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2018-19 Hyundai IONIQ Hybrid Road Test

2018 Hyundai IONIQ Hybrid SEL Road Test

Never judge a book by its cover

We were surprised by the new 2018 Hyundai IONIQ Hybrid upon its arrival. We knew Hyundai had become very aggressive in the hybrid and electric vehicle markets and have even road tested a few hybrids along the way but the IONIQ was unique, boasting a much different vibe than most run-of-the-mill hybrids we've tested over the years. This time, we knew we were driving something special.

At first glance inside, it seemed average but never a judge a book by its cover or even by the feel of its pages. Once on the move, the IONIQs individuality began to reveal itself as a quiet, soft and smooth operator.

Hyundai’s approach for the Ioniq line delivers an uncompromising design and driving experience coupled with the latest in safety and convenience technologies, making it an appealing choice for a wide range of buyers. Here is a list of its remarkable 'NUTS & BOLTS' attributes.

Lightweighting focus
Ioniq sought significant weight reduction targets without compromising fun-to-drive and comfort characteristics. Ioniq uses aluminum in the hood and tailgate, reducing weight by 27 lbs. compared with conventional steel and no measurable disadvantages in noise or vibration. In addition, the lead-acid auxiliary 12V battery found in competitors’ hybrid models has been omitted for the Ioniq Hybrid, resulting in a 26-pound reduction in weight. Lightweighting also extended to less obvious areas like the cargo-screen cover. With higher usage of lightweight components and a more compact build, the cargo-screen cover is about 25-percent lighter than the types used in other Hyundai models.

Driving performance – low- to zero-emission mobility without compromise
Ioniq Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid feature a sophisticated multi-link rear suspension system with dual lower control arms for agile ride and handling coupled with excellent ride quality. In addition, extensive use of aluminum in front and rear suspension components saves about 22 lbs. of weight compared with conventional materials. In addition, the placement of the battery systems below the rear seats provides a lower center of gravity for more responsive handling.

The Ioniq Electric applies a torsion-beam rear axle, providing more space for the 28.0 kWh lithium-ion polymer batteries, placed below the rear seats. Ioniq’s responsiveness and feedback from the steering system is clear and precise, with a quick steering ratio for an engaging and responsive feel. Braking force is optimized for maximum efficiency from the regenerative braking system, helping Ioniq to maintain a steady state of charge (SOC). Regenerative braking also operates with reduced noise, using a third-generation recuperating stopping system. Regenerative braking force can be adjusted to meet the driver’s preference and driving conditions through steering-column-mounted regenerative brake-level control paddles. An Integrated Brake Assist Unit (iBAU) and Pressure Source Unit (PSU) also contribute to quieter operation. This helps ensure ultra-low friction for maximum energy regeneration and efficiency levels.

Michelin® tires give Ioniq enhanced levels of efficiency, as the car is fitted with low-rolling-resistance tires for 15-, 16- and 17-inch wheels, plus the car’s larger 17-inch wheels (Ioniq Hybrid Limited) are fitted with high-silica tires for better all-around performance. The multi-link rear suspension system of Ioniq Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid has been adapted to work most efficiently with low-rolling-resistance tires while minimizing typical tire performance trade-offs.

Exterior Design
In crafting the exterior appearance of Ioniq, Hyundai designers concentrated on its future-focused character, fundamental to its appeal. A fluid exterior shape and natural air flow channels emphasize aerodynamic body lines and surface volumes. A sporty, hatchback-like profile is inspired by aerodynamic efficiency, complementing the soft lines and surfaces that trace the car’s outline. These attributes combine to boost aerodynamics further, which, when combined with various other smart efficiency solutions, produce an industry-leading 0.24 coefficient of drag. In addition to Ioniq aerodynamics, further design details distinguish the Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid from the Electric models, creating their unique identities:

Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid
In addition to general exterior design details from the Hybrid, such as the hexagonal grille and the vertical C-shaped LED daytime running lights, the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid also features low-beam LED headlamps. The Plug-in Hybrid also integrates a charging portal into the left front fender for the 8.9 kWh lithium-ion-polymer battery system. Specially-designed 16-inch alloy wheels further differentiate the Plug-in Hybrid model.

Ioniq Hybrid
The front of the Ioniq Hybrid is characterized by the Bi-Xenon HID headlights surrounded by C-shaped LED positioning lamps. Hyundai’s signature hexagonal grille and vertical C-shaped LED daytime running lights further convey purity of design. Contrasting colors at the base of the bumper fascia add individual character and can be paired with two unique interior environments. The Ioniq Hybrid features specially-designed two-tone contrasting 15-inch eco-spoke or 17-inch alloy wheels.

Powertrain Choice
Developed for high energy efficiency without compromising driving performance, every Ioniq powertrain represents a unique and uncompromising solution toward a cleaner means of mobility.

The Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid powertrain combines the best of the Electric and Hybrid powertrains without typical eco powertrain compromises. The Plug-in Hybrid features a Kappa 1.6L direct-injected Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine with an unsurpassed thermal efficiency of 40 percent and delivers an estimated 104 horsepower and an estimated 109 lb.-ft. of torque. This engine has been specifically tailored to the hybrid application and is combined with a quick-shifting six-speed dual-clutch transmission, differentiating Ioniq from its key competitors with a more dynamic and engaging driving experience. The Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid’s 44.5 kW (60 horsepower) electric motor is coupled with a 1.6-liter direct-injected Atkinson four-cylinder Kappa engine. The high-efficiency electric motor can operate at speeds up to 75 MPH and delivers instantaneous torque at low speeds, with available power-assist at higher vehicle speeds. The Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid provides an estimated all-electric range of 29 miles, 119 MPGe in EV mode and 52 MPG in hybrid mode, powered by a potent 8.9 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery.

The Ioniq Hybrid Blue model has an estimated 58 MPG combined rating, the highest rating of any non-plug-in vehicle sold in the U.S. market. The Ioniq Hybrid’s electric motor delivers an estimated 32 kW (43 horsepower) with an estimated maximum torque of 125 lb.-ft., powered by a lithium-ion polymer battery with 1.56 kWh capacity. The battery is efficiently positioned under the rear passenger seats. In combination with the 1.6-liter direct-injected engine, Ioniq Hybrid offers a total system output of 139 horsepower while providing low emissions, outstanding efficiency and range.

The Ioniq Electric has an estimated 136 MPG e-rating, the highest efficiency rating of any electric vehicle sold in the U.S. market. The Ioniq Electric offers pure electric mobility with a 28.0 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery for an estimated driving range of 124 miles. The electric motor has a maximum output of 88 kW (118 horsepower) and 218 lb.-ft. of torque mated to a single-speed reduction-gear transmission.

Six-speed dual-clutch transmission
The Ioniq Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid both feature a six-speed EcoShift® dual-clutch transmission (DCT), which boasts best-in-class transfer efficiency through the use of low-friction bearings and low-viscosity transmission oil, and is able to achieve a unique mix of driving performance and fuel efficiency for a spirited and fun-to-drive character. This is an important differentiation from the majority of other Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid cars that use Continuously Variable Transmissions, often criticized as having ‘rubber-band-like’ acceleration.

Enhancing the car’s fuel efficiency and dynamic driving characteristics, the driver can select either SPORT or ECO modes. The SPORT function holds lower gears longer and combines power from the engine and electric motor for maximum performance. Also in SPORT mode, the gasoline engine remains on and the electric motor acts as a power assist for maximum responsiveness. In ECO mode, the DCT optimizes gear selection for efficiency, upshifting earlier to achieve class-leading fuel economy. Both Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid models have steering-wheel paddle shifters for an even more engaging driving experience.

Advanced Battery Technology
Further, powertrain components were designed to be compact and highly efficient. The combined extra weight of the Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid technology therefore adds minimal weight to the Ioniq, but significantly increases its efficiency. Electric power for the Hybrid and the Plug-in Hybrid, as well as for the Electric, is generated by a permanent magnet synchronous motor whose parts were optimized by reducing the thickness of core components by up to 10 percent and adopting rectangular-section copper wire to decrease core and copper loss. Hyundai uses a lithium-ion polymer battery system for all Ioniq models, which is 20 percent lighter than non-polymer lithium-ion batteries and can be shaped more optimally to the interior than standard cell format batteries. This also provides lower battery memory sensitivity, excellent charge and discharge efficiency, and outstanding maximum output.

Both efficient packaging and a low center of gravity were taken into consideration as the battery system is located underneath the rear seats so the passenger cabin and cargo area is uncompromised in the Ioniq Hybrid, offering a total interior volume of an estimated 122.7 cubic feet (more than Toyota Prius). Even the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid and the Ioniq Electric, despite having larger battery systems, both offer a generous total interior volume of an estimated 119.2 cubic feet.

All Ioniq Electric models are equipped with standard Level-3 DC fast-charging capability. Charging the Ioniq Electric’s lithium-ion polymer battery up to 80 percent only takes about 23 minutes using a SAE Combo Level-3 DC, 100 kW fast-charger. An integrated In-Cable Control Box (ICCB) also allows drivers to charge their Ioniq Electric and Plug-in Hybrid using a standard household electric socket when necessary.

Advanced Aerodynamics 
The Ioniq sleek silhouette and simple, carefully wrought contours assist the efficient management of airflow around the exterior. Applications like front wheel air curtains, a rear spoiler and diffuser, side sill moldings, floor undercover and a closed-wheel design all contribute to the car’s high aerodynamic efficiency of 0.24 Cd. Additionally, the Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid feature a three-stage active air flap integrated with the front grille, while a sleek, closed front fascia differentiates the Electric model.

Interior Design
In keeping with its exterior, the interior of Ioniq captures the model’s futuristic qualities. A smooth, elegant and clutter-free theme and efficient use of interior space complements a logical, structured approach applied to the layout of controls for intuitive operation. Materials for the interior were chosen with an ecologically-sensitive focus and are used to create a simple and clean look throughout the car, giving the interior a sleek, light and purified feel.

The driver and passenger of the Electric model will also notice there is more room between the front seats. This is achieved via a shift-by-wire push-button drive selector free of mechanical linkage. The Ioniq Electric also features an electronic parking brake (EPB), conserving space in the center console.

Eco-focused materials create clean and sustainable interior ambience
A key characteristic of the Ioniq is its innovative use of recycled or ecologically-sensitive materials. The interior door covers are made of plastic combined with powdered wood and volcanic stone while providing the same quality appearance of typical plastic-based materials. The softer, more natural feel is achieved along with less reliance on oil-based products. This approach extends to other areas of the car as well. Raw materials extracted from sugar cane are partly applied on the headliner and carpet. Paint with renewable ingredients extracted from soybean oil is used to achieve lustrous metallic colors on key components.

Smart and efficient air conditioning
To provide a pleasant, comfortable and refreshing interior climate without using unnecessary amounts of energy, the Ioniq climate control can be switched to an efficient operation mode. Recirculated air is maximized when air-conditioning or heating, reducing ventilation losses and increasing the overall efficiency of the system. Also, the fully-automatic climate control can be set to ‘Driver only’ mode, thereby reducing the load of both air conditioning and heating on the overall powertrain. Ioniq also features console-mounted rear air vents for rear passenger comfort.

Infotainment System
Ioniq features state-of-the-art infotainment and connectivity features. Ioniq is equipped with a high-definition 7-inch TFT information cluster. With a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, it displays all gauge functions (speedometer, drive mode, fuel level). Even more, the seven-inch TFT instrument cluster displays all key driver information with outstanding resolution. Depending on the selected drive mode, background color and gauges are adapted to always provide the most important and useful information. Within SPORT mode, the display changes into a revolving digital speedometer that is surrounded by an analog-type tachometer, showing engine rpm in red. When choosing ECO mode, the TFT-information cluster simulates the classic speedometer needle.

For 2019, navigation-equipped Ioniqs use an enhanced, natural-language, server-based voice-recognition technology with a new POI-search database supported by HERE™ that includes charging station locations for driver convenience. The driving experience inside Ioniq is enhanced through state-of-the art connectivity features like Apple CarPlay®, Android Auto® and Blue Link®, as well as wireless charging for smartphones. Both systems enable users to connect their devices to activate music, telephone or navigation functions. Ioniq also offers a wireless inductive-charging pad for Qi-compatible devices.

Comfort and Convenience
The Ioniq line-up delivers great driver and passenger convenience, bringing to the segment a range of considerations for which other Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid and Electric vehicles may have compromised. All Hybrid components are cleverly packaged to maximize space and flexibility of the interior. In fact, the Ioniq Hybrid offers best-in-class cargo space by positioning the battery underneath the rear seats. The rear cargo area provides 26.5 cubic feet of area volume with the rear seats up, allowing large pieces of luggage to be stowed with ease. All Ioniq models also offer generous front and rear headroom, shoulder and leg room, while a memory driver’s seat and heated front seats offer additional comfort.

Behind the wheel, Smart Cruise Control allows a constant speed and following distance to be maintained from the vehicle ahead without depressing the accelerator or brake pedals; it is automatically cancelled when speed drops to 5 mph or below. Ioniq Electric takes it a step further by providing Smart Cruise Control with fully automatic stop/start function as well.

Active and Passive Safety Features
Ioniq’s light-yet-rigid body is the result of advanced design, construction methods and materials. Featuring Advanced High Strength Steel, the chassis benefits from superior rigidity for responsive handling and safety, with high impact-energy absorption and minimized cabin distortion to protect passengers in the event of a collision. This rigid structure also leverages 476 feet of advanced structural adhesives in its design, simultaneously yielding both lightweighting and rigidity benefits.

For 2019, Ioniq adds Driver Attention Alert and High Beam Assist to its available safety features. Further, Ioniq offers the very latest in advanced safety, including Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist function, Blind Spot Detection and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, for high levels of both active and passive vehicle safety. Blind Spot Detection and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert help to warn the driver of surrounding vehicles that could lead to a collision. Lane Keeping Assist sounds an alarm as the car moves over lane lines if the driver did not signal for an intended lane change and helps keep drivers in their intended lane with small steering corrections. Additional safety features include rear parking sensors and headlights with Dynamic Bending Light (DBL).

The Ioniq is also available with Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) with Pedestrian Detection, an advanced active safety feature that helps alert drivers to potential emergency situations, including braking automatically. For 2019, AEB is standard for the high-volume SEL trim, making this enhanced safety feature even more accessible to Ioniq buyers. With sensor-fusion technology that utilizes the front radar and camera sensors, AEB operates in three stages. Initially warning the driver visually and acoustically, it can modulate braking force according to the collision danger stage, applying braking before an imminent collision.

A Tire Pressure Monitoring System also helps ensure each individual tire is properly inflated. A total of seven airbags, including a knee airbag for the driver, help protect the vehicle’s occupants in the event of a collision. Body structure improvements, complemented by a high-strength fiber-reinforced rear bumper fascia make the entire Ioniq line-up strong and durable in the event of a crash.

CHARGEPOINT®
Hyundai is also working with ChargePoint® to further enhance the Ioniq Electric and Plug-in Hybrid ownership experience. ChargePoint has the world’s largest electric vehicle charging network with more than 32,000 locations at which to charge, including more than 400 Express DC fast-charging sites. ChargePoint locations are rapidly expanding, with customer ease of use as a primary goal at every location.

Ioniq owners will receive welcome kits, informing them with key information and benefits in the use of the ChargePoint charging network, and ChargePoint access cards that are easy to activate. In addition, owners will have the capability to conveniently locate ChargePoint chargers on their mobile devices using the MyHyundai/Blue Link app.

IONIQ New for 2019:

  • Driver Attention Alert and High Beam Assist safety features now available

  • Enhanced, natural-language, server-based voice-recognition and POI-search database provided by HERE™

  • Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist and Smart Cruise Control added to SEL

  • Standard remote charge management for Plug-in and Electric models via Blue Link®

Blue Link®
For 2019, Ioniq models equipped with Blue Link offer complimentary three-year Blue Link services, with enhanced safety, diagnostic, remote and guidance services. Blue Link brings connectivity directly into the car with technologies like Remote Start with Climate Control, Destination Search by Voice, Remote Door Lock/Unlock, Car Finder, Enhanced Roadside Assistance, and Stolen Vehicle Recovery. Blue Link features can be accessed via buttons on the rearview mirror, the MyHyundai.com web portal, via the Blue Link smartphone app and now through the Amazon® Alexa Blue Link skill and Google Assistant®. Some features can also be controlled via Android Wear™ and Apple Watch™ smartwatch apps. Owners of Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid and Electric will also be able manage and monitor their car’s charging schedule remotely via the Blue Link® smartphone app or simply ask Alexa or Google to start and stop charging as needed. This capability to schedule charging is ideal for individuals that experience lower electricity rates during off-peak hours, offering a high level of both convenience and cost efficiency. The latest release of the Blue Link smartphone app includes:

  • Widgets for easy access to remote features, including an Ioniq Electric-specific widget

  • Additional status indicators for trunk and hood open/closed

  • Access to Blue Link notification settings

  • Access to the Hyundai accessories website

Fuel Economy & Sticker Price
Our test model had a fuel economy expectation of 55 MPG and a price tag of $26K for a fully loaded version. At the time of this review, safety ratings had not been complete but check with the Hyundai website for 2019 as ratings may have been updated by then. The 2019 IONIQ is a carry-over model from 2018.

For more info, visit Hyundai Motor America.

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