Road Test: 2018 Hyundai Ioniq PHEV

Hyundai has joined the plug-in hybrid game with the 2018 Ioniq PHEV. Competing with the Volt and Prius Prime, the Ioniq offers a more mainstream design and a significant value. Hyundai’s approach for the Ioniq is to deliver an uncompromising design and driving experience coupled with the latest in safety and convenience technologies,.

Ioniq plug-in hybrid offers a sleek, aerodynamic silhouette with an industry-leading 0.24 Cd derived from carefully designed surfaces. According to Hyundai, throughout the entire development phase, engineers and designers worked closely to ensure that form and function evolved simultaneously in a complementary fashion. Its fluid exterior shape and smooth air flow channels emphasize aerodynamic body lines and design forms.

The powertrain is the foundation of the secret sauce for top efficiency. Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid provides an all-electric range of more than 29 miles, 119 MPGe in EV mode and 52 MPG in hybrid mode based on EPA estimates. Power for that range comes from a potent 8.9 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery. Under the hood is a new Kappa 1.6L direct-injected Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine with an unsurpassed thermal efficiency of 40%, delivering 104 horsepower and 109 lb.-ft. of torque.

The engine is mated to 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 major difference from the majority of other hybrid and PHEV cars that use a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).

Enhancing the car’s fuel efficiency and driving characteristics, we evaluated the Ioniq’s SPORT or ECO modes. The SPORT function holds lower gears longer and combines power from the engine and electric motor for maximum performance. In ECO mode, the DCT optimizes gear selection for efficiency, upshifting earlier to achieve class-leading fuel economy.

In order to keep the center of gravity low, the battery system was placed underneath the rear seats so that the cabin and cargo area are uncompromised; total interior volume is 119.2 cubic feet.

During our week of evaluation, Ioniq’s responsiveness and feedback from the steering system was 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. According to Hyundai, regenerative braking also operates with reduced noise, using a third-generation recuperating stopping system. Regen braking force can be adjusted 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.

Low-rolling-resistance tires from Michelin and a 3-stage louvered grille give Ioniq greater efficiency too.

In addition to general exterior design details from the Hybrid, such as the hexagonal grille and the vertical C-shaped LED daytime running lights, Ioniq PHEV also features low-beam LED headlamps.

The charging port is on the left front fender while the fuel door is on the rear left.

Inside, the Ioniq is smooth, elegant and clutter-free with efficient use of interior space. Interior materials are ecologically-sensitive; the door covers are made of plastic combined with powdered wood and volcanic stone, and the headliner and carpet are partially made of sugar cane.

The climate control system is super efficient, with a “driver only” mode that blows air through vent only on the driver side and thus reduces the amount of work the HVAC system has to do. We were glad to see console-mounted rear air vents for passengers in the back.

In the instrument cluster, the Ioniq features a high def 7″ screen. It displays all gauge functions (speedometer, drive mode, fuel level).

On the infotainment front, we love that the Ioniq features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Blue Link, as well as wireless charging for smartphones. The 7″ screen mounted in the center of the dashboard is easy to reach from either front seat, and is very responsive.

Our tester didn’t feature the Smart Cruise system, so we can’t say how the system worked, but we nearly always recommend them when buying a new car.

New for 2018, Alexa is integrated with Blue Link, so all you have to do is ask Alexa to start and stop charging as needed when electrical rates are lower.

Ioniq offers Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist function, Blind Spot Detection and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, rear parking sensors and headlights with Dynamic Bending Light (DBL). They’re all optional and we highly recommend them.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling 7
Braking 9
Powertrain and Fuel Economy 10
Noise 10
Headlights 7
Interior Fit and Finish 7
Seating 8
Visibility 8
Gauges and Controls 10
Infotainment 10
Crash-Avoidance 5
Total Score 82

Make: Hyundai
Model: Ioniq
Trim Level: Plug-In Hybrid
Engine: 1.6L
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic

Base Price: $24,000
As-Tested Price: $25,885

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