq Hybrid has a petrol engine as it only sadly stays in all-electric mode for a very brief time when setting off.

Yes, while it’s not as quiet as its electric sister, at relaxed cruising speeds, the Ioniq Hybrid is a comfortable and relatively quiet companion. It’s fairly swift, too, with 0-62mph coming up in 10.8 seconds, only a fraction slower than the electric car. 

Powered by a 103bhp 1.6-litre GDI petrol engine from the ‘Kappa’ range of units, the Ioniq Hybrid’s ‘parallel hybrid’ powertrain also features a 32kW/43.5bhp electric motor and 1.56kWh lithium-ion polymer battery.

Maximum system output is 138bhp, while torque is 195lb ft/265Nm at 4,000rpm. The electric motor and combustion engine are used for mechanical propulsion, while the battery is charged by a blend of both the engine itself and regenerative braking.   

The Ioniq’s efficiency is a strong selling point. Hyundai claims a combined cycle 72.4mpg for models with £400 optional 17‑inch rims as worn by our test car.

Further efficiency can be achieved by the car’s regenerative braking function. Sadly, unlike the electric Ioniq, the hybrid car does without steering wheel paddles and therefore multi-level adjustability, and while it can be sensed working, its effect rarely feels as severe or beneficial as that of the electric car.

A low friction, third-generation system ensures maximum energy recuperation, though.

Similar to the Ioniq Electric, two selectable driving modes are available: ‘Eco’ and ‘Sport’. In ‘Eco’ mode, the gearbox optimises its selection for economy, shifting early to higher ratios for optimum efficiency.

‘Sport’, as you’d expect has an opposite effect: lower gears are held on to for longer, while performance from both the engine and electric motor are maximised.

The steering also becomes heavier and the TFT screen’s speedometer fades out, replaced by a red‑coloured rev counter instead.

An impressive enough driving experience, it’s better to adopt a more relaxed driving style with the Ioniq Hybrid, as engine noise is much more noticeable when it’s strung out at higher revs.

The Ioniq Hybrid has a multi-link rear suspension set-up, differing from the electric version which has a simpler rear torsion beam to save space, and there is both more road and cabin noise than its EV sister.

Hyundai claims the Ioniq Hybrid has a lower centre of gravity than a Volkswagen Golf GTI, and while we’d not pretend the South Korean hybrid is a sports car, it handles tidily enough. The lightest Ioniq Hybrid tips the scales at 1,377kg, thanks in part to a weight reduction programme, including the use of both an aluminium tailgate and bonnet, saving 12.4kg. 

How economical is it?

Hyundai claims a combined cycle fuel economy figure of 83.1mpg when the car is riding on 15-inch wheels. We achieved an average of 66.9mpg from our test car with optional 17-inch rims over a 70-mile test route, while a week spent with a 15-inch‑tyred Toyota Prius achieved 63.7mpg.

On smaller rims, the Prius edges the Ioniq on CO2 emissions – 70g/km against the Hyundai’s 79g/km – but the Ioniq boasts more power and more space. Both cars are still under the 100g/km VED band cap which means tax of £90 in the first year, rising to £130 in the years that follow.

What does it cost?

Mirroring other models in the Hyundai range, a trio of Ioniq Hybrids are available: SE, Premium and Premium SE. SE cars are priced from £20,585 ‘on-the road’, with specification including 15-inch alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, automatic headlights, driver’s seat electric lumbar support, dual-zone climate control, five-inch LCD colour touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, and rear parking sensors.

Safety kit is high, with Autonomous Emergency Braking and lane‑keeping systems as standard.

Premium-specification cars kick off from £22,385, and add kit such as automatic dimming rear view mirror, bi-xenon and LED headlights, eight-inch infotainment system with integrated satellite navigation, TomTom Live Services and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, heated front seats, keyless entry, LED rear lights, and wireless smartphone charging.

Premium SE models such as our test car add automatic wipers, front parking sensors, a powered driver’s seat with memory function, heated outer rear seats, and a heated steering wheel. A Blind Spot Detection system is also standard. Premium SE cars start at £24,185.

How much does it cost to tax?

The Ioniq Hybrid has CO2 emissions ranging from 79g/km to 92g/km depending on wheel size. Lower-emitting 79g/km versions cost £90 per year to tax in the first year, rising to £130 thereafter, while 92g/km models attract a £120 first year rate, £130 in subsequent years. All Ioniq Hybrid models attract a 17 per cent Benefit In Kind rate for 2017/18.

Why does my fleet need one?

Competitively priced, comfortable and well‑specified, the Ioniq Hybrid is a very credible contender in the HEV class.

Built well and with handsome looks, the hybrid Hyundai offers commendable economy and an easy-to-drive nature.

Hyundai doesn’t see the Ioniq as an alternatively-fuelled car, more of a ‘mainstream’ one. And just as with the Electric version, that’s the overriding impression of the Ioniq Hybrid: it feels very normal to drive and very much like a ‘mainstream’ car.

IAdd in the South Korean company’s standard 5-year unlimited mileage warranty package (with additional high voltage battery cover of 8 years or 125,000 miles) with potentially low running costs and tax, and the Ioniq Hybrid should appeal to existing Hyundai owners as well as drivers from other brands who want to both green their motoring ways and save money.

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