Monday, October 16, 2017

IN THE DRIVEWAY: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

There is no denying that Hyundai's latest entry in the hybrid market, the Ioniq, is aimed directly at Toyota Prius. Even Hyundai's tag line, "the world didn't need another hybrid, it needed a better hybrid" makes it obvious who it's main rival is.

The Ioniq's styling is a bit more conservative than the current Prius. In my eyes, the Ioniq's shape reminds me of the previous generation Prius - it won't offend anyone, but it surely won't be winning any beauty contests.

Inside, it's a different story. Whereas the Prius has always strayed away from typical Toyota interiors with it's unique dashboard and odd-placed shifter, the Ioniq feels as if you're in a nicely trimmed Elantra. The center stack is just like any other Hyundai with easy to use buttons and controls. The dash cluster is slightly different so you can better track miles per gallon, but over all the Ioniq's interior emits an upscale look and feel.

Powering Hyundai's latest hybrid is 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission mated to a 32-kilowatt electric motor fed by a lithium-ion battery pack. Combined power is about 139 hp.

But the real question is how is it in terms of fuel efficiency? The 2017 Ioniq Hybrid Limited that I am currently in is rated at 55 mpg city and 54 mpg highway - with a combined average of 55 mpg - edging out the Prius, which is rated at 54/50/52 mpg. The test vehicle carries a price tag of $31,480 - slightly lower than the Prius.

So far in my short drive time with it, I have found the Ioniq drives as you would expect a hybrid to drive - giving up excitement for efficiency. With a total horsepower rating well below the 150 mark, it's a little light on power. But one thing I have noticed is that the Ioniq doesn't feel like a hybrid. There are two reasons for this. First, unlike most hybrids, the Ioniq doesn't use a a CVT transmission. Instead, it uses a six-speed gear box. So the transmission shifts like a "normal" car.  Second, the transition from electric power to gas power is nearly seamless. Now in most hybrids, the transition is hard to detect, but it's there nonetheless. In the Ioniq, it's almost impossible to detect the powerplants changing.

The idea that the Ionic feels more like a normal car certainly works to Hyundai's advantage. With low gas prices, fuel efficiency isn't a top priority to buyers these days. But a nice driving car is, and that the Ionic is.


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