First Drives - Hyundai IONIQ

Darren Moody has tested the new Hyundai IONIQ and found its range would be more than adequate for the majority of Tasmanian day-to-day and commute driving.

Hyundai has stolen the march in bringing relatively affordable electric vehicles to Australia with the release of a three-vehicle IONIQ range, which includes Hybrid (HEV), Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) and full Battery Electric (BEV) powertrains. Each model is available in two trim levels, mid-spec Elite or Premium.

The headline act for me is the BEV. Featuring an 88kW 295Nm permanent magnet synchronous electric motor powered by 360v 28kWh lithium-ion polymer battery, allowing a real-world range of around 230km, this will alleviate range anxiety for a lot of prospective buyers.

IONIQ is capable of being recharged to 80% capacity is around 23 minutes via a 100kW DC fast charger. A 6.6kW on-board AC charger can charge the battery in as little as 4 hours 25 minutes when connected to a charging station of equal or higher capacity. With the installation of a personal charging station, this will allow a full overnight charge at home.

Drive is to the front wheels via a single-speed reduction gear transmission. The BEV also has a paddle shift operated regenerative function, with three regeneration levels and, when used effectively, will increase your range and reduce wear on brake pads.

On the road the IONIQ BEV is pretty well like any other non-electric vehicle, with the absence of engine noise. There are three switchable drive modes, Eco, Regular and Sport, which adds additional torque as you select each mode. The system was evident when holding a constant throttle position and changing modes. You could immediately feel the additional torque available.

All models have had input from the Australian suspension engineering team to ensure the on-road drive and handling experience meets our standards and deals with our unique road conditions. To a large extent Hyundai have wanted to normalise the IONIQ as much as possible, rather than making it a science experiment.

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If you still have range anxiety, you might consider the PHEV. This model will give you around 63km real-world driving range in EV mode, which more than covers the average commute distance while offering the added piece of mind a of a highly efficient Atkinson cycle petrol engine when the battery gets low. THE PHEV has an 8.9kWh storage battery driving a 44kW 170Nm electric motor via a six-speed dual clutch auto transmission. Charge time via 240v is around two hours fifteen minutes. However, the PHEV can't be charged via a DC fast charger.

While you can operate the PHEV in EV-mode, the petrol engine will seamlessly cut in under certain conditions including cold starts and when you might need more power for fast acceleration or steeper inclines. The official rated combined fuel consumption for the PHEV is 1.1L/100km.

Completing the three-vehicle range is the traditional hybrid that uses a combination of an electric motor and the same 1.6L petrol engine, but battery charging happens when the vehicle is decelerating, through energy regeneration via the electric motor. This is a similar drivetrain to those seen in Toyota Prius and Camry, with the exception of a six-speed DCT auto, where the Toyota models use a CVT auto. Combined fuel consumption for the Elite specification is 3.4L/100km riding on 15" wheels, while the Premium model riding on 17" returns 3.9L/100km.

All models get a full suite of active safety features including forward alert, autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind-spot collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert, driver attention monitoring and active cruise control. The BEV gets an electric park brake, while the others get a foot-operated mechanism. The BEV also adds a smart stop and go system to the active cruise control.

All the usual connectivity options are available via the 8" multimedia touchscreen display with standard Sat Nav that can be used in a split screen mode. There are a multitude of menus within the system, with one section dedicated to electric drivetrain and battery information. You can set a time for charging to commence after you plug in, which may allow you to take advantage of lower power rates when you are fast asleep.  HEV and PHEV get dual-zone climate control while BEV gets single climate control. The BEV can also be set to 'driver-only' mode, which shuts down all but the driver's vents, increasing overall efficiency.  

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Inside there is seating for five in what I'd describe as a large small car. Boot space is a little less than you might expect because some space is taken by the battery. Following the eco-theme, natural and recyclable materials have been used in door trims, with the overall style and ambiance I'd describe as slick and functional, but not luxury. You do, however, get leather appointed seats in the top spec Premium variants and that lifts the overall interior feel.

I'm not totally convinced with the front-end styling on this model, but understand the aerodynamic efficiencies that are created by removing the grille. Hyundai claims a 0.24cd drag coefficient for the BEV, which is an extremely low number. The rear hatch uses a split rear screen to allow for additional rearward vision while maintaining a wind-efficient design. The two hybrid models have a more traditional look at the front with a grille, with the electronics control air inlets on the grille opening and closing based on the amount of cooling required.

IONIQ is the cheapest BEV on the market in Australia and has reasonable real-world range that would be more than adequate for the majority of Tasmanian day-to-day and commute driving, alleviating the pain we are seeing at the petrol pump at the moment and into the future.

Hyundai will also release a BEV Kona SUV in early 2019 that will have a claimed range of more than 400km. IONIQ BEV in Elite specification is $44,990 (plus on road costs), HEV is $33,990 while the PHEV is $40,990. Premium specification adds between $4000 to $5000 depending on the variant. Servicing costs for the BEV over five years total $800, so there are more savings to be found there.

Hyundai has now given us a compelling reason to consider an electric vehicle. Take one for a test drive, I guarantee you will be surprised and delighted.