2017 Hyundai Ioniq: A three-prong approach to electrified vehicles [First Look]

Despite all the advances and benefits, many people still don’t purchase electrified vehicles because they cost too much to buy and maintain.

At least that’s what Mike O’Brien, Hyundai’s vice president of product, corporate and digital planning, says.

So it should come as no surprise that Hyundai is establishing a very aggressive pricing strategy for its new trio of electrified vehicles. The automaker announced the base price for the Ioniq Hybrid will be $22,900, which is about $2K less than the base Toyota Prius. The EV on the other hand will have starting price of $29,500, which is about $1K less than the Nissan Leaf and $8K less than the Chevrolet Bolt EV.

Oh, and a charge port with SAE Combo DC Fast Charge capability is standard. That’s a $750 (Bolt EV) to $1,770 (Leaf) option on other electric vehicles.

Though the plug-in hybrid pricing hasn’t been announced, we anticipate it will fall somewhere in between the hybrid and the EV. For reference, the Toyota Prius Prime plug-in has a base price of about $27K.

Hyundai is trying very hard to take “cost” out of the could-not-own-an-EV equation.

To that end, Hyundai is also offering a lifetime warranty for the first owner on the battery and a 36-month “subscription plan” on the EV version of the Ioniq, which will incorporate title, taxes, fees, warranties and charging into a single monthly payment.

This sounds like a fancy name for a lease, but I really like the idea that charging fees are rolled in. This takes a lot the “fuel-up” surprises out of vehicle maintenance, giving people a budget item that won’t change for term of the subscription.

During the press preview, I had the opportunity to drive the pre-production, prototype plug-in electric vehicle as well as the full-on electric version of the Ioniq.

Both vehicles were pretty amazing.

Various Hyundai execs kept asking me what I thought of the vehicles during the drive portion, and I kept telling them: It drives exactly like you think that it should.

There are no surprises, no lags in power, no weird compromises with ride and handling. The seats were all comfortable, acceleration was smooth and seamless, and all the gauges and controls were intuitively placed and easily accessible.

In fact, I really didn’t have much on the negative side to say.

My one major critique: There is a decided lack of USB charge ports. In a vehicle that’s all-new in 2017, I find this egregious. The hybrid and plug-in hybrid had a single USB charge port at the front of the vehicle. The EV had two – one up front and one hidden in the center armrest. At a minimum, I’d like to see two charge ports up front and one in back, but ideally all new cars these days would have two and two.

My one minor critique: Heated rear seats and steering wheel aren’t available on the Ioniq. I find this odd since this is a point to efficiency. With heated seats and steering wheel, you can keep the heat at a more moderate temperature, which translates into better range. And, as we all know, range anxiety is another big reason why people don’t by electric.

During the press briefing, O’Brien said that other reasons people avoid buying an electrified vehicle include poor performance, boring design and compact size. While the design part is subjective – I think Hyundai did a good job – performance and size are more quantifiable.

The hybrid has a total system output of 139 horsepower, and rather than opting for a soulless continuously variable transmission, Hyundai gives Ioniq a 6-speed dual clutch transmission. All the while maintaining a 58-mpg rating, which bests the Prius by 2 mpg – even though Ioniq boasts 18 more horsepower.

In terms of size, even though Ioniq has comparable exterior dimensions to the other hybrids and EVs on the market, it has better interior volume than all of its competitors except the Ford C-Max, which is more crossover than car.

The Ioniq EV is equipped with an 88-kWh electric motor, which delivers an equivalent to 118 horsepower and torque of 215 pound-feet. I loved the instantaneous torque, which gives quick off-the-line starts and allows for excellent passing ability.

Another great thing about the EV is that charging is relatively quick. A Level 2 charger will take the battery back to 100 percent in 4 hours and 25 minutes. Don’t need a full charge to get where you’re going? Stop by a Level 3 charger, and you can get the battery to 80 percent in a half hour or less, depending on the power output of the charger.

Where the Ioniq EV falls short – and this is where most EVs fall short in my opinion – is in the area of range anxiety. Yes, it has 124 miles of range, which is better than the Nissan Leaf (107 miles) and Kia Soul EV (90 miles). But, it’s nowhere near the range you get in a Chevrolet Bolt EV (238 miles).

According to a recent AAA American Driving Survey, 98 percent of new vehicle buyers drive less than 100 miles on a daily basis. So, many EV automakers argue that anything around 100 miles of range is the sweet spot for electric cars. But, what if you get stuck in traffic? What if you need to use the heat on a frigid day? What if you have an extra errand to run without stopping home? What if …

I could go on, but I don’t think most Americans aren’t ready to gamble on a vehicle that has a finite span of travel before it’s out of commission for at least a half hour to charge – especially if it’s their only vehicle.

Personally, I think the best bang for your buck is going to be with the plug-in hybrid. Pricing hasn’t been announced, nor has Hyundai released final specifications. However, the automaker estimates that the plug-in Ioniq will get greater than 27 miles on a single charge, and it will only take 2.5 hours to fully charge the battery on a Level 2 charger. In comparison, the Prime can go about 25 miles in EV mode, and it takes 2.1 hours to charge.

I really like this three-prong approach Hyundai is taking with its electrified vehicles as it allows people to find the right vehicle for their own level of comfort and budget. Plus the idea that one vehicle can have three powertrains on a single platform is still relatively novel – and certainly unheard of in a vehicle that costs less than $30K.

Overall, I really like the Ioniq, and I think it will be a great addition to the electrified car market. It’s affordable and attractive, with a lot of nice up-level features for a price that won’t break the bank.

The Ioniq Hybrid is currently on sale, the EV goes on sale in California only in April, and the plug-in hybrid will go on sale in late 2017 as a 2018 model.

Editor’s Note: Driving impressions in this “First Look” review are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Hyundai covered our accommodations, meals and transportation costs.


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