In automotive circles, the buzz is autonomous driving, crossovers/trucks and Electric Vehicles (EV). In my opinion, lost in the mix, are the bright horizons for hybrid vehicles.
Hybrids you may recall, were the “on switch” that started the (slow) move away from our reliance on fossil fuels. Advances in hybrid technology and battery efficiency have improved the longevity, ownership costs (lifetime hybrid battery warranty) and mileage numbers over the segment’s forefathers – yet hybrids somehow get lost in the shuffle.
For 2018, and moving into 2019, Hyundai throws down with three powertrains for Ioniq: hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or complete EV.
I tested the hybrid Blue SEL sedan on a recent Midwest road trip. The first thing you notice about the Ioniq is that it has a very “normal” look and design. It has the styling of a regular compact hatch, but with a raised tail to help reduce drag to a super-low 0.24 coefficient. Ioniq will not stand out in any parking lot and that makes it more acceptable/normal to a wider audience.
Ioniq has some Hyundai styling cues, including a trapezoidal grille bookended by swept-back headlights. The sides are very flat, and the taillights also have a basic family resemblance.
The exterior provides minimal clues to the 58-mpg hybrid powertrain under the hood. The Ioniq Hybrid’s electric motor delivers an estimated 32 kW (43 horsepower) with maximum torque of 125 lb.-ft., powered by a lithium-ion polymer battery with 1.56 kWh capacity.
Supplementing the electric components is a 1.6-liter direct-injected 4-cylinder engine. Braking force is optimized for maximum efficiency from the regenerative braking system, helping Ioniq to maintain a steady state of charge (SOC) as long as you’re not on a highway.
The juice is channeled into the lithium-ion battery pack located under the rear seats creating some compromised rear seating. The entire system (including 11.9-gallon gas tank) can return a state-hopping 650+ miles of total range.
Inside the Ioniq
The interior continues the normalcy vibe with a design that could be mistaken for any number of small sedans. Thankfully, it’s not one of the oddly-designed interiors that a number of manufacturers seem to favor. I can confirm that the sloping roof and raised rear seats, due to the battery pack, make rear seating cramped for taller riders.
During our trip on the highway I felt low in the Ioniq’s seats looking up and out of the car, but big windows help visibility. Cargo capacity is decent at 26.5 cubic feet with rear seats flipped down. Beware: weight and space considerations dictate lack of spare tire.
My Hybrid Blue SEL tester came with a 7-inch TFT instrument digital gage and 4.2-inch multi-function display in the instrument panel for navi and an array of audio and vehicle displays. Features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Blue Link, as well as wireless charging for smartphones is standard.
On the Road
Ioniq does not behave like a typical hybrid, as the hybrid electric motor adds some surprising zip. Hyundai indicates the high-efficiency electric motor can operate at speeds up to 75 mph and I can verify that it delivers strong torque at lower speeds and adds power-assist zip at higher highway speeds.
The 6-speed dual-clutch automated transmission shifts crisply and paddle shifters provide some fun. You can select either a SPORT that holds lower gears longer and combines engine and electric motor output for maximum performance, or ECO mode, which optimizes gear selection for efficiency.
Thankfully, this automatic is nothing like the slushy Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVT) that other hybrids and EVs use. Power is directed to 15-inch wheels and tires that provide acceptable grip but are low rolling resistance spec to aid mileage. I will say that the multi-link suspension delivered a comfortable and dampened ride on coarse city streets and was great for highway cruising.
The 2018 Ioniq hybrid sedan provides some hope that mileage and driving excitement may one day co-exist in an affordable hybrid or EV.