2023 Hyundai Ioniq 6 First Drive: Hitting Tesla Where It Hurts

First Drive / 24 Comments

The Ioniq 6 takes a big swing at the Tesla Model 3.

Following the massive success of the Hyundai Ionic 5 - the winner of the 2022 CarBuzz award for People's Car - Hyundai introduced the new Ioniq 6. Built on the same Hyundai E-GMP platform that underpins the Ioniq 5 (and the Kia EV6 and Genesis GV60), the 2023 Hyundai Ioniq 6 is the first sedan model to ride on the dedicated electric architecture.

Sedans may be a dying breed, but Tesla has proved there is still a strong market for these cars - so long as the price is right and the range is long. Hyundai steps up to the plate swinging with a sub-$42k starting price, the quickest charge speeds in the segment, up to 320 horsepower, and a max range of 361 miles (which is more than a Model 3).

Based on our love affair with the Ioniq 5, we had high hopes for Ioniq 6. During a first drive event in Arizona, we learned that the Ioniq 6 mostly lives up to the hype, with a few minor exceptions.

2023 Hyundai Hyundai Ioniq 6 Front View CarBuzz
2023 Hyundai Hyundai Ioniq 6 Side View CarBuzz
2023 Hyundai Hyundai Ioniq 6 Rear Angle View CarBuzz

Exterior Design: Styled By Aero

Hyundai's designers highlight the Ioniq 6's incredibly slippery drag coefficient of just 0.21. Few production cars boast a lower number, and Hyundai has done an excellent job not letting the aerodynamic goals ruin the styling. Yes, the Ioniq 6 still has a sleek front end, but it looks more egg-like than the Mercedes-Benz EQS.

The Ioniq 6 gets its inspiration from the gorgeous Prophecy Concept, which we admit is a far more attractive vehicle. Most concepts lose some of their beauty when they reach production, but we still think there are a lot of angles on the Ioniq 6 that work, particularly at the rear. The car has two spoilers, including a miniaturized Whale Tail that's reminiscent of a Porsche 911 or a Saab. That substantially adds to the car's cool factor.

2023 Hyundai Hyundai Ioniq 6 Rear-Facing View CarBuzz
2023 Hyundai Hyundai Ioniq 6 Rear View CarBuzz
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2023 Hyundai Hyundai Ioniq 6 Front Wheel CarBuzz

Hyundai brought along cars in a wide selection of colors (the Ioniq 6 offers seven paint options in total), and we instantly gravitated towards the lighter hues like the Limited-only matte Gravity Gold. The lighter colors allow the sleek lines to be seen more easily, while the dark colors, such as Digital Green, tend to obscure them.

Base SE models ride on smaller 18-inch aero wheels that massively improve range (more on that later), while the SEL and Limited grades get more attractive 20-inch wheels with wider tires that trade efficiency for curb appeal. If you don't care about wheel design as much, we'd stick with the 18s. Sadly, Hyundai doesn't offer them on the upper trims, meaning you'll likely have to find another Ioniq 6 owner on a forum who is willing to swap wheels. Perhaps Hyundai will make the smaller wheels available on upper trims in subsequent model years.

2023 Hyundai Hyundai Ioniq 6 Frontal Aspect CarBuzz
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2023 Hyundai Hyundai Ioniq 6 Wheel CarBuzz

Powertrain: Class-Leading Electrification

Buyers will have a choice between two different battery and motor setups. A 53 kWh Standard Range model is available with rear-wheel-drive only, producing just 149 horsepower. This version won't be available until later this summer with a decent 240-mile range but a sluggish nine-second 0-62 mph time. Most buyers will opt for the Long Range model with the 77.4 kWh battery. In RWD configuration, the larger battery brings the output to 225 hp, increases the range to 361 miles (305 miles on the 20-inch wheels), and drops the 0-62 to 7.4 seconds.

A dual motor all-wheel-drive option is available on all Long Range models, increasing the output to 320 hp. This improves the acceleration time from 0-62 down to 5.1 seconds, but lowers the range to 316 miles on the 18-inch wheels and 270 miles on the 20s.

In terms of charge speeds, the Ioniq 6 blitzes the competition with an 800-volt charging architecture that enables speeds of up to 235 kW. On a 350 kW plug, it will reach an 80% charge in just 18 minutes. Better yet, each Ioniq 6 includes two years of complementary 30minute charging sessions at Electrify America. Hyundai has also improved the at-home charging speeds with a 10.2 kW peak on a Level 2 plug.

2023 Hyundai Hyundai Ioniq 6 Charging Point CarBuzz
2023 Hyundai Hyundai Ioniq 6 Charge Port CarBuzz

Driving Impressions: Sharper Ioniq

Our love for the Ioniq 5 is strong, but it's more of a cruiser with decent handling than an outright driver's car. Though the Ioniq 6 doesn't stray too far into 'sporty' territory, it's still a sharper experience than its crossover sibling. The lower center of gravity provides more connected driving manners with quicker steering and less body roll. We wish the driver's seat went a bit lower, though, as it felt like we were sitting on it rather than in it. As with other E-GMP cars, the single-motor version felt more agile with more accurate steering response and more immediate turn-in. You can chuck the car into a turn and use the instant power from the electric motor to pull yourself out and step the rear out a bit.

The dual-motor car feels heavier and less natural to control, but any deficit in feedback is more than made up for in raw power. While the single-motor car smoothly leaves the line on its own terms, the dual-motor car jolts forward, squeezing occupants into their seats. Both variants can easily overtake slower traffic, but the AWD model is, obviously, significantly quicker from a stop.


Putting the dual-motor car into Eco Mode can deactivate the front axle, yielding superior efficiency at the cost of immediate acceleration. It's worth noting that the front axle stays activated when one-pedal driving is active. Sport Mode tunes the throttle more spiritedly, so a quick tap results in instant power.

In terms of comfort, the Ioniq 6 excels, even when equipped with the 20-inch wheels. We noticed a bit of vibration on really torn-up pavement, but the 20-inch wheels behave nicely unless the road is a mess. Then we switched to the SE model with the 18-inch wheels, and it was even softer; cloud-like, in fact. As consumers demand larger wheels because of their visual benefit, ride comfort has been thrown by the wayside. We did notice slightly more road noise from the 18s, though this could be down to the tires, not the wheels themselves, or the differences in routes from the morning to the afternoon.

We don't often bring up adaptive safety features in our First Drive reviews, but Hyundai's Highway Drive Assist is among the best hands-on systems we've tested at any price, and it comes standard on every Ioniq 6. The steering assist requires little attention to keep the car in its lane, especially when equipped with Highway Driving Assist II on SEL and above. It may not be a hands-free system, but it feels more competent and trustworthy than similar systems like Tesla Autopilot.

2023 Hyundai Hyundai Ioniq 6 Pedals Hyundai

Interior Design: Airplane Inspired

Even the base Ioniq 6 is well-equipped with dual 12.3-inch screens for the infotainment and gauge cluster, which are flanked by airplane-style winglets that house the digital mirror screens in other markets. Sadly, the standard audio system leaves a lot to be desired, and the eight-speaker Bose system (which is only mediocre) can only be accessed by opting for the top Limited trim. Wireless connection to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also missing, so be sure to bring a USB cable.

The Ioniq 6 SE comes with stain-resistant cloth seats, which feel soft and premium. Upper trims get artificial leather with front-seat heating on the SEL and heating/ventilation on the Limited. We love how spacious the cabin feels with the floating center console, especially when finished in the lighter interior color. 64-color ambient lighting is available on the SEL and Limited trims, and it looks beautiful at night.

2023 Hyundai Hyundai Ioniq 6 Front Seats Hyundai
2023 Hyundai Hyundai Ioniq 6 Interior Details CarBuzz

Practicality: Sedan Sacrifice

There's a reason why consumers gravitate away from sedans and towards crossovers, and the numbers bear it out in cargo-carrying ability, not passenger space. 39.2 inches of legroom in the back seat is incredibly generous, besting the Polestar 2 and Tesla Model 3 by 5.3 and 4.0 inches, respectively. Headroom is a different story, where the Hyundai's space is a little less than its Polestar and Tesla rivals due to its sloping roofline.

Moving back to the trunk, the Ioniq 6 clearly sacrifices cargo capacity for passenger space. There is only 11.2 cubic feet in the trunk, easily bested by the Polestar's 14.3 cubes and the Tesla's 19.8 cubes. Hyundai crammed a tiny frunk, if you can even call it that, with just 0.5 cubic feet of space. We can't even imagine what an owner might put in there. Maybe an umbrella?

2023 Hyundai Hyundai Ioniq 6 Trunk Space CarBuzz
2023 Hyundai Hyundai Ioniq 6 Engine Bay CarBuzz

Pricing & Verdict: Is The Value There?

Starting at $41,600 for the SE RWD Standard Range, the 2023 Ioniq 6 is technically less expensive than the cheapest Tesla Model 3, which starts at $42,990. Tesla offers superior range and performance at the base level, though Hyundai has faster charging. However, Hyundai notes that this configuration will only be available at a later date and in "extremely limited quantities."

Things get more competitive with the 'Long Range' versions, with the RWD SE starting at $45,500. Though it pushes the price beyond the Model 3, the 361-miles range is more than the smallest Tesla can muster in any existing configuration. Stepping up to the SEL costs $47,700, while the Limited trim is $52,600. Adding the dual-motor AWD setup to any of the Long Range models costs $3,500. These prices do not include a $1,115 destination charge.

At the lower end of the spectrum, we think the Ioniq 6 is a pretty stellar value with a lot to offer for buyers looking for long driving range and a comfortable ride. However, tacking on AWD and Gravity Gold paint to an already pricey Limited trim pushes the cost to over $58,000. That's BMW i4 territory!

Tesla's most recent price cut makes it tough to recommend the Ioniq 6 over the Model 3, but the gap will narrow if Tesla loses its tax credit because the battery is made in China. Since the Hyundai is built in South Korea, it doesn't get the credit. Smart tip: you can lease the car and have the $7,500 factored into the payments. If pricing was equal, we think the Ioniq 6 feels like the more premium product, and it's the one we'd rather drive.

2023 Hyundai Hyundai Ioniq 6 Front Angle View CarBuzz
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