2018 Hyundai Ioniq Review


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2018 Hyundai Ioniq Overview

Hyundai expands its new line of Ioniq fuel-efficient vehicles for 2018 with the introduction of the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid, which joins the existing Ioniq Hybrid and Ioniq Electric in the automaker's showrooms. The trio of compact high-mileage hatchbacks represents Hyundai's answer to fuel efficient competitors like the Toyota Prius and the Nissan Leaf by giving buyers a choice of powerplant configurations, charging options, and operating ranges on electric power. Launched in 2017, the Ioniq entered a competitive field and experienced a slow roll-out due to parts availability and global demand, which has affected the supply of Ioniqs in the U.S. At the same time, they give the automaker a foothold in a growing market segment as more buyers shift from gas to hybrid and electric vehicles with the rise in fuel prices and the push toward efficiency.

Equipped with both a gas engine and an electric motor, as well as a battery pack under the rear seat, the 2018 Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid can travel up to 29 miles on electric power alone, so it's possible for owners to run errands or drop off the kids at school without using a single drop of gas. In addition, thanks to its plug-in capability, owners can charge the car's battery pack at any of the growing number of charge stations located around the country, extending the car's electric range while it's parked at the mall or movie theater. With the gas engine and electric motor working together, the Plug-in Hybrid has a total range of around 630 miles between fill-ups and offers more combined horsepower (139) than its primary rival, resulting in good acceleration and plenty of power for most driving situations.

Although the three Ioniq variants share the same dedicated electric vehicle platform and basic designs, they differ in their powertrains, electric capabilities, and some features. Both the Plug-in Hybrid and the Ioniq Hybrid come equipped with a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder gas engine, which makes 104 horsepower and 109 pound-feet of torque. Both also include a 6-speed EcoShift dual-clutch transmission with Shiftonic rather than the typical continuously variable transmission (CVT) found in most hybrid vehicles. The Plug-in Hybrid gets a larger electric motor and battery pack than the Hybrid, giving it increased range on electric power alone. And the Ioniq Electric, available only in California, beats both of them when it comes electric-only performance.

Hyundai equips the new Plug-in Hybrid with a 45kW electric motor, capable of generating 60 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque, along with an 8.9kWh lithium-ion battery. That compares to the Ioniq Hybrid's 32kW electric motor, good for 43 hp and the same 125 lb-ft, and a smaller 1.6kWh battery. The differences mean the Plug-in Hybrid can travel further on electric power than the standard Hybrid before the gas engine kicks in. The system also reverts to gas power during acceleration, when climbing hills, or in other driving situations requiring additional power. Like most hybrids, the Ioniq delivers moderate acceleration and performance in electric Eco mode, but a Sport driving mode makes adjustments to the steering and transmission for improved handling and performance. In addition, with its larger electric motor, the Plug-in Hybrid performs slightly better at highway speeds than the standard Hybrid.

The Ioniq Electric can travel up to 124 miles on electric power before requiring a charge, though Hyundai says it plans to increase the Electric's range to around 200 miles in the next few years. Its powertrain consists of an 88kW electric motor, which generates 118 hp and 218 lb-ft of torque, connected to a single-speed transmission and a 28kWh battery. Features include fast-charging capability using a direct-current outlet and the vehicle's combo charging port.

Hyundai offers the Ioniq Hybrid in Blue, SEL, and Limited trim levels, while the Ioniq Electric and Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid come in Base and Limited trims. Fuel economy numbers for the Hybrid depend on the trim, with the Blue achieving 57 mpg city, 59 highway, 58 combined, and the SEL and Limited trims checking in at 55, 54, and 55. Those numbers are slightly better than the Prius One's 52mpg combined . The Ioniq Electric delivers a miles-per-gallon equivalent of 136 MPGe, compared to 124 MPGe for the Chevy Bolt. Hyundai has not yet released fuel economy numbers for the Plug-in Hybrid, but expect them to be in the same neighborhood as the Hybrid's.

The powerplants in all three Ioniq hatchbacks send power to the front wheels, although their suspension setups differ slightly. All three get MacPherson struts with coil springs in the front. In the rear, the Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid go with a lightweight multilink design, while the Iconiq Electric opts for a more compact coupled torsion beam axle, making room for the larger battery pack. Hyundai notes that positioning the battery packs beneath the rear seats helps ensure a low center of gravity, improving balance and responsiveness. Power-assisted steering comes standard on all Ioniq variants, along with regenerative brakes designed for quiet operation. Early reviewers give the Ioniq good marks for its ride and handling.

Outside, the Ioniq displays an aerodynamic design that manages to look sleek without being overly daring. Still, it's a fluid, functional design. The use of aluminum in the hood and tailgate helps keep the weight down, and the sloping hatchback roofline creates an attractive profile, although it also reduces headroom for passengers in the rear seat.

All three Ioniqs feature a hexagonal grille up front, LED daytime running lights, narrow headlights, and a rear spoiler, and all except the base Hybrid Blue trim get heated side mirrors and LED taillights. Both the Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid receive active grille shutters, designed to improve aerodynamics, while the Electric and the Limited trims of both the Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid add LED headlights. The Hybrid Blue and SEL trims ride on 15-inch wheels, while the Hybrid Limited trim upgrades to 17-inch wheels. All Electric and Plug-in Hybrid trims receive 16-inch wheels, with an Eco-spoke design for the Electric.

Like the exterior, the Ioniq's five-passenger interior opts for function over flash, with an uncluttered design and intuitive controls and technology. Eco-friendly and lightweight materials give it a clean feel inside, and all trims come well-equipped with a number of high-end features. Even the base Hybrid Blue trim gets dual-zone climate control, illuminated vanity mirrors, push-button start, a 7-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, and a reversing camera, while the base Plug-in Hybrid includes heated front seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Hybrid SEL trim adds a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, while all Limited trims receive leather upholstery and an upgraded sound system. Tech features abound, including USB ports and support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto apps, which the Prius does not offer. Owners can add optional features like navigation and wireless charging to the Limited trims.

To get safety features like blind spot alert and rear cross-traffic alert, you'll have to get the Hybrid SEL or the Limited trims, with options for automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and smart cruise control. Typical features like electronic stability control, traction control, brake assist, and hill start assist are standard on all Iconiq trims. Given its recent introduction, the Ioniq has not yet been safety-rated by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Association or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Hyundai points out that the Ioniq is not intended as a Prius slayer, but it is a solid foundation to expand its future in hybrid and electric vehicles. The automaker believes that the Ioniq's stellar mileage numbers, aerodynamic exterior design, well-equipped interior, and affordable pricing will draw current owners of gas-fueled vehicles to this sleek, functional, economical option.


Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in California.

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