I was lucky enough to get to spend some time with the new Hyundai Ioniq Electric this past weekend and thought I'd share my observations.
Although I've spent an inordinate amount of time recently in both the virtual and real EV world trying to catch up from 37 years of ICE worship (more if you count the pre-drivers-license era), I find myself still woefully lacking in pure EV seat time. And now that I'm regularly volunteering at local EV advocacy events it's important I make at least some attempt to be usefully informed on the different models currently available. So I generally jump at the chance to put some hours in anything I can get my hands on.
The Ioniq is a family of three, a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid and the EV. I drove the EV, or Electric as Hyundai calls it.
There are a great number of online reviews of the car already, so I won't go into great gory detail about the equipment/specs etc. The short story on that is Hyundai is trying to carve a niche for itself in the hybrid/EV world the same way it did in the ICE world, with value. Specifically, offering more standard equipment and better materials for the same money or less than others in the segment. On that front I think they've done well here, the car feels slightly more upmarket inside than its current competitors, the Focus EV, Prius, Volt and Leaf (one could add the e-Golf but it only just trickling in now). In Canada the base price is $35,649 and this includes lots of goodies, electric everything, heated front seats, Apple car play, Android auto, 7" touch-screen and best of all Level 3 DC fast charging (80% recharge in 22 mins). For just $1K more you can also add a heat pump and heated rear seats, which should make for a substantial range improvement in winter conditions. I was driving the Limited version, which principally adds sunroof, leather and adaptive cruise for an additional $4K. That starts to make it a bit pricey, but still not bad for what you get. But at base price this thing has the most equipment in a 125 mile / 200 km range car, at least for the moment. The interior is reasonably roomy for the class and the hatchback is obviously a big bonus for cargo missions.
What I really like about it though is how it drives.
It has a nice torquey bottom end that of course one expects with any EV drivetrain but seems to pull in a more linear fashion as it continues up the speedo. I've yet to see a definitive 0-60 mph time for it but several impromptu drags against my Gen.1 Volt resulted in pretty much dead heats, so low to mid 8 seconds would seem about right. Oddly it feels a bit quicker than the Volt, and that is likely due to weight, or lack thereof. At 3160 lbs / 1435 kg this thing is by far the lightest 125 mi/200 km EV on the market. And you can tell. It seems more sprightly in every respect than its similarly-sized distant ICE cousin, the Elantra. and is a better handling car in my opinion with more even balance. The standard Michelin Green X tires obviously won't win you any gymkhana trophies, but they hold on well enough to have a little fun. I'd love to try it with a more performance oriented 17" setup.
The standout though is what you don't immediately notice, and that is how well they've tuned all the driver inputs. Steering, braking and especially throttle (controller?) response are all just about perfect. I should note that I spent the entire time with it set to the Standard drive mode, but what impressed me was that the accelerator in this mode was NOT lethargic like it is in that mode for the Volt. I usually switch it to Sport mode upon start-up to give it some snappy response, but that in turn winds up being overkill in traffic, so I find myself toggling back and forth depending on the driving conditions. Not required in the Ioniq. The first inch of travel gives you good initial control but then it ratchets up quickly when you press further. In my opinion this is how they should all just work, all the time. The only other EV people who seem to have figured that out so far are Tesla.
Combined with a set of interior controls that are pretty intuitive for recent ICE converts, this thing is just plain effortless to tool around in. After just an hour behind the wheel for some short stints I felt like I'd been driving it for months and looked for excuses all weekend to go places . The longest jaunt was a run into downtown Montreal to go see Al Gore's new film An Inconvenient Sequel (obviously appropriate, GREAT film too, especially the behind-the-scenes COP21 stuff with Al, Solar City and the Indian government working together to save the whole deal) and I can testify that the stated range of 125 miles / 200 kms is if anything a little conservative. It almost always showed an estimated potential of 215 - 220 kms when fully charged, and I was NOT babying it. Even in full anti-range mode for our film blitz - windows-and-roof open, running 125 km/h (75 mph) - we barely used half the battery cap to cover 100 kms (62 miles).
Complaints? I only have two. The door window frames seemed a little flimsy. Not that they are, but everything these days seems to have frames taken from armored personnel carriers, my Volt and previous Audis included, so I'm just used to those. And despite every other control or adjustment being super obvious, I never found the tone controls for the radio.
Things are obviously moving fast in this segment, the Focus EV is now close to this thing in range for even less money, the new e-Golf will have the same range for the same money, and then there's the upcoming Gen.2 Leaf which is obviously highly anticipated. But I remain very impressed with it. Hyundai has clearly figured out how to deliver excellent EV energy efficiency and performance in a tight, well built, well sorted package for a decent price. if you only needed this much range and wanted something NOW you could do a lot worse. Likewise, if you wanted a less expensive stable-mate to your Model S/3/X for your partner / kids then this would also fit the bill very nicely.
May the EV wars continue, and even escalate. 'Cause in the end we all stand a better chance of winning.