Hyundai Ioniq: Hybrid Motoring for a Song

By Lee Pang Seng

HYUNDAI is taking the hybrid challenge to Toyota with the Ioniq by offering such a fuel efficient car at a lower price. Although the Ioniq Hybrid would have enjoyed tax incentives under the EEV (Energy Efficient Vehicle) category, commanding a price below RM115,000 makes it a very attractive proposition. Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors is so confident of the good price advantage that the Ioniq is made available as a locally assembled model.

It was little wonder that more than 600 Ioniq Hybrids were sold since its launch in November 2016. It might look like a Honda Insight at a glance but its more individual character shone through on closer inspection. The distinct front anchored by the large diamond shape grille with intense eyes in the HID Bi-xenon headlamps (the Ioniq we drove was the better equipped HEV Plus) underlined its Korean lineage. The fastback rear adds the sporty touch that should endear it to the younger set or at least the young at heart. With a drag co-efficient (CD) of 0.24, the Ioniq is among the best of them in body aerodynamic efficiency.

If you wondering what HEV stands for, it is Hybrid Electric Vehicle, and two models are made available. These are the HEV and HEV Plus; the former retails at RM100,328 on the road without insurance and the higher-spec model goes for RM114,008.

Both are powered by the same 1.6-litre Kappa Atkinson GDI (gasoline direct injection) of a long stroke design. The bore is 72mm and the stroke is 97mm for a displacement of 1580cc. Its output is not bad at 77kW (105PS) at 5700rpm and 147Nm torque at 4000rpm. The transmission is a six-speed dual clutch automatic to channel engine output to the front wheels.

Qualifying it as a hybrid is the electric power from the lithium-ion polymer battery of 1.56kWh capacity; it generates 32kW (43PS) and 170Nm torque via the electric motor (a permanent magnet synchronous unit). That combines with engine output to deliver more than 103kW of power and 265Nm of torque. These are real-time outputs rather a simple addition of the respective power.

Out last experience in driving a hybrid and electric vehicle (EV) goes back a few years so the Ioniq is almost something new. We mention hybrid and EV in the same breath because they are much alike, except that one combines the use of a fuel burning engine and the other runs purely on electric power.

The similarity is when you get into the car. You press the push start button and your indication of the car’s readiness to move is indicated by the instrument panel being activated. The engine is not started. Step on the accelerator and the Ioniq takes off quietly, barring the road roar, which is well subdued by the good damping and body insulation.

The engine would kick in if the management system feels that the driver wants to go at a quicker pace. You can see the flow of power clearly on a visual display on the right of the speedometer (it is all electronically displayed). Electric power is shown as green, engine power in red and battery recharging is blue. It was quite distracting initially to see this colourful flow of power but we soon get used to it. We found the other power use indicator on the left a waste of space though.

There is the option of Sport mode as well. In Drive mode, the idea is to let you drive in the most efficient way so that you would enjoy good mileage (when we took the Ioniq the mileage was about 970km from the 45-litre tank). The drive to our place from Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors of more than 30km only saw this fuel mileage reduced by half the physical distance; it read at 955km at the end of the drive.

This was because more than the half the journey was done in electric mode being done at the usual traffic crawl pace in at least two places. The engine would be turned off the moment we coasted to a stop and electric power was used to take off again. In this stop-and-start condition, it was mostly electric power being used. With minimal fuel used, mileage is extended. This explains why the Toyota Prius Hybrid is commonly used as taxis in many countries.

Generally, the power flow in the Ioniq was not bad; when we accelerated a bit harder, the engine came into play to combine with the electric push to get going reasonably quick. If you want even more bite from the engine, slot the gearshift to Sport and engine revs would go up 300-400rpm as a lower gear is selected. Doing so also changed the central graphics on the instrument panel as the tachometer now takes precedence with the speed in digital readout (in Drive mode the speed progression is displayed in analogue format).

We felt the greater urgency of the engine to rev up and provide a stronger flow of power, when the engine was on its own and when combined with electric power. This is best employed when taking the Ioniq through winding stretches at a good speed or when one is in a hurry. That would mean less fuel mileage though, which is to be expected.

The Ioniq was quite tidy taking to the corners with the electric power steering (EPS) giving reasonably good directional feel. This Korean hybrid is independently sprung all round with MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link arrangement in the rear. Body roll was a bit more than expected but good enough for us to explore its limits some. It comes standard with Electronic Stability Control and Vehicle Stability Management as well as Hill Start Assist.

What we felt a bit odd was the tendency of the EPS to stiffen up especially when driving through sweepers. It was as if the steering system was being intentionally stiffened to compensate for something, although we are not sure for what. This did not happen all the time but it was initially unsettling as it felt like a non-electric system losing the hydraulic steering assistance. It was kind of weird but other than the stiffening feeling - it would lighten up after a while – nothing dramatic came out of it.

The Ioniq HEV Plus also comes with a pretty full range of electronic warnings and activation systems, such as lane change warning (Lane Keeping Assist System), Blind Spot Detection and Autonomous Emergency Braking System. The first two provided audible notes when we changed lanes or the system detected someone or something close by.

The third activated the brakes if we followed a car too close in front and was not braking. We felt this working a few times while driving in traffic crawls, especially when it braked harder than we would prefer. One of its function is to brake hard when a collision is imminent so that the impact is minimal.

The Ioniq took to the bumpy stretches reasonably well with a trace of hardness from road impacts. As it runs on 17-inch alloys with 225/45 R17 Michelin Primacy 3 tyres that might have a bit to do with this. Generally, we could live with the slightly harder ride as the harshness was mostly ironed out to make this Hyundai Hybird comfortable for all on board.

Being the higher-spec Ioniq HEV Plus, there was the luxury of leather upholstery, eight-way power adjustment for the driver’s seat, rain sensor, Electro-Chromic rearview mirror, seven-inch high definition central cluster, among others. The common standard items with the Ioniq HEV are the driver auto up-down window, seven airbag system, auto light control, rearview camera with front and rear parking assist, tyre pressure monitoring system, auto cruise control, electric folding mirror, to name some.

The rear seats are split 60:40 to extend rear luggage space. Hyundai lists this luggage space as 750 litres although we aren’t sure how that is defined. We believed that would probably take into account the space available when the rear seats are folded down. It looked more like 400-500 litres with the rear seats up. A retractable top cover for the luggage area comes as standard.

The Hyundai Ioniq is a great choice for those who want to enjoy hybrid power without having to dig too deep into the pocket. Its youthful looks and a good level of trim and equipment, even for the lower-spec model, add to the pleasure of owning this fuel miserly hybrid from South Korea.

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