Hyundai launched the Ioniq to fight the Toyota Prius on its own turf. It’s a compact four-door liftback, landing in that busy gray area between sedan and hatchback. It comes in three versions: a limited-range EV, a plug-in hybrid and a regular mild hybrid.
The latter, which I drove for a few days, is the most fuel-efficient car sold in America — at least, among those still powered by fossils. The base model Ioniq Hybrid can earn 58 miles per gallon combined; my highfalutin’ Limited trim example is good for 55 mpg. That efficiency — not sportiness or sex appeal — is why one buys a Hyundai Ioniq. But should it be your eco-cruiser of choice?
There’s no disputing that full-electric cars are more environmentally friendly than a mild hybrid — and they’re almost always more fun to drive. Hyundai’s Kona Electric, for instance, delivers 291 lb-ft of instant torque to help accelerate through everyday traffic, and you can broadcast your zero-emissions status with a smug vanity plate.
The Ioniq Hybrid does offer one critical advantage over comparable EVs (not to mention the Toyota Prius): it’s [expletive deleted] cheap. The base Hybrid Blue trim Ioniq starts at just $22,200; that’s about $15,000 less than a bare-bones electric car and about $2,000 cheaper than a Prius. And perhaps best of all for many buyers: unlike many vehicles dedicated to being green, it feels like a normal car.
The Ioniq Hybrid Drives Acceptably
Driving a Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid is pleasantly nondescript. Quickness is not an Ioniq Hybrid’s strength; it speeds from 0-60 mph in 8.9 seconds. But that’s still as quick as many base-model Subaru SUVs, and few people are avoiding them because they’re too slow. It uses a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission rather than a CVT, making powertrain transitions feel far less jarring. I wouldn’t describe it as a precision instrument, but it handles itself comfortably at highway speeds, and doesn’t feel like it’s about to fall apart traversing potholes. If your goal is to use less gasoline, the Ioniq Hybrid is just fine.
The Ioniq Hybrid Looks Normal…Almost.
Most electric and hybrid cars advertise their fuel efficiency with bright lights, dorky aggressive styling, and some prominent eco-badging. The Ioniq Hybrid looks like your bog-standard budget compact. It doesn’t present a vision of the future, and lacks weird lines.
It only has one quirky feature: the rear window(s). The trunk of the vehicle is so high, it results in a rear window that faces upward more than backward. Hyundai countered this not with a full redesign, but by adding a second glass panel on the back of the car, creating an odd split view.
I Couldn’t Match The Listed Fuel Efficiency.
I drove conservatively, keeping the Ioniq in its default “Eco-mode.” Yet I earned just 39.1 mpg instead of the EPA-listed 55 mpg over about 100 miles of mixed driving. Rather than my inveterate lead foot trying to make itself known, I suspect that the culprit was the cold weather, which can affect fuel economy. It was January in Michigan, and there was a day where it dipped below freezing.
This One Feature Drove Me Nuts.
I don’t often write about key fobs. Nowadays, you don’t even need to futz with them on most new cars; they work without even taking them out of your pocket. The trouble with the Hyundai Ioniq’s is that the fob can detach completely from the chain to reveal a physical key for emergencies. It does this via a button…one that is easy to accidentally press if you keep your keys in a pants pocket or a purse. (Thankfully, I recovered my fob from my jeans before I ran them through the washing machine.)