Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors’ (HSDM) has launched the cheapest hybrid model – the Hyundai IONIQ – in Malaysia with prices starting from RM103,390 (with insurance and roadtax). The low price is possible due to the model qualifying as an Energy Efficient Vehicle (EEV) under the current National Automotive Policy (NAP). This means that the government gives incentives to HSDM which can offset the production cost and allow the model to be sold at a lower price. Additionally, it is also assembled locally and that too helps to bring the price down.
The IONIQ is actually quite new in the world market, having gone on sale in Korea in January this year. So its appearance in Malaysia – and as a locally-assembled model too – is quite fast. It is offered in two versions – the HEV and HEV Plus, with the latter having more high-end safety and convenience features for about RM10,775 more.
While hybrid vehicles are already familiar on Malaysian roads, the IONIQ is a somewhat unique model as it was conceived not only as a hybrid model but the platform can be fitted with a plug-in hybrid powertrain or a fully-electric system. This gives Hyundai flexibility in offering the same model in different markets to suit economic conditions.
The design of the car seems fairly conventional (with a coupe-like rear end) but the bodywork is quite aerodynamically efficient with a CD of 0.24. Features like an active air flap in the grille (closing off at higher speeds), front wheel air curtains, a rear spoiler and diffuser, side sill moldings, floor undercover and a closed wheel design contribute to the aerodynamic efficiency.
Besides aerodynamic efficiency, the IONIQ is also light as many weight-reduction measures have been used. For example, the bonnet and tailgate are of aluminium, reducing the weight by 12.2 kgs compared with conventional steel. But while the weight of the car is significantly reduced, it does not compromise on the rigidity and safety of the car. With up to 53% Advanced High Strength Steel, the chassis benefits from superior rigidity with high impact-energy absorption and minimized cabin distortion to protect passengers in the event of a collision. This rigid structure also has a total of 144 metres of advanced structural adhesives, simultaneously lowering weight and improving rigidity.
In the engine bay is a 1.6-litre Kappa engine, a petrol unit used in some other Hyundai models. Tuned to work with the 32 kW (43.5 ps) electric motor, the engine produces 105 ps/147 Nm. The catalogue does not indicate the actual system torque (which is not the combination of the two values) but with the electric motor generating 170 Nm from standstill, and the extra from the engine, initial acceleration would certainly be quick.
The battery pack for the electric motor is a slim lithium-ion polymer type with a capacity of 1.56 kWh. As this is not a plug-in hybrid, it is recharged as the car is moving and there is also energy regeneration during coasting and braking.
Drive is to the front wheels via a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) which has been optimized for use with a hybrid powertrain. The DCT, developed by Hyundai, is actually a manual transmission controlled by a computer. The next gear is automatically pre-selected at the most efficient time for the shift to occur by the computer when the driver accelerates. Selecting SPORT mode or switching to full clutchless manual mode gives the driver more control while use of the ECO mode will economise on fuel consumption.
Though priced at RM114,165, the more expensive HEV Plus version has an impressive list of safety features as standard. While both versions have 7 airbags, vehicle stability management and electronic stability control systems, the HEV Plus also comes with a Blind Spot Detection system, adaptive cruise control, autonomous braking and lane-keeping assist. These are technologies that are usually found in more expensive cars.
The interior is packed with convenience systems, some of which complement the high-tech image of the car. For instance, in the HEV Plus, there’s a wireless charging system (Qi standard) for compatible smartphones and the instrument panel is a high-definition TFT-LCD panel which shows different info and can be configured in two different displays depending on whether SPORTS or ECO mode is used.
In conjunction with the launch of the IONIQ, HSDM is also introducing the Care Plus Programme which consists 5 elements:-
i) 5-year or 300,000 km (whichever comes first) warranty;
ii) 8-years warranty (unlimited mileage) for the hybrid battery pack and a battery price that will be below RM10,000 for the second 8 years should the battery need replacement;
iii) 3 years or maximum of 60,000 kms of free scheduled servicing, including free engine oil;
iv) 3 years Guaranteed Auto Protection Insurance. Should the car be declared as total loss within the first 3 years of ownership due to any untoward incident, customers will be reimbursed fully (100% of the value of the car); and
v) Interest rate as low as 2.28% based on the reducing balance calculation.