by Roger Biermann
Hyundai’s electrified Ioniq - stylized IONIQ - trio is the carmaker’s first major step towards getting rid of fossil fuels altogether. The Ioniq Electric, however, is only available in California for the time being. Powered by a 118-horsepower electric motor and a single-speed direct drive transmission, the front-wheel drive EV has an estimated 124-mile range thanks to a 28.0kWh battery pack. That’s a range found lacking against newer EVs like the latest Chevrolet Bolt and updated Nissan Leaf. Available in two trims, the Ioniq EV is priced from $30,315 to $36,815, undercutting Nissan, but making the Ioniq a cheaper entry point to the EV game than buying a class-leading Bolt EV. But, the Ioniq Electric’s biggest rival is closer to home, as Hyundai’s own Kona EV is more powerful, offers nearly double the range, and overlaps on price, begging the question - is the Ioniq Electric still relevant?
Mechanically and visually, the Ioniq Electric remains unchanged for 2019. The revisions that have been made are minimal, with Google’s POI search replaced by HERE with Server-based Voice Recognition. Additionally, Hyundai has added new available safety features in the form of new driver attention warning, combined with lane keeping assist, while high-beam assist is now integrated with HID headlights.
One of the Ioniq’s best traits is an unassuming design that would seem at home on any combustion compact hatch on the market. This, compared to the Prius’ notion of ‘style’ that seems to make as many enemies as friends. The only dead giveaway that the Ioniq Electric isn’t just another compact is the lack of a grille, replaced by a gloss black panel without interfering with the design. Headlights are projector items as standard with high-intensity discharge (HID) units on the Limited model. Aerodynamically designed 16-inch alloy wheels fill the lightly flared wheel arches. The lower edges of the door feature a black beltline on the base model, with chrome equipped to the Limited trim, while black window surrounds are standard, with chrome on the Limited trim.
Sharing its basic dimensions with the other two Ioniq variants, the Ioniq Electric measures 176-inches long while riding on a 106.3-inch wheelbase. A width of 71.7 -inches and a height of 57.1-inches gives the Ioniq Electric a squat stance, while the 5.5-inch ground clearance is about standard for a vehicle of this size. With a curb weight between 3,164 and 3,285 lbs, the Ioniq Electric sits between the lighter Hybrid and heavier Plug-In Hybrid derivatives.
The Ioniq Electric is available in four exterior colors: Ceramic White, Symphony Air Silver, Intense Blue, and Black Noir Pearl. All hues are carried over from last years model, and none are extra-cost items. The palette isn’t particularly exciting, but Intense Blue does a good job of highlighting the lines of the bodywork.
The Hyundai Ioniq platform is built on a front-wheel drive platform regardless of whether it’s hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or pure electric. In the Ioniq Electric, Hyundai has installed a 28.0 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack, mated to an electric motor with outputs of 118 horsepower and 218 lb-ft of torque. The 360-volt system comes with a 6.6 kW charge system with DC fast-charging capabilities and regenerative braking that can be altered via paddle shifters that increase or decrease the level of brake regeneration to your desired comfort levels. Straight line performance is decent, taking 8.5 seconds to reach the 0 to 60 mph landmark, but this figure lags behind the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Kona Electric who both manage the same feat some two seconds quicker.
While the hybrid and plug-in versions of the Ioniq feature combustion motors, in its purest form the Ioniq Electric has no combustion engine in sight. Instead, a 28 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack is mated to a 118-horsepower, 218 lb-ft electric motor on a 360-volt system. Electric performance is punchy - thank instant torque for that - particularly around town, while at highway speeds the performance is a little less forthcoming.
With a single-speed drive system, not having to shift gears takes some getting used to, with steering mounted paddles used for adjusting the levels of brake regeneration and their accompanying levels of braking effect in off-throttle scenarios. It’s a little awkward at first, but with careful driving and some foresight, it’s possible to drive the Ioniq Electric predominantly without the brake pedal, which in turn gets you maximum range as well.
The Ioniq is equipped with a 6.6 kW charging system with DC fast charging capabilities. With a level 3 DC fast charger, up to 80% of its charge can be recouped within 23 minutes, while a standard charge on a 220-volt system will take approximately four and a half hours, and charge on a slower 110-volt system will take around ten hours to fully charge.
Hyundai wanted the Ioniq Electric to look and feel as much like a regular car as possible, and to a large extent, it’s succeeded. The Ioniq boasts well-rounded driving dynamics and an enjoyable driving experience, but one that leans more towards comfort than towards driver thrills.
It’s in the steering feel that the Ioniq fails to deliver. The wheel itself is phenomenally well molded, but it feels too light in hand and doesn’t weight up proportionately to the cornering forces. It’s precise on turn-in and responds well to inputs mid-corner as well as at low speeds when maneuvering through tight city spaces, but there’s a lack of feedback that we feel could have been a bit better.
However, the suspension is well tuned and the battery’s low mounting point gives the Ioniq a low center of gravity that bodes well for handling attributes and an overall feeling of stability. The relatively low curb weight for an EV helps give the Ioniq a feeling of surprising nimbleness, but the suspension is a little too buoyant and aloof at times and it feels floaty over undulating surfaces. The grip is also limited, due to the efficiency-biased tires, so while the Ioniq feels lively, there’s only so much that can be extracted from it in terms of driver thrills.
The ride is for the most part compliant, on the softer side of things as it makes effective use of the light weight to avoid being overly sprung. It’s about par for the segment, though, with none of the other offerings focusing on anything but comfort. But the floatiness leads to porpoising on wavy tarmac, which could result in car-sick prone passengers feeling quite ill.
To Hyundai’s credit, the brakes have been particularly well engineered - something that is commonly a flaw when it comes to EVs. Hyundai has programmed in three levels of brake regeneration strength, accessible via steering mounted paddles that increase or decrease the levels of ‘engine braking’. The most aggressive setting still isn’t overly aggressive, and the brake pedal is required. Fortunately, it’s programmed with good levels of adjustment and modulation and without the grabbiness often associated with these types of systems.
A full charge of the Hyundai Ioniq Electric’s 28 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery yields an estimated range of 124 miles, giving an MPG equivalence of 136 MPGe. While the latter figure is impressive, the range is well behind that of other EVs in the segment, particularly for vehicles engineered with pure electrification in mind. The Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 offer around 150 miles range each, with a potential 200-mile range on a soon-to-be-launched larger battery option for the Leaf, while the Chevrolet Bolt offers 238 miles. Hyundai’s own Kona Electric, which overlaps on price with the Ioniq Electric Limited, gets an EPA estimate of 258 miles of electric range. While the Ioniq was a foot in the door for Hyundai’s EV foray, times have moved on while the Ioniq has been left behind.
While naturally derived, the materials in the Ioniq Electric’s cabin tend to look bland and feel quite cheap, particularly on the base model with its sugar cane bio-fabric upholstery. The upgrade to leather on the Limited is far classier, but you still can’t get away from a cheap, dull-looking interior. It’s ergonomically sound though, with both available touchscreens easy to use and with seating generally comfortable. The front seats offer a good range of adjustment and feature standard heating, and visibility is largely impressive. The rear seat gets a little cramped quite easily, with neither headroom nor legroom on the generous side of things despite space being technically available for five people The rear outboard seats feature two full LATCH anchor sets, but the lower anchors are deeply set into the seat.
The Hyundai Ioniq Electric offers seating for five occupants, but if adults are your measure of seating then cut that number down to four. The front seats are generally commodious enough for most, with decent headroom and legroom, even with the sunroof on the Limited trim. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the rear seats, where the sloping roofline cuts into headroom and the position of the seat and underlying battery pack leaves legroom quite short. The driver’s seat boasts standard heating and six-way manual adjustment - power adjustment is standard on the Limited - with a good range of movement and a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel which makes finding a comfortable driving position quite simple. Visibility is decent, only impeded by the size and positioning of the front and rear roof pillars.
What was it Henry Ford said about having it any color you want as long as it’s black? Well, Hyundai might offer you numerous exterior hues, but inside your choices are limited to Charcoal Black and Charcoal Black. The base Ioniq Electric offers standard Charcoal Black bio-fabric upholstery, with matching black and grey interior panels and a grey headliner. The change from base to Limited trims upgrades upholstery from cloth to leather in, you guessed it, Charcoal Black, but the rest of the interior appointments remain the same. The only other dash of color to be found are the silver surrounds of the air vents and infotainment screen.
There’s a decent amount of cargo volume for the Ioniq Electric, despite offering a little less than the hybrid model. Still, engineered with the battery primarily beneath the rear passenger seats, 23 cubic feet of cargo space is available behind the rear seats. This figure places the Ioniq Electric about par for the segment, more or less on even keel with the Nissan Leaf. The rear hatch is large and allows for easy loading of even large objects, provided you can lift them high enough to make use of the opening. The rear seats fold in a 60/40 split to increase the storage volume.
There are plenty of places to store small items throughout the cabin with deep door pockets, a large center bin, and numerous center console nooks. On the Limite model, the wireless charging pad is helpful but occupies space where another cup holder would quite easily fit. While the small item storage is decent, nothing sets it apart from similarly sized hatchbacks.
With just two trims, Hyundai splits the equipment between scant and well-equipped. Available on both, you’ll find automatic headlights, automatic temperature control, heated front seats, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, cruise control, keyless entry and push-button start, and a rearview camera. But if you want fancy equipment, the Limited is the only trim to offer a power sunroof, power driver’s seat adjustment with memory function, an auto-dimming mirror, and a wireless charging pad. The Limited also adds a range of driver aids like blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, smart cruise control, and high beam assist.
Infotainment is one aspect well catered for in the Ioniq Electric, even in base trim. A standard seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with six speakers can accept inputs via AM/FM radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, auxiliary input, USB, Bluetooth, and via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with which the system is fully compatible. The screen also acts as the display for the standard rearview camera. The Ioniq Electric Limited gets an upgraded eight-inch touchscreen system that features built-in navigation, while Audio quality is improved by Clari-Fi music restoration technology and an eight-speaker Infinity premium audio system with a subwoofer. For 2019, upgraded voice controls on the Limited model come courtesy of HERE replacing Google’s POI search. The upgrade controls work well, and overall, both systems are fluent and easy to use.
J.D. Power rates the Ioniq Electric 70/100 on overall reliability, which they classify as ‘average’. The Nissan Leaf scored marginally higher with a score of 74/100 while a Chevrolet Bolt scored 73. There has been just one recall for this generation of Ioniq, which occurred in 2017 for models that developed coolant leaks that infiltrated the Electronic Power Control Unit and caused numerous problems including stalling while driving. The Ioniq is covered under Hyundai’s five-year/60,000-mile limited warranty, ten-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and lifetime battery warranty.
Neither government agency has tested the Ioniq Electric during its current life cycle. The NHTSA hasn’t tested its hybridized siblings either. The IIHS, however, has tested both hybrids, awarding them both 2019 Top Safety Pick status, with best available ‘Good’ scores all around.
We’re particularly disappointed with the lack of advanced safety features on the base model Ioniq Electric, and in particular, the fact that they aren’t available optionally, leaving you with only the basics, and with seven airbags including a driver’s knee airbag. The Ioniq Electric Limited gets a standard array of top safety features that include blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane change assist, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control with start/stop, dynamic bending headlights, driver attention warning, and high-beam assist with the HID headlights.
The Ioniq has been around for a few years now, and while it may have been Hyundai’s first electric effort, the best Ioniq isn’t the pure electric one. It boasts decent driving dynamics and practicality but is severely lacking when it comes to the range it offers compared to other established EVs, and the California-only availability is also a bit of a bummer. At the entry price of an Ioniq Electric, you’d be better off looking at a Nissan Leaf, and if you had your heart set on the Limited, then another electric Hyundai product is leagues ahead for a similar price. The Hyundai Kona Electric is everything the Ioniq should be and more, and if you’ve got eyes on a Hyundai EV, that’s the one you should be aiming for.
The Hyundai Ioniq Electric has two all-or-nothing cost options linked to the two trim derivatives, with nothing in the way of options to find a halfway balance between the two offerings. In its most basic format, the Ioniq Electric has a sticker price of $30,315. The other end of the spectrum sees a fully kitted Ioniq Electric Limited carrying a price tag of $36,815. But, as fully electric vehicles being sold in the state of California, there’s up to $7,500 worth of federal tax credit available, depending on individual tax liability amongst other factors. The tax credit isn’t an initial benefit though and doesn’t affect the purchase price, which means unless you find deals elsewhere, the Ioniq is always going to be in excess of the $30k mark.
The Ioniq Electric is available in two trims: base and Limited.
The base Ioniq Electric does without numerous aids and pleasures, but still comes decently equipped with 16-inch alloys, automatic headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, a rearview camera, heated side mirrors, keyless entry and push-button start, automatic climate control, a wonderful leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated six-way adjustable front seats, and a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM, HD Radio and Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics suite.
Over and above the specification of the base model, the Limited gets power folding side mirrors, chrome exterior trim, HID headlights with LED guide, a power tilt-and-slide sunroof, heat pump, leather upholstery, rear seat HVAC vents, 10-way power adjustment for the driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment and memory function, an eight-inch navigation system, three-years complimentary Blue Link Guidance Package, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, wireless device charging pad, Infinity premium audio system with eight speakers, Clari-Fi music restoration technology, and LED interior illumination. The Limited also gets extra safety features in the form of blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane change assist, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control with start/stop, dynamic bending headlights, driver attention warning, and high-beam assist.
With such a disparity between the price of the two available trims, one would at least expect there to be a package to bridge the gap between the two. But no, Hyundai’s limited availability Ioniq Electric has no options packages, and no standalone options either. The entry Ioniq Electric isn’t poorly specced, but items like leather upholstery, the eight-inch navigation system with eight-speaker Infinity Audio, or the power sunroof would’ve been welcome additional options. The lack of availability of these, even as optional extras, on the base Ioniq Electric is a big oversight as far as we’re concerned.
With only two trims, Hyundai forces your hand - do you want a bare electric vehicle, or do you want all the safety and convenience features? As far as we’re concerned, the lack of safety features on the base model isn’t acceptable, so that leaves the expensive range-topping Limited trim as the only option. However, for the money, you do get the full suite of driver assistance systems, as well as a power sunroof, power driver’s seat adjustment, an eight-inch infotainment system with navigation, and an Infinity premium audio system. But if we’re honest, for the money we’d rather look at a Hyundai Kona Electric.
The Leaf has been a long-standing entrant in the EV game, but it’s not the best out there. It offers about 25 miles greater range than the Ioniq, and also offers a semi-autonomous driver aid functionality that the Ioniq can’t match. Both are similarly matched from a price perspective at around $30,000, but for the money, the Ioniq feels like it’s better constructed and with a greater sense of luxury. Neither is an ideal EV, but for the price conscious, the Leaf gets greater safety systems and greater range, both of which are key elements when buying an EV. For those reasons alone, we recommend the Leaf, even if only barely so.
The Chevrolet Bolt is currently one of the best affordable EVs on the market, with a range nearly double that of the Ioniq at more than 200 miles. It’s a little pricier than the Ioniq, but it boasts superior driving dynamics, greater performance, and higher levels of specification than the base Ioniq. The Ioniq is a little more comfortable on longer journeys, but the Bolt is better to drive on a day to day basis, only challenged by Hyundai’s other EV, the Kona Electric. The Chevrolet is better than the Ioniq in most aspects.