Back in 2016 we reviewed the Hyundai Ioniq, which came available in three flavours: Plug-In Hybrid, Hybrid (with built-in battery), and fully electric. For 2019, Hyundai has come back to the latter two of these, giving the Ioniq not only the face-lift treatment in design terms, but a whole new in-car tech suite that steps up its appeal even more.
With electric vehicles (EVs) gathering more and more appeal, and with charging stations becoming more plentiful as councils, work-places and investors begin to support them, the Ioniq Electric is a measured, sensible and appealing all-electric and zero emissions purchase option.
We drove it for a day from Amsterdam to near Apeldoorn in the Netherlands and back, to get a full experience of rush-hour traffic, motorway cruising, and village get-abouting. Is it the most sensible family EV on the market right now?
Cultures differ, which is what makes them exciting, but not always immediately accessible. There's a certain school of thought from the Asian car-design regions - Korea and Japan in particular - that has embraced the futuristic, and while the Ioniq isn't as outlandish as the latest Toyota Prius (those rear lights, errmagad) it's still a striking and somewhat alien-looking vehicle. A bit like cultural difference: we find that exciting; others may find it less accessible.
Compared to the softer, 3d-printed-like 2016 original, the 2019 facelift has a lot more distinction in its nose area. That front grille doesn't wrap around as a single piece any more, instead separating the grille - which has automatically opening vents, those two cut-out regions, to aid cooling as required - from the headlight areas to more successful effect. In a sense it's a bit more normal and casual in appearance, the added texture to the front a nod to conventional car grilles.
But really it's those lights that give its face a lot more presence than before. With full LED headlights, including daylight running, the Ioniq cuts a certain signature look in this regard. We think it's rather fetching; futuristic yet very now, without trying too hard. It comes with 16-inch alloys as standard too, to keep the design suitably modern and add a touch of high-end.
Interior & Tech
It's inside where things are rather different compared to the 2016 model, mainly because there's a completely redesigned dash with integrated, raised 10.25-inch touchscreen (there are touch-sensitive button area controls, too, to ensure ease of use for all).
Well, that's if you pick the pricier of the two Ioniq outlays. Hyundai is great when it comes to keeping options simple and the Ioniq Electric is no different. In its Premium trim it starts at £29,450. In Premium SE trim that goes up to £31,450. While that £2,000 might sound like a lot, it also delivers a lot: electric adjustable seats, including memory position, make getting in and out of a perfectly positioned drivers' seat that much better. The 10.25-inch screen would otherwise be a smaller 7-inch one, which we think would probably look lost in such a raised position. There's also rear heated seats, driver ventilated seat (great on the back on a hot day), and more in how far-reaching the tech and safety options are too. Sure, it's nearly £2k, but it seems like a no-brainer to us. The only other cost is paint, at £565 extra, unless you want Polar White.
Sat in the Ioniq Electric and everything is well laid-out, the main dash is easy to reach, easy to see without being too distracting, and we particularly like how the design makes it look fully integrated into the design - as if it's all cut from the same cloth, not plonked in as a after-thought. The seats are comfortable, while the large metal pedals and footrest are another nod to that high-end we mentioned before. No, the interior isn't the most plush you'll find in a car - but it's a welcome step beyond the previous model.
The big thing is just how much tech is crammed into the Premium SE without needing to tick a thousand extra options boxes. There's a capable sat nav system, radio and media options, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connections if you wish to use your phone, adaptive cruise control with stop-start, lane-keep with steering assist, blind spot detection, rear reversing camera and, well, all the stuff you could want to keep you entertained and keep you safe.
There's also a second 7-inch driver's screen, which is where digital dials - adjustable on command - will show up, or you can select from a variety of other options from the list above, making at-a-glance navigation all the easier, for example, or to have a constant speed sign recognition system let you know where you're at relative to the speed limit. It's another slice of the future that's becoming more commonplace in cars these days and, again, is most welcome here.
The only thing that feels somewhat retro are the icons present in the main system. When we drove the Kona Electric, we found these little icons to look a bit Windows Phone-like. They haven't changed much since, either, so you'll have to forgive their simplistic appearance. A more colour-designated system, giving specific settings/features their own tiles, colour associations and larger images/symbols would look much more modern.
There's also Hyundai BlueLink, the associated app, which allows you to monitor, remote lock, remote heat, and check on the car. You can even see where it's been on a map (not that it'll be driving itself - well, not yet, although Hyundai is working on autonomous technologies). This has been available in the States for an age, but is finally rolling out to wider regions, including the UK. It's not a must-use, but it's a nice-to-have that's genuinely useful. Especially for an all-electric car, as you need to know how charging is going - and this is a great way to monitor those levels.
Drive & Range
The other new feature in the 2019 Ioniq Electric is a new electric powertrain. The e-motor system is designed in house and is said to offer up to 311km range (193 miles) based on the WLTP system. That's a supposed 10 per cent boost over the 280km/174m 2016 model.
You will need to keep that firmly in mind when it comes to driving, of course, as you can't just top-up with a bit of petrol or diesel. This is an all-electric solution, so those longer drives need to be thought out more thoroughly. As will planning for recharging stations.
When you do need to plug in there are a variety of options. The 7.2kW on-board charger will take six hours to charge from dead to full, which is based on a home or public A/C station use. If you can access a DC charging station, then dead to 80 per cent charge is possible in under an hour.
How that range pans out will depend on driving style. Push that electric motor hard all the time and you won't get as far overall. But Hyundai also has driving styles - normal, eco and sport - which adapt how much regenerative braking they will action. It's also possible to adjust this regeneration level from levels 1-3 (light-through-heavy) on the fly, using paddles around the steering wheel. If you opt for lighter regeneration then lift you foot off the accelerator and you'll feel some braking - you can more-or-less drive with one foot in this form, rarely needing the brake at all. Up this level to 2 and it's much firmer on the brakes, lv3 even more so. But this more persistent regeneration is better for recouping energy back into the battery. Not all will appreciate it, which is why the modes and manual override options are a great feature.
As driving goes, the Ioniq Electric is nippy enough, so you don't feel hampered by it being electric-only to any degree. It's a bit warbly at times though; we could really feel subtle wind drafts when driving down the highways in the Netherlands. Around village roads the Ioniq just feels, well, kind of sensible and measured. It's smooth and sort-of forgettable, which is perfect for what it is, really.
Our biggest take-away from the driving was the addition of so many safety features and assists. The stop-start cruise control is particularly good, although it's a bit heavy on the brakes when someone pulls in front and then a little reluctant to get back on pace again after. But given how little you'll need to touch the pedals in this condition just makes driving so very easy. The lane detection and steering assist can get confused in some areas - often because we forgot it was still on, really - which can be a minor nuisance, but it's easily deactivated with a single button press.
- Future electric cars: Upcoming battery-powered cars that will be on the roads within the next 5 years
With growing interest in electric vehicles (EVs) the 2019 Hyundai Ioniq is very sensibly pitched. There's no mucking about with dozens of options boxes, you'll get great tech and safety features whether you pick the Premium or Premium SE grade - although the latter will push into the £31k+ mark, so it's not an ultra-affordable EV in that regard.
The Ioniq Electric is a measured and sensible EV for the whole family though. Whether you need a green runabout or something to handle longer journeys, this latest model's increased range - to 311km/193m, which realistically we think will cover 241km/150m - will get you from A to B without issue. The vast array of safety features and assists are a bonus, while the on-board tech suite is a big step forward for this car that make it all the more appealing.
The only real issue for the Ioniq Electric? Well, it's two fold. One, an all-electric won't be for everyone just yet - what with range anxiety and overall purchase cost. Thus the Ioniq Hybrid may be a better compromise. Two, the competition is strong: the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe are both compelling alternatives. With the interest increasing and the investment following suit, this is a more competitive market than ever before. But the Ioniq is a very strong competitor in its field, delivering exactly what it needs to - making it the perfect choice for many would-be EV buyers.
Nissan Leaf e+
A similar proposition in many respects, the Leaf e+ is a little pricier, but offers yet more range (385km/239m). It's starting to knock on the door of Tesla Model 3 pricing, though.