Hyundai’s Ioniq should perhaps be called the Uniq as it is the only environmentally friendly family hatchback that you can get as either a normal hybrid, a plug-in-hybrid, or a full battery-only EV.
Unfortunately for Hyundai, the UK launch of the Plug-in hybrid piece of the jigsaw has been held up by battery shortages. That’s unfortunate because it would have given Hyundai early bragging rights on claimed fuel economy and emissions, rights that were bagged by Toyota’s Prius Plug-in.
Anyway, battery shortage overcome, Hyundai is hoping to have cars in British showrooms this autumn. Is it worth waiting for?
Well, this derivative is basically the same as the regular hybrid apart from its much bigger and more powerful lithium-ion drive battery and the ‘Type II’ electrical charging socket it needs for mains charging. With a 8.9kWh capacity, the battery take just over two hours to be replenished from a 16-amp wallbox.
The petrol side of the equation is supplied by a 104bhp 1.6-litre engine. Drive from this and the single 60bhp electric motor is taken to the front wheels by a six-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox.
The Ioniq Plug-in isn’t intended to take on sportier ‘PHEV’ hatchbacks. Its raison d’etre is to make plug-in hybrid technology more affordable to a wider audience. So, it’s not an exciting drive. It’s more about worthiness and functionality.
You’ve got three modes: ‘EV’, ‘HEV Hybrid’ and ‘Sport’. Our experience is that you should be able to get about 30 miles of electric-only general motoring out of it – a bit less than Hyundai’s 39-mile claim, but very much in the same ballpark as the Toyota plug-in. Over a mixed 100-mile test route we got a very decent 85.6mpg.
The electric motor gives sufficient urban urge to around 50mph, and the Ioniq will motorway-cruised on electricity only, but getting it up to those speeds requires the petrol engine to join in. It’s a shame that’s it’s not easier to exclude the petrol engine by way of some sort of haptic accelerator pedal or similar. Even when you’re in ‘EV’ mode the Ioniq will often trip itself into unwanted ‘Hybrid’ mode.
Go for ‘Sport’ mode to encourage the Ioniq into having a go at entertaining you and you’ll detect an unwelcome weight coming into the steering. The gearbox gets a little confused by demands for performance, the already lumpen ride deteriorates during enthusiastic cornering and the less than generous grip starts to run out.
Leave it in ‘HEV Hybrid’ mode once the battery has run down though and the Ioniq seems more at ease. The class-typical artificiality of both steering and braking make smooth driving harder than strictly necessary, but the allure of minimised fuel stops compensates for a lot.
Inside, there’s very little difference between the Plug-in and the other two Ioniqs. It’s a pretty big and roomy hatchback with good width and legroom in the back but slightly tight headroom….