The coolest part of reviewing cars is being one of the first people to test a ground-breaking one and heralding the news to others. But, sometimes, it doesn’t work out that way. Cars sometimes take a while to filter outto all the journalists in the press fleet. Case in point: I ended up driving the Hyundai Ioniq 5 after it already swept the awards for World Car of the Year, World Electric Vehicle of the Year and World Car Design of the Year.
That context, naturally, changes the review. The only route for a critic is to become more cynical, examine the car more skeptically and ask whether it is really that great. But after driving the Hyundai Ioniq 5 around for a week and using it with my family, I can say...the answer is yes.
The Ioniq 5 is a brilliant all-around car, electric or not. It does so in a way most buyers are going to want. Like its corporate sibling, the all-new Kia EV6, the Ioniq 5 is one more sign that the EV future will be revolutionary — and a revolution car people will want to be a part of.
Hyundai calls the Ioniq 5 an electric compact crossover. It is electric, but it’s not as compact as you would think, and it reads more like a car than a crossover at a glance.
It’s Hyundai’s first vehicle built on the EV-only E-GMP platform. And it’s the first Hyundai electric car to get the new Ioniq sub-branding — not to be confused with the previous eco-friendly Ioniq hybrid/electric car. The 5 represents its relative positioning on a 1-9 scale, where 9 would be a giant SUV.
I wouldn't call it avant-garde. There are two broad EV-style camps. Some companies — see the Volkswagen ID.4 or Subaru Solterra — opted for a conservative, familiar look. Others like Hyundai have gone bolder and more futuristic. Hyundai added some distinctive, retro '80s style to the mix; a lot is going on from the design perspective. But it's not as quirky in person as it felt in pictures.
I thought my wife would hate the Ioniq 5. She's not a car person. And she can, on occasion, scythe right through whatever car culture groupthink I've picked up along the way. But she was intrigued, thought it was cool, and could see us getting one. Well, she could see me driving one; she wants an EV that is more of a traditional crossover.
The Ioniq 5's odd part is not the flair, but the body style. It's precisely the vehicle most buyers will want for a family car — fancy, spacious, good in the snow with the AWD (probably, at least — I drove it in May) and efficient. But like delicious Trader Joe's Veggie Sticks, the hatchback body style primes one to expect the opposite from the Ioniq 5.
There’s a reason jurors named it World Car of the Year. The Ioniq 5 drives pretty much perfectly. The all-wheel-drive version I drove felt almost alarmingly quick in everyday driving, with its 320 horsepower and 446 lb-ft of torque. It accelerates from 0-60 mph in about 4.5 seconds — faster than the listed 0-60 time for a 2022 VW Golf R. Like many EVs, it feels planted, with exceptional balance and a low center of gravity.
The Ioniq 5 delivers surprisingly smooth ride quality. Even on the gnarly, post-winter, pockmarked hellscape roads of Southeast Michigan, bumps go unnoticed and don’t enter the cabin. I also enjoyed the broad range of easily adjustable regen settings, which you can set from nothing to an aggressive (and in my opinion preferable) i-Pedal that talks you to all-but-one-pedal driving.
About the only knock on the Ioniq 5 is the tuning. It’s geared more toward the buyer than the car reviewer. Hyundai gives you a supple suspension, and direct but not exceptionally responsive steering. The Ioniq 5 could be more of a mad hot hatch and automotive scalpel than it is. Luckily, reports suggest Hyundai has a sharper and even more powerful Hyundai Ioniq 5 N coming to fill that precise role.
Not as out there as the exterior, but it will be a major Ioniq 5 selling point. The Kona EV is built on a converted ICE platform and feels cramped inside; the Ioniq 5 takes full advantage of that gas engine-free life with a ton of space.
It has a 118.1-inch wheelbase, nearly four inches longer than the three-row Hyundai Palisade’s. That yields ample room to stretch your feet in both rows. Hyundai also went for a minimalist center console that adds even more space. I fit two kids with large car seats in the back seat without incident.
When I first saw the Ioniq 5 in pictures, I presumed the trunk space would be tiny. But it’s not. I was able to get my daughter’s chunky, two-piece all-terrain stroller into the trunk with room to spare. The only issue I had was not being able to fit that stroller and my nephew’s giant first birthday present into the trunk — but we couldn’t do that in my cavernous Hyundai Santa Fe hybrid either.
Besides feeling modern and premium, like a typical modern Hyundai interior, the user interface shows attention to detail absent on some other EVs. You can cycle through drive modes without moving your hand from a 9:00 position. The radio tuner is a physical toggle switch you can grab without looking. The climate control buttons are haptic — usually a particular irritant of mine — but they are well spaced out, so you don’t have to perform tasks with distracting laser precision. The Ioniq 5 feels as easy to use as it is to drive.
Per the EPA, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 can get up to 303 miles with the single-motor version and 256 miles with the AWD version. My tester came with a full-ish battery and a range readout in the 220s. That should be enough for someone charging overnight with a Level 2 charger. I don’t have one. I still made it through the week with about 100 miles remaining. I didn’t have range anxiety, but I had range thoughtfulness.
A strength of the Hyundai/Kia E-GMP vehicles is the fast-charging tech. In ideal conditions on a 350-kW fast charger, the Ioniq 5 can charge from 10 percent to 80 — the longest charge you would do on a fast charger, typically — in just 18 minutes. And you can get over 60 miles of range — enough to get home in most cases — on a five-minute charge.
If you buy an Ioniq 5, you get two free years of 30-minute fast charges at Electrify America stations. Of course, the rub with that situation is finding one. Within a very liberal definition of “Metro Detroit,” I found three stations. None of them were located centrally. (The closest was 12.5 miles away.)
The Ioniq 5 does have vehicle-to-load capability like the F-150 Lightning, to send power back out. Eventually, owners will be able to add a Hyundai Home setup with a charger, a home integration system and solar panels, allowing you to peak shave and have a de facto generator. But that setup isn’t available yet.
Okay, so the Ioniq 5 isn’t perfect. The door handles drove me nuts. The Ioniq 5 uses fancy ones that sit flush with the car and pop out in the presence of the key. That means the door handles pop out suggestively anytime you walk near the car if you keep your keys in your pocket. Happen to leave the key in the vehicle? The door handles will alert any suspecting thieves of that fact. I also had trouble taking pictures of the car, because I had to either unlock it and leave the door handles hanging out — or lock it and have the mirrors tuck in.
The one redeeming quality is the doors do operate physically rather than in a weird electronic setup. So you can push to pop out the handle and use a physical handle to open the door.
The cheapest Ioniq 5 you can get is the 228-hp RWD long-range version that starts at $44,000. Eventually, Hyundai will come out with a 168 hp, 220-mile range base model that starts at $39,700.
I drove the top-trim Limited AWD model, which came out to $54,695 — $55,920 when you factor in the destination charge. It doesn’t start cheap. But it doesn’t get dramatically expensive by EV standards — although an N model packing north of 500 hp may change that.
The number of affordable crossover EVs on the market is swelling. Kia sells the EV6, one of our best cars to buy for 2022, which runs on the same platform and uses the same motors but boasts a sleeker, more wagon-like body style. In Tesla terms, the rival is probably the Model 3 based on pricing, even though the Model Y is technically the like-for-like crossover.
Torque: 446 lb-ft
EPA Range: 256 miles (303 for RWD long range version with less power)
Charging Time: 18 minutes from 10-80 percent
It's cool, it's sporty...and you won't care what powers it.