The Hyundai Ioniq may be a young buck on the hybrid scene compared with old standbys such as the Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius, but it’s already made a big splash since its introduction in 2017. The Ioniq nameplate was launched with a hybrid model before growing to include an EV and, finally, a plug-in hybrid. All three variants have impressed us with their fuel efficiency, likable driving character, and, in the case of the EV model, usable electric range. We’re not ready to genuflect just yet—the Ioniq avoids typical hybrid droning by opting for a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission instead of a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), but its hybrid powertrains could still use some refinement. What’s more, neither the plug-in nor the EV can match the best in their class for range—but a well-packaged interior and gimmick-free exterior design help to ease some of our qualms.
What Was New for 2018?
The big news in the Ioniq family this year is the arrival of the plug-in hybrid model. This new powertrain variant retains the high EPA ratings that make the rest of the crew so attractive and adds up to 29 miles of EV range compared with the hybrid. Other changes are minor: paddle shifters are now standard in the hybrid’s SEL and Limited trims, while lane-keeping assist has been added to the Tech (SEL trim) and Ultimate (Limited trim) packages.
What Was New for 2017?
Hyundai’s stealth Toyota Prius fighter was new for 2017. The lineup launched with its hybrid variant, which was followed by an EV model.
Trims and Options We’d Choose
The Ioniq EV’s 124-mile range isn’t enough to make it competitive against the likes of the Chevrolet Bolt EV, and it’s too difficult to keep the plug-in model in EV mode for our taste. Instead, we’d choose the hybrid model, which earns excellent fuel-economy ratings with few compromises. The base hybrid trim (called Blue) is a good choice for scrimpers, starting at $23,085. We’d choose the $24,885 mid-level SEL trim which adds, among other features:
• Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
• Heated front seats with driver lumbar support
• LED brake lights
We’d add the $1000 Tech package in pursuit of adaptive cruise control and automated emergency braking, but it’s hardly a necessity. We’re thankful for respite from the droning continuously variable automatic transmissions (CVTs) favored by other hybrids, but the Ioniq’s powertrain still needs some refinement, and the plug-in model switches over from pure electric drive to its gasoline engine too readily.
The plug-in Ioniq’s blend of a 1.6-liter engine, electric motor, and six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission will be familiar to fans of the Ioniq and its cousin, the Kia Niro. The plug-in’s larger battery pack means increased EV range—up to 29 miles of combined driving according to the EPA—but unlike plug-ins such as the Chevrolet Voltor Toyota Prius Prime, it’s difficult to drive the Ioniq as if it were an EV even when its battery is full. Even if EV mode—which tops out at 75 mph—is designated via the appropriate button on the center console, lively right-foot action will quickly waken the sleeping engine. The good news is that the Ioniq charges quickly at a 240-volt outlet, requiring a bit more than two hours to restore full charge. If a 120-volt outlet is all that’s available, a full charge will take slightly less than nine hours.