Living with: the Hyundai Ioniq

Living with: the Hyundai Ioniq
Living with: the Hyundai Ioniq

Hyundai’s Ioniq is the company’s first hybrid car. After one year and more than 21,000 miles on our fleet, it’s time to say a fond(ish) goodbye

You can get an Ioniq as a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid or a fully electric car. Two of our photographers, Will and Max, have been running a hybrid Ioniq for the past year. 385 days, 21,247 miles, 55 fillups, two tyres and two services later, how has it got on?

Acting as a snapper’s barge is a tough gig for any car. The core requirement is to transport lots of gear and human beings across countries and continents at speed, but also with comfort and low costs. Is the Ioniq a real competitor to the Toyota Prius, the car that has long held the high ground in the UK hybrid market?

Will and Max were able to agree on two things: one, that the Ioniq is a fine car; and two, that it isn’t perfect. There’s a sensation of cheapness about the cabin plastics, which are very easily marked. The flattish seats could use more lateral and leg support. A fair amount of road noise intrudes on the motorway. And the foot-operated parking brake was archaic when Mercedes used it decades ago.

Those gripes apart, the best thing about the Ioniq is the normality of its drive. That wasn’t a state that the Prius achieved straight from the off. A big part of that must be down to the Ioniq’s use of a six-speed automatic gearbox rather than the CVT automatic traditionally found in this sort of car.

A CVT gearbox – which effectively has a flexible single gear – is actually a good idea in that it optimises the power of an engine more efficiently than a box of gears can. The trouble with CVTs is that anyone interested in making brisk progress will always be paying the price of high mechanical noise because the CVT transmission always forces the engine into its higher rev ranges if you keep your right foot hard down.

In the Ioniq’s case, the more conventional gearbox makes it feels much more like a regular petrol automatic than a Prius-style hybrid, the main difference being the almost total absence of engine noise at low speeds. The electric motor helps the 1.6-litre petrol engine with initial acceleration, the steering is light, and the ride on smallish 15-inch wheels is refreshingly comfy. Wind noise is well controlled too.

 

Our car has been worked hard since it arrived on our fleet, with rare ‘rest periods’. At one point in its stay, however, it was left standing for ten days during a period of cold weather. On returning to the car it was discovered that the battery was flat. An AA mechanic got the car started with a jumper pack, but after an hour or so of normal running followed by some downtime while Max was working, the car was once again ‘dead’ when it was time to drive home.

Hyundai took the car in for diagnosis and found there was a battery drain. A software update seems to have rectified it as it hasn’t been a problem since. Our car was an early one off the production line (registered on 14th September 2016). We’re not aware of other Ioniq owners having similar difficulties, and most will have had the software fix by now, especially if the car has been in for a service. All the same, you might want to reassure yourself if you’re planning on leaving your Ioniq in an airport car park (say) for a week or more.

Overall, we’ve been impressed by the Ioniq. In the hybrid stakes we rate it above dearer rivals like the Volkswagen Passat GTE and the Audi Q7 e-tron. Our real-world economy figure of 49.9mpg is right up there with the best hybrids. The Ioniq’s low purchase price, good equipment levels and five-door practicality also score points. If you need a big five-seater and have fallen out of love with diesel cars, this Hyundai might be right up your alley.

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