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(Pocket-lint) - The Hyundai Ioniq 5 is Hyundai's first purely electric car: it's a car that's been designed as electric only, unlike the Kona and the namesake Ioniq, which are also available as hybrid models.

That sets the Ioniq 5 slightly apart from those other popular models, while also signifying a huge step forward for Hyundai. This is car designed to make more of a statement and show Hyundai's serious ambitions with electric cars.

And doesn't it just do that?

Our quick take

The Hyundai Ioniq 5 is one of the more interesting electric cars to make it onto the road in 2021: it marks a step change in Hyundai's approach, building on the success of cars like the Kona Electric and giving customers something a little larger and a little more premium than the existing model.

The real win here is in passenger space, not only from that flat floor, but for that second row of seats - it really is a comfortable car wherever you're sitting. It makes the school run a pleasure, days out with friends a lot more comfortable, while long range driving is offered through those larger battery options too. 

If you're shopping for an electric family car and want something in crossover territory, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 needs to be on your shortlist.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 review: A vision of the future

Hyundai Ioniq 5

5 stars - Pocket-lint editors choice
For
  • Retro cool exterior design
  • Great legroom and refreshing interior
  • Good range and battery options
  • Great to drive
Against
  • Display needs a day/night mode
  • Rear seatbelts can rattle against the sides when not in use
  • No wireless CarPlay or Android Auto

Design

The Ioniq 5 is based on the Hyundai 45 concept which was shown off at the Frankfurt motor show in 2019. While much of the concept is gone, the front design has been retained, as has the diagonal crease down the sides and the matte finish, resulting in a futuristic vision.

In one of those bizarre twists of reality, it looks futuristic because there's some retro sci-fi looks to it especially at the front and rear of the car around the lighting. Catch the car from the side and it's rather more conventional and that's likely to boost its appeal - there's a future and contemporary mix both inside and out.

Pocket-lintHyundai Ioniq 5 photo 5

Matte paint adds to that aesthetic (although it costs extra) and with names like Gravity Gold and Cyber Grey that future feeling continues. Looking at the colour charts, however, these are all rather muted colours - there's no Canary Yellow or Crimson Red to be seen, it's all rather more serious.

Look to the top and our test model had a solar roof fitted, while the wheels are unique to this Ultimate trim level. Hyundai is offering three trims, the SE Connect, Premium (pictured here in Lucid Pearl Blue) and Ultimate (pictured here in Gravity Gold) and as is often the way with Hyundai, options are kept to a minimum, instead variation is offered through the trim levels - including the battery capacity and motor options available to you.

Pocket-lintHyundai Ioniq 5 photo 22

It sits in crossover territory, looks a little more like a big hatch than an SUV, but it has SUV interior space, that feeling of openness in the cabin and reasonable depth to the boot. Hyundai is calling it a CUV (crossover utility vehicle); in reality, it's close in size to the VW ID.4, it just doesn’t look quite as elevated as VW's model and this might partly be down to the optical illusion of design.

On this Ultimate edition, the sills are body coloured, whereas many cars have darker lower sections: at a glance, that can make the Hyundai look more planted and rivals look more lofty, even though they all have smiliar ground clearance.

That boot, however, while giving some 540 litres of space, has a flat floor and there's little practically no space underneath that floor, unlike the ID.4. We think the ID.4 boot is more practical, the sloping hatchback style doesn't give it quite the volume you might expect. The rear seats can slide forward to increase boot space, but stuff will easily drop down the back of those seats if you do so.

Interior

While the exterior reflects that Hyundai has started from scratch with this car, the interior continues that story. There's a flat floor in the cabin, with Hyundai opting to fit a sliding centre console, called the Universal Island on the Ultimate trim. That means you can balance the space front and rear, perhaps giving more foot space for the centre rear passenger - or sliding that back to give more space around the front.

Pocket-lintHyundai Ioniq 5 photo 20

It's partly proving the point that there's no transmission tunnel as you'd find in a combustion car, but foot space in the front isn't hugely useful: you can't put anything there because you need to protect the pedals, so it's more about giving the sense of space rather than creating the opportunity to carry more shopping bags.

Indeed, having lived with a Premium trim model (which doesn't offer the sliding console) we can't say we miss it. What really jumps out is the spaciousness and that the cup holders are in a really practical position, not cluttering up anything else in the cabin, so they're more useful than on many cars. There's also a mass of space between the seats when you lift the armrest, big enough for a decent picnic, while the glove box is more like a bucket - we stowed a DSLR camera in it alongside the car's manuals to keep it out of sight.

The lounge feeling continues, with the front passenger seat offering a decent recline with a footrest (on Ultimate trim), as though you might go to sleep, while the rear seats will recline a little too. The rolling parcel shelf can be mounted in a couple of different positions to accomodate this recline too. 

There is plenty of space, with good legroom in the back and the front, Hyundai really taking advantage of the flat floor and that's perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Ioniq 5. There's plenty of knee space in the rear, you don't feel like you're being hemmed in by interior furniture and that makes a welcome change. Even with a 6ft driver in the front, there's space for a 6 footer behind, with spare space, and that's pretty rare for a car of this external size. Could this be the Tardis? It certainly would like you to think so.

Pocket-lintHyundai Ioniq 5 photo 10

The interior finish is high quality too, noticeably more exotic on the Ultimate trim on the Kona Electric, with softer finishes. The light interior looks great, but we suspect with children in the back it will start to look grey instead, but there are plenty of nice clean and simple lines, again adding to the sense of the futuristic.

The Premium doesn't get such a lavish finish; while it exhibits many of the same design features, like conveniently sculpted places to pull the doors closed rather than handles, there's definitely an uplift in quality as you move to the top trim, with lower level models moving over to harder plastics, for example.

There is a minor detail to look out for: we found that the rear seatbelt buckles could rattle against the side of the car, so you might want to make sure they are out of the way or plugged in before you set off on a drive. It's a minor point, but when you're cruising along the motorway for a couple of hours, it can get a little irritating.

A techy driving position

There are no controls on it on the centre console - the drive selector is on the steering column, allowing you to twist to select the mode, while the handbrake switch is on the dash.

The big thing you'll notice is the pairing of two displays in a bar, one for the driver and one in the centre of the car. It's flat rather than curved as we've seen on some other models - Hyundai doesn't seem to be cosseting the driver like some other models do, which keeps things light and airy, but perhaps doesn't feel as involved as some cars that want to put the driver first.

Pocket-lintHyundai Ioniq 5 photo 32

All the controls are clustered around the steering wheel, however, with easy to use climate controls, buttons for major functions and a proper volume knob on the dash, easy to twizzle. The Ioniq 5 uses a heatpump for the climate control and it's not as immediate as a traditional airconditioner you might be used to, so we found that on cold mornings we had to regularly hit the window demister button to give it a blast to clear the condensation during our drive.

To clean up the steering wheel, Hyundai is using larger clicky controllers rather than individual buttons and these work nicely, with a customisable button too, so you can assign that function to your preference, although the range of functions offered for that button are limited - so it's not as useful as it could be.

The two displays are 12-inches each and while the driver display has a 3D style visual arrangement with graphics to show speed on the left and how the power is being used on the right, the centre part can be customised to your preference. In operation, it's the same as the Hyundai Kona Electric, but with a graphic tweak to make it look more sophisticated.

There are two colour themes for the display, black or white, and unfortunately switching between the two means diving into the setting menu - there's no day/night changover which we think there should be. If you're driving on the white theme, when it gets dark, you're looking at quite a large bar of white light. It does dim - and has a blue light filter (so goes slightly more yellow after dark) - but the black theme is much better for night driving.

The centre display is touch enabled, working in unison with the buttons to let you jump to major areas - map, nav, media. These buttons are useful because the home button on the touchscreen will sometimes hide itself - when in the map for example - and there's no hard home button.

It's pretty easy to get around all the major functions and using Hyundai's native system makes better use of the display than Android Auto, where a section of the display is lost to the name of the connected phone. Apple CarPlay is better, using the full display. 

There's no support for wireless, so you have to plug in your phone, and because of the open cabin you're basically plugging your phone in at floor level ... and then leaving it in a cubby hole at floor level, next to your feet. Although there are other USB sockets in the centre console of the car, only the front one supports connection for smartphones, which seems like an oddity - it's a really strange place to plug in a phone.

One positive thing is that the voice control button on the steering wheel will access either the car's own system (which is average) or on a long press can then access Google Assistant or Siri on your phone when using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay - which is much more flexible for replying to messages, advanced searching and so on. 

Destination finding is pretty good and you can search for charging stations within a couple of taps, with the ability to refine the listings by type (AC, DC) and in some cases brand - although not all brands are represented, including some major players, like Pod Point. We also found the listing wasn't the most up to date, with some listed options being private chargers. We found simliar on the Kona, suggesting a database update is needed.

Battery, range and performance

There are two battery options on the Ioniq 5, the entry-level SE Connect trim only offers the 58kWh battery, while Premium and Ultimate trim also offer the 73kWh battery.

There are then multiple motor options. Again, the SE Connect has one option, the 170PS, which drives the rear wheels. Premium and Ultimate also have that option, along with a higher rated 217PS rear wheel drive, or 305PS dual motor all wheel drive.

That's seven different options, giving a price range (at the time of writing) from £36,995 up to £48,145 through all the trims. Yes, that latter figure would be the price for the Gravity Gold model pictured here, we've also driven the Premium 217PS 73kWh option, which comes in at just over £40k which might be more palatable, offering the longer range but at a more agreeable price.

Pocket-lintHyundai Ioniq 5 photo 25

Twist the stalk to engage D and with a dab on the accelerator you're driving in blissful silence. Well, apart from the sweet hum at low speeds as you feel like you're driving into the future. It is, in reality, an experience that's close to that of driving the Kona, in many respects, but it's more refined, a higher class, of electric car and much more like driving a big German SUV, which will is likely the type of driver that Hyundai is after.

The interesting thing is the drive mode button on the steering wheel. And yes, it's a button not a dial which feels like a missed opportunity. It's begging to be a knurled dial to click through modes like some sort of hypercar, instead it's just a button - with repeated pokes cycling through the modes on offer.

Pocket-lintHyundai Ioniq 5 photo 24

Those modes cover Eco, Normal and Sport, each doing exactly what you expect, and with customisation available through the menus. Each changes the character of how the car drives, especially in relation to the regeneration lift off strength when you lift your foot off the accelerator, and the response you get from the accelerator when you put your foot down.

Hyundai also offers paddles on the steering wheel and these change the strength of the regeneration. That means you can make these changes on the fly, regardless of the driving mode you're in. You can add more regen to Sport, or remove the regen from Eco when driving on the motorway, for example, and just want to coast. We've never taken it out of level 3 regen and while the paddles are nice, we do wonder how many will ever actually use them.

You can hold down the left paddle to trigger i Pedal, which is essentially one-pedal driving, the big difference between this and the top level of regen (level 3) is that using the i Pedal the car will come to a complete halt, whereas on level 3 regen it will slow down to a crawl, but keep moving forward. Single pedal driving is great for stop start driving and you soon get used to judging the distance you'll need to slow completely.

Pocket-lintHyundai Ioniq 5 photo 31

During our first short test drive, we averaged about 3.5 miles per kWh in the Ultimate model with AWD. Taking that figure, you'd get about 255 miles from a full charge; Hyundai cites a range of 310 miles. That's just a snapshot of what you'll get based on typical driving on mixed roads.

In longer term driving in the rear wheel drive model (217PS) with the 73kWh battery, we averaged around 3.8 miles per kWh on motorways (277 miles range), but more like 4.2 miles per kWh in urban driving (306 miles range); we did manage to sit at 5.5 miles per kWh over a shorter drive with plenty of stop-start traffic, but that's not typical on longer drives. The range you'll actually get depends on a number of factors - how you drive, the weather, the route, how the car is loaded, but overall the Ioniq 5 aquits itself well, but it doesn't seem as easy to extract the same sort of averages as we get in the Hyundai Kona, but this might purely come down to size and weight of the vehicle.

The other big thing about the electrical system here is that it supports 220kW charging. That gives capacity to work with the fastest chargers you'll find. 

Pocket-lintHyundai Ioniq 5 photo 16

On the top model there's plenty of pace, with a 0-62mph time of 5.2 seconds and while that won't worry Tesla, there's more pace than the likes of the VW ID.4. But like all electric cars, it's the instant torque off the line - and all in reletive silence - that makes this a pleasure to drive, and that's true of all models.

The cruise control rolls into the driver assitance systems and will also offer a little more. It's adaptive, so will keep distance from the car in front, but it will also offer steering assistance, or "lane follow assist", while in the options for assisted lane changing too. While the lane follow assistance can be very good, we found it would often make micro adjustments when it was supposed to be driving straight - a little like B.A. Baracus the A-Team van. This can be uncomfortable because you'll end up fighting with it, so more often than not we turned it off.

It will also quickly stop following roads when the lines become indistinct - which is common in the UK - as always, you need to have your hands on the wheel at all times to remain in control of the vehicle.

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Generally the Ioniq 5 drives very nicely, giving you a good position on the road, plenty of visibility thanks to those nice big windows and loads of comfort. The abundance of space really makes a difference, making this a great place to be for longer journeys, with a ride that feels controlled enough to not wallow in the corners, while taking the sting out of broken roads.

To recap

The Hyundai Ioniq 5 brings with it the excitement of a brand new car: it feels unique, it feels special, while pulling in the experience from Hyundai's previous electric cars. The Ioniq 5 is an EV that's going to be popular for some time.

Writing by Chris Hall.