Why Hyundai’s affordable hybrid is a match for its rivals, Bryan Au finds out.
This is it ladies and gentlemen; the new Hyundai IONIQ has arrived on our shores just as recently as late November last year, nine months after its official launch in South Korea. The IONIQ is a line up of electric driven mid-size hatchbacks includes a hybrid, plug-in hybrid and an all-electric plug-in model.
Out of the three are the former which is sold locally and assembled in Kulim, Malaysia, which means that its not as pricey as many would expect, in fact when spoken to many people about its price, they were pleasantly surprised when they were told that the range-topping HEV Plus retails at RM117,438.55. With that, the IONIQ is offered in two trim levels – the entry level HEV and the range topping HEV Plus, which the latter was kindly provided by Hyundai Sime Darby Malaysia for us to review.
Form follows function is definitely the design theme in the IONIQ’s bold yet sophisticated body styling that has been optimised aerodynamically in efforts to eliminate drag prone areas. The IONIQ comes with an active air flap system that limits the amount of air into the cooling radiators and wheel air curtains speeds up the airstream and guides it along the wheel housing to reduce drag.
Thanks to the combination of its streamlined profiling, active air flaps, wheel air curtains, slim contoured door mirrors and its integrated rear spoiler, the IONIQ hybrid achieves a low aerodynamic drag of Cd 0.24, trailing behind the Audi A4 which did Cd 0.23. The 17” alloy wheels fitted completes the overall look of the IONIQ, which further accentuates its smooth yet bold flowing lines providing a visually sporty and powerful stance.
Besides the functional areas of its exterior, the IONIQ features subtle blue signature lines which you can find at the front and rear bumpers and within the HID Bi-xenon headlamp cluster. The theme continues inside, where the blue signature lines are applied generously around the front and rear air vents and on its fabric carpets. This theme is applied on its leather seats as well, where both front and rear leather seats comes with the signature blue stitching giving the interior a subtle yet modern feel.
You would be please to know that the interior in Hyundai cars as of date has evolved over leaps and bounds when compared to models that came before. Like in most modern premium cars, visual consistency can be found in this hybrid as well. For example, the seamless transition of its air vents to its door handles is as if were treated as a single unit, giving the IONIQ its sophisticated yet ordered atmosphere.
In the HEV Plus trim is where drivers get to enjoy its 8-way electrically adjustable leather seat to suit their comfort requirements. The HEV Plus’ leather wrapped D-Cut steering wheel is nice to hold and feels great when navigating the car through tight streets alleys and junctions, and the steering column is height and reach adjustable which allows drivers of many dimensions to suit their favourite driving positions. Likewise In both trims; the front passenger is able to adjust their seat manually.
At the rear, passengers will bask in the IONIQ’s generous leg and headroom, which is impressive considering that the Lithium-ion polymer battery pack is hidden underneath, and they will not find any problems cooling down during a hot day thanks to its rear air-vents.
Now a standard in mass production cars, the IONIQ provides young families ISOFIX child seat anchor points. Open its rear hatch and you will find a vast 750-litre boot space and up to 1,410-litres if you fold the 60:40 rear seatbacks down.
Taking centre stage with an audience of one, the IONIQ’s High Definition TFT-LCD Cluster is only available in the HEV Plus trim and comes in handy when it comes to relaying real-time driving information which it can change its face depending on which driving mode you’re in. In ECO mode, the centre dial shows a speedometer with white digits with periwinkle hue, and when in SPORT mode, the dial turns into an amber tachometer dial.
The latter reads the engine speed of the IONIQ’s Kappa 1.6 Atkinson-cycle inline four-cylinder GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) lump. And what’s makes this 1.6-litre engine different than most regular engines of similar size is that an Atkinson engine is geared towards efficiency at the expense of power density. This engine makes 103.5 hp at 5,700 rpm and a meaty 147 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm; what’s more, this engine has the world’s highest thermal efficiency of 40%, meaning that it does more work with much lesser fuel.
Sandwiched between the engine and transmission is a compact permanent-magnet synchronous electric motor which by itself makes 43hp and a whopping 170 Nm of torque. Which means more power off the line as well as assisting the car in keeping its momentum at higher speeds. As mentioned, the hybrid power unit is attached to a six-speed dual clutch transmission, which seamlessly changes ratios without any delay.
When it comes to cruising on the highway, doing it in the IONIQ is a joy. Thanks to its trick array of sensors and radars located all around the car makes semi-autonomous driving is near achievable! Not that I condone taking your hands away from the wheel and eyes away from the road, but these systems are there to assist the driver while driving.
The IONIQ’s Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) comes in three modes: Lane Departure alerts the driver with a visual warning and alarm when the system detects the car departing from the lane. Standard LKA mode guides the driver to keep the vehicle in the lane by controlling the steering wheel when the vehicle is about to exit the lane. Active KLA provides light and constant steering input corrections to keep the car within the white lines.
In addition, the IONIQ comes with adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking which utilises both its radar and cameras that minimises the risk of collision. The former is able to follow the vehicle ahead within the speed set on the Smart Cruise Control down to standstill. The latter warns you if you are approaching a vehicle ahead at speed of 80km/h and below and activates the brakes to a complete stop.
In addition, the IONIQ’s Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) provides visual and audible warning on the LCD screen when approaching a stationary vehicle ahead, which the system goes one step further and can automatically apply the brakes if the driver doesn’t respond in time. However, it’s best to pay attention of your surroundings while driving until you reach your destination safely. The rear sensors help detect blind spots with Bind Spot Detection and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, which the latter warns you for incoming cars while backing out from a parking spot.
But what surprised me the most is the way the IONIQ drives. Let’s be honest, it’s not the quickest car in the world, but when it comes to cars like this, it’s all about driving enjoyment and certainly the IONIQ delivers. Thanks to its front McPherson and rear Multi-link suspension setup, the IONIQ’s front end tuck into corners uncannily like a hot hatchback with minor body roll. The front wheels correspond well to steering inputs while the rear end feels gracefully lively reminiscent to cars with a ‘ST’ or ‘GTi’ badge on their tailgates.
Despite it having low profile 17-inch Michelin Primacy 3 tyres on board, it doesn’t feel harsh through the rough parts of the road. The front seats provide good amounts of lateral support, where driving through corners allows the driver to have full control of the vehicle and provides some degree of chassis feedback through the driver’s bottom.
However, the point of driving a hybrid is to reduce fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, which the IONIQ does exceptionally well. When tested, the IONIQ managed to achieve low fuel consumption figures of 3.8 l/100km (26.4 km/l) urban, 3.4 l/100km (29.4 km/l) highway and 3.6 l/100km (27.7 km/l) urban-extra.
The IONIQ is priced much lower than the Japanese and German hybrids while offering an equal amount of value. It provides occupants a premium atmosphere, and entertains whoever is at the helm with its fun driving characteristics. If you do opt for one, you’ll be getting a five-years manufacturers warranty and eight-years on the lithium-ion polymer battery. Thanks to its frugal powertrain, the 45-litre fuel tank can take you to many places, which the only reason you’ll stop at the stations would most likely be toilet breaks.
Its affordable, refined, consumes far lesser than most compact cars and entertaining to drive.
Needs more power.
Hyundai IONIQ HEV Plus
Price Msia: RM117,438.55
Engine: 1,580 cc Atkinson cycle Direct-Injection four-cylinder
0-100km/h: 9.0 seconds (Tested)
Top speed: 180 km/h (Tested)
Fuel consumption: 3.4 l/100km (Tested)