Within a couple of hours I was out of a Nissan Leaf and into the Hyundai IONIQ Premium. Back to back from one all-electric 5 door hatch-back into another. The perfect comparative environment.
My initial thinking was that these two EVs would be on the whole pretty much the same. They are both EVs, yes – however, the similarities for better and worse end there.
The IONIQ for starters feels like a more practical package which is odd given it is shorter, lower, and considerably narrower than the Leaf.
Where the IONIQ does better than the Leaf – and many traditional 5-Door hatches – is that the Hyundai designers and engineers have clearly got a better crystal ball and as such have done a better job of forecasting years ago, how the real world would like an EV to feel and function in 2020.
(ADR 81/02 & NEDC)
|Life Style||Life Stage||Safety||On The Road|
|Empty nesters or|
We spent the week driving the IONIQ Premium which at close to $55,000 on the road is the top of the IONIQ range which starts at around $35,000 for the 1.6L Hybrid.
Like all Hyundai’s today, the build quality is very good. Some of the design elements and materials however, are left in the European manufacturers wake.
The driving position is quite good from the leather appointed 10-way powered front seats with memory settings, which offer plenty of support – although I sometimes found getting in and out of them strangely cumbersome given the swept angle of the roof from the A-pillar.
The steering wheel – exactly the same as on the Nissan Leaf – is nice and thick, with very good communication between it and the front wheels.
The large 10.25 inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is extremely easy to read in any light and fuses very cleverly with the front air-vents and the single zone climate control.
It’s between the front seats that the IONIQ sets the pace for the 5-door hatch EV category.
Rather than turning the main central console (above) into a steaming mess fingerprints, Hyundai have grouped a number of functions such as the heated and cooled seats, the rear-view camera, and the driving modes just behind the leather rest where the gear selection buttons are arranged.
The shift-by-wire gear selection buttons number just four and whilst easy to reach and press, the IONIQ does on occasion take its time to respond to a press of the R or D button.
To the left of the gear selection buttons is a Qi standard wireless charging slot that would accommodate most normal sized devices. Set on a 60º angle this slot makes great use of the space in front of more than adequate cup-holders.
The other highlight of the cabin is the small but very welcome sunroof that on this Polar White version of the IONIQ Premium gives it that premium feel.
My typical unit of measure in the rear is a 6 foot tall teenager and I’m happy to say that two 6 foot teenagers fit very well in the back of the IONIQ. Both reported that the inclusion of rear-passenger air vents was most welcome.
The additional weight however, did wreak havoc on the range for the return leg following a day of weekend school sport (those were that days!). It is amazing how much the gross weight of an EV makes an impact on the usable range.
Given the sloping rear window on the IONIQ, the boot space is surprisingly deep and would easily contain a few medium sized suitcases or half a dozen boxes of mangoes. Fold the rear seats down and the size of the IONIQ would easily swallow a clutch of golf bags.
All in all – the interior of the Hyundai IONIQ Premium is a very nice place to be and given the exterior dimensions, is roomy and comfortable.
The exterior design of the IONIQ can be polarising. From some angles it’s quite striking. From others, not so much. Our example in white looked great. I’m not sure about how the other variants (Iron Grey, Intense Blue, and Fiery Red) will look and date.
The front of the IONIQ is a mass of silver plastic surrounding the number plate mounting. Good for lightness and also clever. Two slots either side of the Hyundai logo will open automatically and let external air cool the electric motor if the temperature good too high.
The profile of the IONIQ is a relatively clean line from the exterior door mirrors to the raised boot lid lip and provides much of the interior space that we enjoyed so much. EVs really do benefit from the lack of drive shafts and gearboxes. The wheelbase of the IONIQ is another highlight in terms of interior space and exterior looks.
The Premium IONIQ is also adorned with cleverly designed 16 inch wheels that channel air into the disc brakes. Energy recovery via the regenerative braking system can get very hot so keeping the whole system cool improves efficiency.
At the back the LED tail lights and the higher boot-lid lip give the IONIQ real presence on the road. Thankfully the hight of the boot-lid doesn’t impact rear vision.
On The Road
Like most EVs the IONIQ is not a featherweight, nimble hatch-back. It’s very solid on the road, but at 1.5 tonnes, it doesn’t like rapid changes in direction and you very much feel the bulk ascending or descending any steep roads.
That being said, the power delivery from the 100kW engine is swift and very linear. The torque number is substantial at 295Nm so the pulling sensation from the front wheels does set you back in your seat – and drain the power reserves.
I found on a couple of occasions that it was not difficult to get the traction control light doing a strobe-light impersonation on the 7 inch fully LCD instrument cluster.
As with the Nissan Leaf last week, it took me quite a few days to make my driving smooth in the IONIQ. After 30 years of driving, the remote-control car type throttle takes some getting used to. The regenerative braking in the IONIQ is far more intuitive and certainly works more seamlessly with your driving. For example, if the IONIQ detects that you’re on a gentle slope it automatically selects a lower level of energy recovery than if you we’re descending a steep slope.
The additional braking systems on the IONIQ are impressive with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist systems all playing a very important role in making the IONIQ worth of its 5-Star ANCAP rating.
Other extremely useful features on the 2020 Hyundai IONIQ include Lane Departure Warning, Smart Cruise Control with short bursts of Level 2 autonomy, as well as the Rear Cross-Traffic Collision warning system – very useful in car-parks.
The other very personal joy for me driving the IONIQ is that the kerb-side exterior mirror dips when you select Reverse gear. A solid two thumbs up for that. Too many manufacturers today have dropped or ignored that feature because they think cameras are the answer to all-round vision. Parking sensors font and rear ensure the bumpers on the IONIQ are as ding-free as possible.
The IONIQ like most vehicles in this category have an array of buttons on the steering wheel. I did not find them as intuitive on the IONIQ as on other cars recently. Often the most used buttons were the smallest and had multiple functions.
A couple night time trips allowed me to make use of the very impressive LED headlights for both low and high beam. The interior lighting inside the IONIQ is excellent with the moody red colour under most of the switches and an automatically adapting contrast feature on the LCD dash meaning the driver is not blinded when entering an undercover car park or a tunnel.
The other very useful feature on the IONIQ is the Hyundai Auto Link app that connects all the key settings and diagnostics on the car to a smartphone app. An integrated SIM on the IONIQ Premium can provide real-time data on things such as tyre pressure, the location of the car, real-time weather, and remote locking and unlocking. I’ve seen similar systems on other manufacturers however, the Hyundai app is by far the most comprehensive in terms of feature.
Who Will Love This Car?
I’ve said it before – I think EVs have two really clear customer segments.
The first is people looking for a cost effective, city car that like me can take a passenger or three without too much bother. Given the premium you pay to get behind the wheel of the IONIQ, you would need to be driving it every day to get the full benefit of the EV running costs.
The other segment is the environmentally conscious empty nester who is downsizing from a larger family SUV or saloon and looking for something roomy enough for golf clubs or pot plants and has a few more luxury appointments than other 5-door hatch-backs in the $30,000 – $40,000 price range.
The Hyundai IONIQ Premium as tested in Polar White is $52,490 plus dealer delivery and on-road costs.