AUTO REVIEW: Hyundai Ioniq Starts at $22,400, Gets Up to 55 Mpg

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Hyundai Ioniq
The Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid offers new and broader applications of active safety features, and enhanced voice recognition with the 2019 model. (Hyundai/TNS)

Hyundai made automotive history for 2017, introducing three new electrified vehicles based on the same design and chassis — the Ioniq Hybrid, Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid and Ioniq Electric — and offers new and broader applications of active safety features, and enhanced voice recognition for the 2019 model year.

Driver Attention Alert and High Beam Assist are now available; navigation using natural-language voice-recognition and POI-search database provided by HERE is optional; and Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist and Smart Cruise Control are added to the SEL trim.

The driver-attention feature visually alerts the driver if distracted driving is detected, indicating the need to take a break. Smart cruise maintains a constant speed and following distance without input from the driver, and cancels automatically when speed drops below five mph.

The basic Ioniq Hybrid is available in three trims, with prices ranging from $22,400 for a very basic Blue model to $24,950 for the SEL, and $28,550 for the well-equipped Limited version.

I drove a Limited model in Ceramic White, riding on distinctive 17-inch Eco-Spoke alloy wheels, with wide, flat “V” spokes featuring solid-black inserts, wearing low-rolling-resistance, high-silica tires for better all-around performance.

Ioniq (a name derived from lithium-ION polymer battery and uniIQue) is the most-aerodynamic hybrid, with a sleek profile, integrated rear spoiler, wheel air curtains, and underbody cover. The Ioniq uses significantly less kWh annually and features very low operating cost per 25 miles driven, at just under $1.

Its low-resistance design aids in the incredible fuel efficiency and includes an Active Air Flap that dynamically adjusts to driving conditions — open for greater airflow for engine cooling in stop-and-go traffic, closed for better aerodynamics at cruising speed.

Air is directed over and around the front wheels and tires by Wheel Air Curtains, while the Underbody Cover helps smooth air flow under the vehicle. A sporty hatchback profile is inspired by Ioniq’s aerodynamic efficiency.

In the hybrid, a 1.6-liter GDI four-cylinder engine, working with a 32kW electric motor, produces 139 combined horsepower, which is delivered to the front wheels by a six-speed EcoShift Dual Clutch Transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and Drive Mode Select for a nimble drive through traffic and a smooth drive at highway speeds.

Sport mode holds the lower gears longer and combines power from the engine and electric motor for maximum performance. Eco mode optimizes gear selection for efficiency, upshifting earlier to achieve class-leading fuel economy.

Depending on the mode selected, the Digital Instrument Cluster shows a vibrant changing color palette and dynamic graphics that monitor vehicle performance.

For example, driving style will be rated as Economical, Normal or Aggressive. When Sport mode is selected, a tachometer is shown and colors change to red to reflect the sense of sportiness. Normal mode is blue and Eco mode is green.

The dual-clutch transmission is a departure from the continuously variable transmissions found in the majority of hybrids, often referred to as having “rubber-band-like” acceleration.

Ioniq uses the gasoline engine and degenerative braking to add charge to the advanced 240-volt lithium-ion polymer battery with hybrid starter generator, which is designed to be one of the most compact and efficient batteries available. This charge can later be transferred from the battery to the electric motor to the wheels for acceleration when needed.

The battery pack is under the rear passenger area, thus lowering the vehicle’s center of gravity, helping reduce energy loss due to inertia and, along with the hatchback and 60/40 split-folding rear seats, allowing more room and versatility for passengers and cargo.

This is the first time a 12-volt car battery has been consolidated with a high-voltage hybrid battery. The 1.56 kilowatt-hour hybrid battery can be used to self-charge the integrated 12-volt battery in the event it is run down too low to start the car — simply press a “battery reset” button. A traditional jump start can still be used if the self-start does not succeed. Both batteries are covered by a lifetime failure warranty for original owners.

The tester’s HID headlights with C-shaped LED accents and high-beam assist had dynamic bending-light function, included in an Ultimate Package ($2,200), and were integrated into the sides of the gloss black hexagonal grille with 10 chrome-edged fins, adding to the aerodynamic appearance. Seven LED lights made up the eye-catching Daytime Running Lights, set deep in black C-shaped wheel air vents.

Visual aerodynamics were also enhanced by the raked roofline leading to the integrated hatchback spoiler, which split the window, similar to the rear of the Toyota Prius. LED taillights wrapped around the side to the hatch, underlining the split window.

The rear bumper featured a wide gloss-black insert with vertical reflectors in deep pockets, echoing the design of the front air vents, and a chrome strip on the bottom edge. The door handles with approach lighting, beltline, and lower sculpted door edges were trimmed with chrome. Heated side mirrors had black lower housings.

An aluminum hood and tailgate reduced weight by 27 pounds, with no disadvantages in noise or vibration. Aluminum in front and rear suspension components save about 22 pounds, all helping to increase fuel efficiency.

Inside, eco-consciousness was expressed via innovative use of eco-friendly and recycled/recyclable materials — Bio Thermal Plastic Olefin with 25 percent sugarcane for soft interior touches; Natural Plastic, recycled plastic combined with powdered wood and volcanic stone for reduced weight; Bio Metallic Paint with ingredients extracted from soybean oil to achieve polished metallic colors; and Bio Fabric with 20 percent sugarcane.

The perforated leather seats were Beige, with satin metallic and gloss-black interior trim, an illuminated ignition button, LED interior illumination, and a sporty thickly padded D-cut multi-function steering wheel featuring a wide metallic lower arm.

Five other exterior colors are available for the hybrid models: Intense Blue (dark royal), Black Noir Pearl, Summit Gray (dark blue/gray), Scarlet Red Pearl, and Symphony Air Silver. Two interior colors are available: charcoal and beige/charcoal.

My Limited added a tilt/slide sunroof, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink and compass, auto up/down passenger window, and premium doorsill plates.

The Ultimate Package brought headlights with dynamic bending light, rear parking sensors; Infinity Premium Audio with Clari-Fi Music Restoration Technology and eight-speakers; wireless device charging for compatible smartphones; integrated memory system for driver’s seat; cargo cover; floor console-mounted rear vents; Blue Link Guidance Package; and navigation, which included an eight-inch touch screen.

Blue Link services were complimentary for three years, with enhanced safety, diagnostic, remote, and guidance services. Services include remote start with climate control, destination search by voice, remote door lock/unlock, car finder, enhanced roadside assistance, and stolen vehicle recovery. They can be accessed via buttons on the rearview mirror,

An uncommon feature of the navigation system is the ability to coach efficient driving using knowledge from 3-D technology to predict changing elevations on the road ahead.

While the small cupholders in the center console seemed to be an afterthought, there was a handy integrated tablet holder. Piano-key-style controls on the center stack were more ergonomic — easy to see, access, and use. The height adjustment for the front passenger seat was appreciated by our short occupants.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were standard, as well as Bluetooth hands-free phone system with voice recognition, HD radio technology, satellite radio, and iPod/USB and auxiliary input jacks.

In addition to the usual air bags, my Ioniq Limited addressed safety with an energy-absorbing steering column, front and rear crumple zones, blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear parking sensors, and a rearview camera.

High impact-energy absorption from advance high strength steel, with minimal cabin intrusion, protects passengers in a collision. Automatic Emergency Braking warns the driver visually and acoustically, modulates braking force, and even applies braking if needed to avoid or mitigate a collision.

The best-in-class cargo area has 26.5 cubic feet of space — room for golf clubs, weekend luggage, gardening supplies, or weekly groceries. Front passengers had 38.2 inches of headroom and 42.2 inches of legroom, while rear passengers had 37.4/35.7 inches, slightly less than Blue and SEL models.

Ioniq is powerful, fun to drive with excellent ride quality, attractive, and comfortable for daily driving (I didn’t do a road trip), and very economical to drive.

EPA ratings are 55 mpg city/54 highway/55 combined. Driving mostly in the neighborhood, I managed 53 mpg, according to the on-board computer.

With a Carpeted Floor Mat package ($125), the Ultimate Package, and $835 destination charges, my Ioniq Limited delivered for $31,760.