FIRST DRIVE: Hyundai about to launch green attack on Prius
GREEN shoots are emerging from Hyundai. This Ioniq could literally become first cab off the rank.
Hunting the Toyota Prius, this hybrid uses similar technology - combining a four-cylinder engine supplemented by a battery-powered electric motor - which offers miserly fuel consumption while boasting the practicality of five seats in a hatch shape.
The top-shelf Ioniq Hybrid with leather trim and impressive infotainment system is forecast to retail for more than a Corolla Hybrid ($27,530) yet undercut the Prius ($35,400).
Scheduled for release in August this year, the Ioniq Hybrid will be accompanied by plug-in hybrid and full electric derivatives.
From behind the Ioniq looks Prius-esque, yet from all other angles it has mainstream appeal.
Look no further than your nearest taxi rank to see the popularity of the Prius. Compared to the old Ford Falcon station wagons, they're cheaper to run on fuel and don't have anywhere near the maintenance issues.
Over two decades the Prius has also developed a following, especially in Hollywood, now Hyundai is looking to muscle in on the green turf.
Life's luxuries will come standard if the analysis vehicle is any indication.
Complete with leather-trimmed seats, eight-inch colour touch-screen armed with satnav (plus live traffic updates) as well as full Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring apps compatibility, automatic wipers and lights, sunroof and push button start.
A rare inclusion is a full-size alloy spare wheel - most modern offerings have a space saver or repair goop.
Hyundai is also considering a cheaper variant with less equipment for Australia.
Backed by the usual five-year unlimited kilometres warranty, the Ioniq battery has manufacturer coverage for eight years, while servicing is the usual 15,000km/12 months. It will also have a capped price plan, which will be revealed closer to launch.
For those not prepared to take the leap into electric, this hybrid functionality is an intermediate step which requires no charging.
The Ioniq's smarts do all the work: the engine uses regenerative forces when coasting down hills or braking to deliver power to the battery. That energy is then used by an electric motor which helps propel the car from rest or provide a boost while on the move.
Set the display screen to a diagram and you can see exactly where all the energy is headed...it can become compelling viewing.
Off the line and the Ioniq is responsive, but there is certainly no need for a neck brace. Achieving the 0-100km/h sprint in about 10 seconds the performance is on par with most mainstream four-cylinder variants.
Compared to its closest rival the Prius, the Ioniq has more power and torque, while also using a twin-clutch automatic transmission compared to the traditionally lacklustre continuously variable transmission.
Hyundai's hybrid also has a sport mode which makes the hatch surprisingly nifty, while there are also shift paddles on the steering wheel so you can swap cogs yourself to either save fuel or press for performance.
The steering is light yet accurate, while it managed to soak up the bumps well and is no slouch in the corners.
Following nearly a week and more than 300km, the Ioniq finished with an average of 3.8 litres for every 100km on the highway, and one litre more overall after some work around town.
Despite having leather trim and a sunroof, the interior lacks some verve. The driver has a digital instrument cluster and there is also sport display, but the remainder of the cabin is totalitarian with good cup holders and easy access to USB and auxiliary ports.
It has a five-star rating, being armed with autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection that can apply the brakes to help avoid an accident when travelling forward and reverse, blind spot warning, lane keeping assist and radar cruise control which always maintains one of three pre-set distances from the vehicle in front, it's sure to rank highly.
For those environmentally conscious, the Ioniq is a green driver without shouting its credentials courtesy of a gawky exterior.
This hybrid will be accompanied by a plug-in hybrid and pure electric versions, with 50km and 280km of petrol-free driving range respectively.
It's an exciting start into a new genre for Hyundai, an a great option for anyone chasing a useful hatch with miserly fuel consumption. It may not be saving the world one drive at a time, but it certainly has more than a green tinge.
AT A GLANCE
PRICE Expect low $30,000 range (estimated).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING 5 yrs/unlimited km, servicing intervals are 15,000km / 12 months. Battery warranty eight years.
ENGINE 1.6-litre 4-cyl hybrid with 1.56kwh battery 104kW/265Nm (solid).
SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot detection, forward collision warning, lane change assist, lane keeping assist system, rear cross traffic alert, smart cruise control (excellent)
THIRST 3.9 litres/100km (ok, 4.8L on test)
SPARE Full size alloy (brilliant)
BOOT 456 litres to top of seats (good)