Sunday, October 1, 2017



I have never been a big fan of the Toyota Prius, no matter what version (Prius Hatchback, Prius C, Prius Prime, or Prius v Wagon) you are talking about.

When they first came to the U.S. 17 years or so ago, I ran a few numbers and immediately thought, “Wow. You're going to have to drive a lot of miles to make up in savings on gas what you are paying in up front costs.”

Plus, I thought the interior was full of a lot of cheap materials, likely a necessity to make up for the cost of the hybrid technology. (Even then they initially were sold for a loss here.) Having what instrument panel there was over in the middle of the dash made for an uncomfortable feeling, and I didn’t like the way the gear selector stuck up out of the dash.

Frankly, I thought the introduction of hybrid powertrains into models like the Camry, Accord, or Malibu would eventually bring about the demise of the Prius, but I was definitely wrong about that. The Prius seems to be as popular as ever.

But if the Fusion Hybrid can't knock the Prius from its perch, perhaps Hyundai has a vehicle that will.

That shouldn’t be a surprise. The South Korean automaker seems to have a knack for taking technology and features that other companies have created and refining them to the point where they are actually better than the original and not some cheap knockoff.

Like the Hyundai Ioniq.

Hyundai added this hatchback to its portfolio in 2017, offering three different drivetrains. There is the conventional gas-electric hybrid system, a plug-in version, and a fully electric model, all of which went on sale earlier this year in the U.S.

Hyundai claims a range of 124 miles for the Ioniq Electric and says that using a DC fast charger can get the battery up to 80 percent capacity in just 23 minutes.

The plug-in also offers a battery-only range of up to 25 miles.

And the traditional hybrid setup in the Base Blue trim offers up to 58 miles per gallon in fuel efficiency, which is better than the EPA rating of the basic Prius Hatchback's 52 mpg.

The Ioniq Hybrid Limited that I had for a week carries fuel ratings of 55 mpg city, 54 highway and 55 overall, which puts it at the top of its segment, and with a base MSRP of $28,355 (including $835 destination and delivery) it's very competitive in price as well. The Base Ioniq Blue checks in at around $23,000, which is less than the least expensive Prius.

But there is more to the Ioniq than mere powertrain and price. Yes, it’s nice to punch the start button and see the instrument panel light up showing that you have a range of over 550 miles for your use, but I like to have something that looks good sitting in the driveway as well.

No, the Ioniq doesn’t get the juices flowing like having a 911 Porsche sitting outside my house would, but it looks sharp, and it isn’t funkiness that draws the attention.

With its sleek profile and eye-catching exterior, the Ioniq has the appeal of a sports coupe with its flowing lines, bold grille, LED daytime running lights and cat eye-like headlamps featuring HID lights (standard on the Limited trim). The profile may be somewhat reminiscent of the Prius, but the details are a huge step up in sex appeal. It’s a real car, not something a science fiction writer would conjure up.

Inside, the Ioniq has an attractive cabin with high quality materials and operation of technological functions arranged in an intuitive, user-friendly manner. One of Hyundai’s strengths seems to be that its designers take the approach that technology is supposed to simplify and amplify life, not overly complicate it. It works for me for sure.

Standard equipment in the Ioniq Limited includes safety features like blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist, a rearview camera, 17-inch alloy wheels, a tilt-and-slide sunroof, push-button start, dual climate control, leather seating surfaces, satellite radio capability, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay systems, and Hyundai’s Blue Link system.

Our test vehicle also featured options like an easy-to-operate navigation system, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, rear parking sensors, premium audio, and wireless device charging for compatible Smart phones that ran the total MSRP to $31,460.

Driving the Ioniq Hybrid doesn’t fall into the category of “thrilling” but neither is it “boring.” Pleasant might be the the best way to describe it. The 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine produces 104 horsepower and 109 pound-feet of torque that is augmented by the horsepower electric motor.

Combined net horsepower is rated at 139, which gets to the front wheels via a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission that essentially operates as an automatic. But no paddle shifters. Sigh.

To kick up the fun, you can switch to sport mode and get much quicker throttle responses than the standard zero-to-60 mph time of 8.9 seconds, which is over a second quicker than the 2017 Prius Prime and a half-second faster than the standard 2016 Prius, according to the website, though some other sources report slightly slower times for the Ioniq.

Sport mode also gives a boost to the handling characteristics to add to the driving experience.

The bottom line here really is that with the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited you forget you are behind the wheel of a traditional gas-electric hybrid, which, to me, is a good thing.
Oh. Keep in mind that there are some differences in what is offered on the Ioniq Plug-In or Ioniq Electric.

What I liked about the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited: The technology is really very easy to operate, and the driving experience when put in sport mode is a fun one. Storage room is very good (26.5 cubic feet). The annoying whine that is heard on many hybrids when slowing to a stop isn’t in evidence with the Ioniq.

What I didn’t like about the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited: Perhaps because of its hatchback configuration, Hyundai designers haven’t solved the issue of the cross bar that splits the rear liftgate that just about any Prius driver will tell you can be a visual distraction when looking in the rearview mirror.

Would I buy the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited? Yes. I’ve not gotten aboard the hybrid bandwagon in the past, but this is one that I certainly wouldn’t mind owning.

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