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Hyundai Ioniq Electric review: First drive

4

The Good

  • Nippy enough for British roads
  • Inoffensive drive
  • Generous standard equipment

The Bad

  • Depreciation levels unclear
  • Range limits usefulness

The Hyundai Ioniq is a Toyota Prius rival that also happens to be the first car to offer three different types of powertrain. We went for a long drive in the all-electric model.

Hyundai Ioniq: What the devil is it?

The Hyundai Ioniq is a brand new C-segment car that forms part of Hyundai's plan to have 28 eco-friendly 'green' cars by the year 2020. It is underpinned by the same platform as the Kia Niro and will be available to buy in the UK from October 2016, alongside the Ioniq Hybrid. A plug-in version will arrive in 2017.

The electric car is largely similar to the Hybrid, but features a solid front grille (because it requires no engine cooling), revised rear suspension setup and a few aesthetic tweaks on the inside and outside such as the cockpit controls used to get it into gear, so to speak.

Hyundai Ioniq Electric drive: Any good to drive?

Very well, actually. It lacks the low-end zip of the Nissan Leaf and other small electric cars but it has a reasonably powerful 120PS motor and weighs less than most. 

Beyond 20mph, the Ioniq Electric zips along nicely, with 0-62mph happening in 9.9 seconds. You can thank a healthy 218lb/ft (295Nm) of torque for that. It may be the least powerful model in the range, lacking the contribution of a petrol motor, but it's still comfortably the quickest off the line.

We found ourselves happily cruising up to motorway speeds with enough eagerness to make it an enjoyable drive.

Rivals such as the Leaf have become more fun to drive, but the Ioniq has a more connected feeling. Exciting would be an overstatement, but inoffensive seems harsh. The Ioniq Electric is actually nicer to drive than the Hybrid, especially if you use its torquier but less efficient 'Sport' mode.

As for general ride comfort, the rear suspension is a less sophisticated torsion beam setup where the Ioniq Hybrid gets a multi-link job, but we found the Ioniq Electric never felt any less able to soak up lumps and bumps. 

Hyundai Ioniq Electric: Just how efficient are we talking?

Hyundai claims a 174-mile range and our two-hour journey incorporating motorways, B-roads and slow traffic saw the Ioniq Electric use nearly half of its 28kWh lithium ion battery capacity. Without trying to drive efficienctly in relatively warm, clear conditions we think a range of 115 miles would be feasible. In terms of the tougher EPA rating, it comes in at 110 miles, while the Leaf manages 107 miles.

Hyundai Ioniq Electric: Is it practical?

The 0.24Cd drag co-efficient means the Ioniq Electric has an aerodynamic shape similar to the Prius, but those who sit in the back have plenty of headroom, unless they measure well over 6ft tall. The middle seat in the rear is best saved for children, though.

The batteries needed to keep the Ioniq Electric happy do eat into the boot space, reducing the 443 litres you get in the Hybrid to 350 litres.

As for general storage places, the Ioniq scores pretty well and the wireless phone charging in the central console area between the front seats is another bonus if your phone supports it.

Hyundai Ioniq Electric: What are the biggest flaws?

Though largely silent most of the time, the electric motor makes a sort of whirring noise at low speeds that can prove a tad annoying. It does, however, become eerily silent once beyond crawling pace.

We should also point out the fact it will need frequent charging to use it a lot through the week and that really long journeys will need to be broken up with a few stops to recharge it.

To be fair, these stops could be relatively short as a fast DC charge at 50kW can replenish 80 per cent in 33 minutes, but finding these will be more difficult. Using smartphone apps such as Pod Point will help, mind you.

A full charge at home can take as little as 4.5 hours with a proper home charger or between 10 and 12 hours if you ignore Hyundai's advice and use a standard three-pin plug socket (the cables are included in case you do).

Hyundai Ioniq Electric: Why does it have flappy paddles?

Glad you asked. The Hyundai Ioniq Electric has four levels of energy regeneration and the paddles enable a quick shift between 0, which offers the lowest level of energy being clawed back and so the lowest level of engine braking, and 3, which offers the highest.

By shifting down from 0 to 3 as you approach, say, traffic lights you can maximise the amount of energy regeneration and reduce the need to use the brakes. As such, it is similar to using conventional gears to slow a car. Not only does it make the Ioniq more efficient, it actually reduces brake wear.

Should you have to touch the brakes, they are spongey and progressive to help make your braking less wasteful, but offer plenty of bite when you really need them.

Hyundai Ioniq Electric: Great value for money?

Really, really good. The base level of equipment on the Ioniq Electric Prenium (no SE here like on the Hybrid) includes 16-inch alloy wheels, leather steering wheel, Lane Keep Assist System, Automatic Emergency Braking, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and an eight-speaker sound system.

The Ioniq Electric Premium starts from £24,495 including the government grant of £4,500, which may or may not continue next year. Spec a Leaf with the comparable 30kWh battery and similar levels of equipment and the Hyundai starts to shine.

This is especially true when you factor in the five-year unlimited mileage warranty on the car and the eight-year, 125,000-mile warranty on the battery. Enough to help forgive the uninspiring interior and exterior design? We think so.

The Premium SE starts from £26,295 and adds heated and ventilated front seats, Driver Power Seat with memory function, Heated rear seats, automatic wipers, blind spot detection, front park sensors and a window defogger. Nice extras, but by no means essential.

Hyundai Ioniq Electric: So should I buy one?

Based on first impressions, the Ioniq Electric seems like a solid and practical runaround. We certainly preferred driving it to the Ioniq Hybrid, but the 110-mile range does have limitations that will make it impractical for some consumers.

For a life of predominantly short journeys though, the Ioniq Electric is likely to do you proud and save you money on fuel, Vehicle Excise Duty and London's Congestion Charge. It may prove harder to resell, but the savings could, in theory, outweigh the depreciation in the long run.

Given that the i3 needs a range-extending petrol motor to compete and has much less space, while the Nissan Leaf 30kWh offers a shorter range, the Hyundai Ioniq is definitely worth considering if all-electric is the way you want to go.

Key Specs

  • Hyundai Ioniq Electric
  • Electric motor
  • 88kW (120PS)
  • 213lb/ft (295Nm)
  • 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds (Sport mode)
  • 103mph
  • 174 miles (280km)
  • 0g/km of CO2 locally
  • Depends on outlet
  • From £24,495

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