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Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid review: First drive

4

The Good

  • Cheap to buy
  • Well-specced
  • Strong fuel economy

The Bad

  • Somewhat ugly
  • Ioniq Electric is nicer to drive

We drove the Hyundai Ioniq around Liverpool and north Wales to see if we have a potential Toyota Prius rival on our hands or an inferior wannabe with similar looks.

Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid: What is it exactly?

The Hyundai Ioniq is a C-segment car from South Korea that comes with a choice of three powertrains ─ a first for the car industry ─ and is based on the same platform as the Kia Niro. It features a combination of a 32kW electric motor good for 43.5PS and a 1.6-litre GDI petrol for a total of 141PS.

We tested the Ioniq Electric and Ioniq Hybrid, both of which will both be available from October 27th 2016. A plug-in hybrid will complete the three-powertrain range when it arrives next year, adding a larger capacity battery for the electric motor.

It's a hybrid, so it's pretty slow, right?

It's 0-62mph time of 10.8 seconds sounds bad on paper, but the combined torque figure of 265Nm from the Kappa 1.6 Atkinson GDi engine and the electric motor gives you enough pace to reach the legal limit before going grey or bald.

There is an initial blast of acceleration that quickly fizzles out, which makes overtaking quite tricky, but it is up to the task of keeping up with traffic and pulling away at the lights.

Once at speed, the Ioniq offers a comfortable ride that smooths out British roads fairly well, with only really big pot holes posing an issue. It has skinny tyres but you can chuck it into corners with surprising eagerness and it responds with equally surprising levels of traction.

Sure, the body rolls somewhat but it remains planted, revealing the end of its grip level with the tyres grumbling and easy-to-correct understeer. Hyundai has gone above and beyond the call of duty in this regard and the weighty steering makes it feel more of a driver's car.

Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid: Is the dual-clutch 'box any good?

The Ioniq Hybrid gets a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that is far smoother and nicer to live with than the CVT in a Prius. As to why it only has six gears, Hyundai said the electric motor helps allow a wider torque spread so there is less need for a seventh. Can't say we really missed it, even at 70mph, as the revs are kept low and the fuel economy kept high. As you will now see.

Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid: It must be cheap to run, then?

It should be. Even when driving in very un-economical fashion, with the little skinny wheels screaming for dear life in certain parts of north Wales, we averaged more than 45mpg. On a motorway at 70mph we saw more than 60mpg, with 70mpg a definite possibility. 

That is still shy of the 83.1 miles per gallon Hyundai claims, but knowing it's possible to get good mileage without annoying other road users by driving at a snail's pace is an achievement in itself.

CO2 emissions come in at 79g/km so the Ioniq Hybrid is free to tax, not to mention better on the old lungs of those around you. The daily Congestion Charge in London can also be avoided, saving a tenner a day as things stand.

It's best to avoid the 17-inch wheel upgrade as this drops the fuel economy to 72.4mpg and raises CO2 to 92g/km. It makes the car look slightly nicer by filling the wheel arches better, admittedly, but if you are driving an Ioniq you probably care little about aesthetics anwyay. 

Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid: So what is wrong with it?

Get heavy-footed and the Ioniq Hybrid becomes a very noisy, revvy little hybrid. Luckily it soon pipes down, at which point it is a nice and quiet ride. It's not as quiet as the Ioniq Electric, obviously, but certainly enough to make a good motorway cruiser.

The electric motor can supposedly propel the car to 75mph independently of the petrol engine, but getting the latter to butt out completely is very difficult – even when pulling away. This is only a problem if you want to avoid using fuel altogether on short journeys, a key element of its Plug-in Hybrid sibling.

We should also point out the lack of rear visibility, owing to the sizable slice of metal located halfway between the rear window, but then this is partly why Hyundai has made the rear-view parking camera standard equipment on all trim levels, so reversing is relatively straightforward.

The looks could also be criticised. The extremely aerodynamic shape (0.24Cd) limits the level of flair but, truth be told, it looks a touch nicer than the new Prius, which seems to have regressed a bit. To our eyes, anyway. You can make your own mind up.

Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid: How do I charge it?

You don't – that only applies to the plug-in hybrid version. The tiny 1.56kWh lithium-ion-polymer battery charges via regenerative braking and leeching from the petrol engine. To fuel this car, you simply fill up as normal from a petrol station, after which you're good for about 500+ miles of driving.

Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid: Is it cheaper than the Prius?

A base Hyundai Ioniq SE works out £3,000 less than an equivalent Prius and includes a number of useful extras such as Automatic Emergency Braking (Hyundai must really want that five-star Euro NCAP rating), leather steering wheel, automatic headlights and rear parking sensors with a camera.

Step up from the £19,995 Ioniq Hybrid SE and you can have the £21,795 Hybrid Premium, which adds navigation with eight-inch LCD display, wireless phone charging, electric folding mirrors, Bi-Xenon headlights, TomTom Live services and Android Auto / Apple CarPlay.

Atop the range is the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Premium SE, which has everything on the two trim levels before it as well as leather seat facings, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, blind spot detection, front park sensors, window defogger, alloy pedals and automatic wipers.

That is quite impressive for a cheap car that drives better, has a larger boot and lighter kerb weight than the Prius, not to mention an unlimited mileage warranty for five years.

Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid: Why would I buy one?

Because you are a consumer wanting a cheap-to-run family car and care little about looks, a taxi driver who wants good fuel economy and low running costs or an Uber driver who wants peace of mind from a generous warranty and a low cost. This is where the Ioniq Hybrid really delivers.

The fact it comes in cheaper than its rivals and has an excellent level of equipment as standard means you will be seeing this car a lot ─ and not necessarily when drunk with a half-eaten kebab all over your lap. Factor in a pleasing drive and we can see the current Prius losing market share.

Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid vs Ioniq Electric

Having driven both the Ioniq Hybrid and Ioniq Electric, we came away thinking the latter felt more polished, but its considerably shorter range consigns it to inner-city life or for those who do lots of short trips. The range versatility and low price of the former makes it a different proposition with different rivals.

Key Specs

  • Kappa 1.6 Atkinson GDi engine and electric motor
  • 141PS at 5,700rpm
  • 195lb/ft (265Nm) at 4,000rpm
  • 0-62mph in 10.8 seconds
  • 79g/km of CO2
  • Up to 83.1mpg
  • From £19,995

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