Hyundai Ioniq true to its word

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Slipping behind the wheel, the test car provided comfortable seating, decent visibility and plenty of storage options. Photo: David Thomson

How about this for an illustration of the rapid march of electric vehicle (EV) technology.

Six years ago, Drivesouth sampled an all-electric car the Mitsubishi iMiEV on Otago roads for the first time. After some gentle motoring around central Dunedin, we boldly ventured over Three Mile Hill, briefly tootled around North Taieri, and were relieved to makeit back to the local dealer before the battery fully discharged. Four years ago, the highlight of an all-electric week with the Holden Volt was a return run to Dunedin Airport, completed under
battery power by the narrowest of margins.

Today, several dozens of folk in Otago own EV cars such as the Nissan Leaf that easily meet their round town and local regional motoring needs. But, as Tom McKinlay explains in the side story that accompanies this test, EV journeys between the various regions that comprise our fine province, let alone further afield, are not that straightforward

But combine the capabilities of next-generation electric vehicles such as the Hyundai Ioniq with pending additions to the lower South Island's network of fast-charge facilities and we are looking at an electric motoring game changer.

Utilising the same underlying platform as the Kia Niro hybrid SUV that featured on these pages last week, the Ioniq is propulsion systems aside a conventionally packaged mid- sized hatchback. Unlike the Niro, it is available right now and in a choice of petrol-electric hybrid or all-electric forms.

Although a plug-in hybrid version is likely for 2018, the Ioniq hybrid you can buy now is anold-style hybrid, in which the electric motor largely supplements, rather than supplants, thepetrol engine. It's list price is $46,990 in standard form, and $52,990 in fully-speced Elite guise.Opting for the hybrid version will certainly save you a few dollars at the pumps, but you will still burn fossil fuel on every trip you make.

Stepping up to the genuinely carbon zero alternative, the Ioniq EV also comes in standard and Elite forms. In each case, the price premium over the hybrid is $13,000. This being so, at current petrol prices you'll be relying on the Ioniq EV to hold its re-sale value better than the hybrid for your purchase to make financial sense. But an increasing number of buyers - both business and private - will also place a value on the environmental benefits of their EV choice.

The Ioniq version supplied for appraisal was the flagship $65,990 Elite. Styling-wise, the Ioniq is a strikingly (almost boringly) mainstream five-door hatch.

Subtle badging and energy-efficient Michelin tyres aside, the only exterior giveaway to its EV identity is a nose that has no air intakes (not needed, as there is no radiator to cool), and the absence of a tailpipe. Inside, the test car flaunted its EV credentials more: copper-coloured highlighting on key trim surrounds and in the seat stitching and piping symbolise its all- electric status; various control instruments and displays are EV-appropriate too.

In Elite guise, the Ioniq cabin has a nice feel. The seats are leather trimmed, and soft-touch surfacing is extensively deployed. Further luxury touches include heated seats front and rear, a heated steering wheel, a wireless phone charger, keyless entry and start, a large centre touchscreen and smartphone- compatible ICT interface. As with the Kia Niro, the passenger-side ventilation system can be completely disabled to reduce energy use.

Important active safety boxes are also ticked, with radar cruise control, lane departure and blind-spot monitoring, and emergency brake assist systems all fitted. These attributes have helped the Ioniq to the maximum five-star rating under the latest and most stringent NCAP safety rating regime.

Slipping behind the wheel, the test car provided comfortable seating, decent visibility and plenty of storage options, including a large open bin at the base of the centre console. Because of their torque and power characteristics, cars powered by electric motors do not need conventional gearboxes. Hence, on the Ioniq, there is no gear lever.

In its place there are four simple buttons, one to go forward, one to go back, one to select neutral, and one to engage park. Similarly, the shift paddles tucked behind the steering wheel take on a new role, altering the aggressiveness of the car's regenerative braking system.

The Ioniq provides three drive settings: eco, normal and sport. The latter showcases the responsiveness that comes from an electric motor's ability to provide maximum torque almost instantaneously.

The rate at which the Ioniq can accelerate in this mode will catch those not familiar with electric propulsions systems by surprise: the Ioniq EV is appreciably quicker off the mark than its nominally more powerful hybrid counterpart, and accelerates at least as strongly as comparable petrol- powered vehicles.

Performance in eco mode is less impressive, but still more than adequate for everyday driving. Most importantly, it is the mode that maximises the Ioniq's range potential.

With Tom having explored that potential to the full, I was content to stick close to town during my time with the test car.

During five days and 220km of everyday driving, including a couple of short motorway and back road forays in sport mode, the Ioniq required only one battery recharge. Accepting that rear headroom is compromised by the car's plunging roofline, and that the boot is shallow, the Ioniq is no less practical as round-town transport than a conventional five-door hatchback.

It's similarly accomplished out on the highway, although some of the refinement gain that comes from having a silent electric motor propelling the vehicle is eroded by high levels of road noise over coarse-chip surfaces.

Handling is tidy, although the steering provides very little feel, and the low-rolling resistance tyres fitted to optimise economy contribute to early-onset understeer during moderate to hard cornering. New recruits to electric vehicle motoring will also find the regenerative braking takes some getting used to, especially in eco.

Dwelling on these less positive aspects of the Ioniq misses the point though: we are in the early stages of the most profound change to personal transport since Henry Ford introduced his Model-T to the world over a century ago; the Ioniq is both symbolic of the gathering pace of that change, and an accomplished contributor to it.Drive electric

Nine models of electric vehicle will be available for test rides
and drives at the Dunedin EV Big Day Out!, Sunday,
September 10, Forsyth Barr Stadium east carpark from noon.

 - by Tom McKinlay


Hyundai Ioniq true to its word
At a Glance
Overall: ★★★★
Design and styling: ★★★+
Interior: ★★★★
Performance: ★★★★
Ride/handling: ★★★+
Safety: ★★★★★
Environmental: ★★★★★

For: Range, performance and practicality
Against: Handling and boot space suffer a little in the
EV cause
Verdict: A glimpse of the future, here now

Price (as tested): $65,990 (standard EV $59,990)
Motor: Electric motor, 28kW battery, maximum power
77kW, maximum torque 295Nm
Transmission: Single speed reduction gear, front-
wheel drive
Brakes and stability systems: Disc/disc brakes, ABS,
Safety rating: Five-star Euro NCAP
Wheels, tyres: Alloy wheels, 225/55 R16 tyres
Fuel and economy: Electricity, 28kW battery (nominal
range on full charge, 200km)
Emissions: Zero emissions
Dimensions: Length 4470mm, width 1820mm, height



RATING (4/5)