2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric Review: Bring on the revolution
– Toronto, Ontario
It was in the middle of a bitter cold snap that I was scheduled to pick up the Ioniq Electric from Hyundai’s Markham (just north east of Toronto) head office. An EV in -15 degrees Celsius would be interesting, and every bit an important test of what it would be like for Canadian buyers considering one.
In typical winter weather fashion, the Hyundai PR person and I had to clean snow off the car before getting into it. Once inside, finding the heated seats and heated steering buttons were easy (hint: it’s where Hyundai usually puts it). Within seconds I could feel the ice cold steering wheel starting to warm up. I was told to put the climate control in automatic, something I rarely do citing how unintelligent auto climate control is. Not the case in the Hyundai Ioniq Electric. We had set the temperature to a happy 21 degrees, but the fans didn’t kick on at full clip; the system was waiting for the heater core to warm up so as not to pump cold air into the cabin. Things were looking promising.
In today’s economy, driving an electric vehicle is still a lifestyle choice. You need to look forward at what your weeks, months, even years ahead will look like in order to make a sound decision on an EV. While the 2017 Ioniq Electric makes a strong case for embracing EVs, let’s take a look at who this is for, and who it isn’t.
Who it’s for
The geek. Two words: regen paddles. Hybrids and EVs have long used regenerative braking to recoup a bit of power during deceleration. With the Ioniq Electric, Hyundai implements a pair of paddles mounted on either side of the steering wheel giving drivers complete control over the intensity of that regen braking. Settings go from a zero, where there’s no friction applied to the wheels allowing you to breezily coast for great distances (especially on a mild decline), to a high where it feels as if you’re applying medium pressure on the brake pedal and can be very effective at not only cutting speed, but also sending a healthy dose of power back to the batteries. There are two other levels in between making for three possible regen positions plus off, or as I call it free miles. For the tech inclined, the Ioniq also comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay; the car’s native infotainment system isn’t bad either.
The racer. Behind the wheel of the Ioniq Electric, you would be hard pressed to feel like you’ve given anything up to drive an EV. In fact, it’s rather remarkable and better than nearly every other hybrid I’ve driven; Prius eat your heart out. Drop the hammer when the lights turn green and a wave of power will surge you forward past every caveman revving up loudly but not able to get a jump on you. EVs can deliver 100 percent of their power at an instant and in complete silence. Well, except for maybe the tire squeal as the 205-width tires fight to grip when 218 lb-ft of torque come down with authority on a front-wheel drive car.
The sensible. It may not look it, but the Ioniq is actually a hatchback. Capable of 650 litres of trunk storage, the Ioniq easily bests the Chevrolet Bolt (478.5 L) and is not off by much compared to the Nissan Leaf (668 L). There’s convenient storage areas and pockets throughout the cabin, and for the really particular, the front seatbacks are hard plastic so they’ll be easy to clean when the pesky children you ferry leave kick marks on the seatback. I even appreciate the use of proper tactile buttons to control everything from infotainment to climate; too many manufacturers build cars with touch control for the sake of looking futuristic, but making the vehicle very difficult to live with, no such issues here.
Who it’s not for
The adventurous. Unless your idea of adventure is looking for the nearest charging station with less than 10 percent on the battery, a claimed 200-kilometre range doesn’t allow for impromptu road trips. In the cold days that I drove it, fresh off a charge, the in-car computer was telling me I’d see 173 km. With Sport mode on–because why not–climate control on auto, heated seat and steering on, I would see my actual driving range closer to 135 km. But I never ran it to zero, because I’m not that adventurous, so your mileage may vary. Yes, all the little things drain power; a handy energy use guide on the centre screen can show you what’s drawing power, and how much of it. Cold days are not only hard on the battery pack, but also draw more energy because chances are you’re also trying to warm up the cabin. Remember I said you need to think ahead with an EV, you need to think ahead to what your day will be as well, choosing not to plug in overnight might mean your trip the next day has to be a lot shorter. Something I thought I’d surely be in trouble for since I can’t charge at the building I live in; surprisingly, after sitting in the lot outside overnight with temperatures dropping well below 15 degrees, the Ioniq had only lost about 4 km of range; colour me impressed.
I rarely find myself struggling to complain about a vehicle. But the Ioniq Electric is rather good, maybe even great, and other little niggles like how I wish there was a glass roof to bring more light into the cabin, seem silly when considering the total package.
The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq comes in three flavours. A gasoline-electric hybrid powered by a 1.6-litre motor, a 32 kilowatt (43 horsepower) motor mated to a 1.56 kilowatt-hour battery. Total system power is rated as 135 hp and 195 pound-feet of torque. There’s a plug-in hybrid model, powered by the same 1.6-litre gasoline motor but paired to a slightly more powerful 45 kW (60 hp) motor and a 8.9 kWh battery pack. Total power here gets bumped to 164 hp, while torque figures have not yet been released for this model. Last but not least, we have the Ioniq Electric which is being reviewed here. An 88 kW motor paired with a 28 kWh battery pack powers the car. While horsepower is limited to 118, torque is a monstrous 218 lb-ft; we don’t have official zero to 100 run times, but be sure that the zero to 40, even 60 kilometre per hour launch will be brisk. The Ioniq Electric tops out at 165 km/h.
Canadian pricing for the Ioniq is yet to be released. But if U.S. pricing ($29,500 USD) is anything to go by, we’re looking at the Ioniq Electric to come in around the mid-high $30K range. We'll have an update when price is announced along with how much government EV rebates each of the Ioniqs qualify for, so stay tuned.
Photos: Kanishka Sonnadara / Motor1 Canada