Thursday, 30 August 2018

[CAR REVIEW] Hyundai Ioniq Electric Plus Limited





Intro
Going electric is all the rage in the automotive industry today, and for good reasons. It is the quickest way to reduce our never ending thirst to fossil fuels without sacrificing the freedom and mobility that we have accustomed to in North America.

There are three types of electric vehicles:
  • Conventional Hybrid vehicle, which combines a gasoline engine with an electric motor. A relatively small battery is added to recapture the energy that is lost during braking, and powers the electric motor with that otherwise wasted energy.
  • Pure Electric vehicle, which adds a large battery and replaces the combustion engine with electric motors all together. The battery can only be charged via an external electric plug, and that process can take anywhere from half an hour to 8-9 hours depending on the battery capacity and charging technology.
  • Plug-in Hybrid vehicle (PHEV), which is similar to conventional Hybrid, but is equipped with a larger battery that can be charged through an external electric plug. The vehicle tries to run on the battery as much as possible with the gasoline engine providing additional range and power when needed.
Hyundai is one of the few companies that has the ambition to provide all three variations of electric vehicles. And the Ioniq is the vehicle platform that it chooses to carry out that ambition. Thanks to Hyundai Canada, I had the chance to test drive the one that intrigues me the most, the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Electric Plus, the Plug-In Hybrid version.

Exterior
Rather than looking like a Sci-Fi spaceship or a funky contemporary sculpture, the exterior of the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq looks just like a normal fastback sedan - and a good looking one. Other than a few badges that remind you this is a plug-in hybrid, the only other hint is the existence of two fueling caps on the left side of the vehicle: one for the electric plug and one for gasoline.

Impressively, Hyundai manages to make the Ioniq look great while maintaining an incredibly low coefficient of drag. The 2018 Hyundai Ioniq has a drag coefficient of 0.24, which is the same as the legendary hybrid pioneer, Toyota Prius.

The razor blade looking front grille of the Ioniq deviates from the cascading grilles of other vehicles in the current Hyundai lineup for a reason. The Ioniq utilizes active air flaps in the front grille. The flaps open when the car is in low speed to facilitate cooling, and close at high speed to reduce drag. Aesthetically, I prefer the cascading grille look, but Hyundai finds a good balance between form and function in this case.

Boomerang shaped LED daytime running lights reside in the the lower grilles of the front fascia, which also incorporate intakes for air curtains around front wheels to decrease air turbulence. LED bulbs were also chosen for both the headlights and taillights to increase energy efficiency.

The side profile of the car is clean and simple. The 16" alloy wheels, while not the best looking, are aerodynamically sculpted to minimize air turbulence. The sloped roof line of the car is key to achieve the low drag coefficient, but it does limit the rear vision of the car. Hyundai decided to add a second glass penal in the tailgate to increase driver visibility. I am not a fan of the large piano black trim of the lower rear bumper, but it helps to make the rear end looks lighter.

Overall, it is a good looking car that doesn't draw too much attention to itself. The clean and composed exterior design should appeal to slightly more matured, sensible buyers - the same
group of buyers who would consider purchasing practical gas saving vehicles. Keeping that target audience in mind, I think Hyundai nailed it with the exterior design.












Interior 
The choice to make the 2018 Ioniq look as close to a normal car as possible is also evident in the interior design. The interior of the car looks clean and modern without anything gimmicky. Hyundai does a good job of making the Ioniq feel premium on the inside. The long, horizontal contouring of the dashboard makes the cockpit feel wide and spacious.

Controls and buttons are neatly organized in clusters of horizontal lines. Blue accents trims can be seen around the air vents, start/stop button, and the steering wheel. It is a nice touch. The same color sticking highlights both the front and rear seats. I find the driver seat very comfortable with great lateral supports. Both front and rear seats are heated. So is the steering wheel

There is quite a bit of hard plastics in the cabin, but they are tucked away nicely. Soft-touch materials are used for most surfaces your hands would touch. I especially like the padded armrests on top of the side doors handles.

In the rear, the legroom is decent, but the sloped roof line reduces headroom and could make taller passengers feel uncomfortable. There is a padded armrest in the middle with additional cup holders. The rear air vent is a welcome addition at this price point.












Infotainment
The infotainment system of the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq is just what you would expect from a modern Hyundai, excellent. The 8.0" touch-screen display that dominates the top portion of the center console is bright and sharp. The software is similar to what you would find in other Hyundai vehicles, but with a few more apps to display EV related information.

The instrument cluster is mostly digital and changes appearances and colors with different drive mode. The left bar shows the current powertrain condition, and the right bar shows the battery level. The system layout is very intuitive and works very well with the controls on the steering wheel.

Of course, Android Auto and Apple Car Play are standard in all Hyundai vehicles I have test driven. There is also a wireless charging pad, and two 12V power sockets in the lower center console.

The limited trim that we test drove comes equipped with a 8-speaker Infinity audio system. It is better appreciated with the lack of engine noise when the car is running in pure EV mode.






Safety and Driver Assistance
The following features are standard for all electric plus models (plug-in Hybrid):
  • Rear view camera 
  • Electronic Stability Control
  • Traction Control
  • Blind Spot Monitoring 
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
The limited edition also gets:
  • Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Rear Parking Assist Sensor
  • Lane-Keep Assist System 
  • Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection

The 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid earns Top Safety Pick from IIHS, and I assume the Plug-In version would be the same.


Driving
Surprisingly, the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid drives very similar to a normal car with a noticeable absence of engine noise on startup. Hyundai developed their own hybrid technology and it is significantly different from other manufactures.

The plug-in has a 1.6 GDI Atkinson Cycle gasoline engine that produces 104 hp of power and 109 lb-ft of torque. The Electric motor generates 60 hp of power and 125 lb-ft of torque but at a much lower rpm. The combined output is 164 hp of power and 195 lb-ft of torque.

While most manufactures use some form of continuously variable transmission, Hyundai decided to use a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission for the drivetrain. This makes the Ioniq behave much more like a normal car when accelerating.

Also, rather than keeping the car in pure EV mode as much as possible, the engine of the Ioniq fires up more frequently depending on factors like battery temperature, pedal depression rate, torque demand, etc. Hyundai put great efforts into making the driving experience as close to a normal car as possible.

On the road, the Ioniq Electric Plus provides a very pleasant, predictable driving experience. The steering is precise with good feedback. Thanks to the multi-link rear suspensions, and the lowered center of gravity, the car feels planted in corners. The suspension does a good job of absorbing road pumps while keeping the body roll under control.

However, the most important thing for a Plug-In Hybrid is how fuel efficient it is. The 8.9kWh lithium-ion polymer battery can keep the car running in pure EV mode for almost 45km during our test drive. With the extended range of the gasoline engine, a fully charged Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid can travel over over 1000 km with a full tank. Of course, that number depends on how hard you drive, the ambient temperature, and the road condition.

If your daily commute is less than 45 km, it will take you months before having to visit a gas station. The Ioniq comes with a trickle charger that can be plugged straight into a 120V household electric socket. Three blue LED lights in the dash reminds you that the car is being charged, and how full the battery is. The charging process is relatively painless. You simply park the car, pop the charging port cap, and plug in the charger. If you are parked outside, and are afraid of someone stealing your charger, you can set the charging port to be locked in place unless the car is unlocked.

My office is only 10 km from my home, and even with the occasional errand runs around town, the fuel gauge barely moved. It is a refreshing feeling not having to visit the pump for an extended period of time, and I loved it. The Ioniq Plug in has a combined fuel economy rating of 4.5 L/100 km in hybrid mode, and 2.0 eL/100 km (gasoline equivalent) in pure EV mode.



Cargo Space & Storage
I am pleasantly surprised by the size of the trunk in the Ioniq Electric Plus. The Ioniq's purpose-built chassis keeps the location of the battery low. Not only does it lower the car's center of gravity, but it also frees up precious cargo space. The trunk size is 23 cu-ft with the rear seats up, and the 60/40 split-fold seats provide additional cargo storage when needed.

Inside the cabin, there are plenty of storage options for smaller items. The lower side pockets are deep with integrated dividers for bottles. Additional storage can be found under side armrests, under the center armrest, in the center console, and in the glove compartment.






Verdict
With the sky high gasoline price (especially in Metro Vanocuver), the Hyundai Ioniq offers three irresistible options:

  • If you regularly does long commutes or your charging options are limited, the Ioniq Hybrid makes the most sense. 
  • If you rarely drive longer than 200km and don't suffer from range anxiety, the Ioniq Electric is as fuel efficient as it get. 
  • If your daily commute is less than 45km, but drives longer distances occasionally. Than the Ioniq Electric Plus provides substantial fuel savings while giving you a piece of mind on longer commutes.
Personally, I like the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq's conventional look inside and out. It is pleasant to drive, and provides plenty of practical storage space. Hyundai might be newer to the whole EV game, but it backs up all its vehicles with excellent warranties. Most importantly, the Ioniq is thousands of dollar cheaper than its direct competitors. It is no wonder that I am starting to see more and more Ioniq on the road. 


Test Vehicle
Hyundai Ioniq Electric Plus Limited
MSRP
36,619 (without delivery and destination fees)
Color
Iron Grey

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