2018 Hyundai IONIQ Plug-In Hybrid Test Drive Review

7 months ago by Steven Ewing 22

2018 Hyundai IONIQ Plug In

2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Prototype Review: Move Over, Prius

Hyundai’s plug-in Ioniq does everything your Prius Prime can do, but better.

– Superior Township, Michigan

The Hyundai Ioniq isn’t just one car – it’s three, all with slightly different missions to capture the attention of eco-minded shoppers. Green car editor Sebastian Blanco spent a lot of time with the 58-mile-per-gallon Ioniq Hybrid and the all-electric Ioniq EV during his initial test in February. The missing piece is Hyundai’s Ioniq Plug-In, which arrives at the end of 2017 as a 2018 model.

There’s a lot of unknown data about the Plug-In model; Hyundai won’t release fuel economy and pricing data until closer to the car’s on-sale date. The PHEV uses the same 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine as the Ioniq Hybrid, but has a larger, 8.9-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, and puts out a combined system output of 139 horsepower. Hyundai says the Plug-In will offer at least 27 miles of electric range when fully charged, and considering it uses the same powertrain as the Hybrid in the same package, a fuel economy rating somewhere around 58 mpg doesn’t seem out of reach.

2018 Hyundai IONIQ Plug In

But following a quick spin around Hyundai’s technical center in southeast Michigan, one thing is for sure. The Ioniq Plug-In is a better looking, better driving car than Toyota’s Prius Prime, and puts the whole PHEV package in a car that feels, well, normal.

Pros

Looks like… a car. I think the Toyota Prius and its Prime sibling are two of the ugliest cars in the world right now. This Ioniq, on the other hand, looks like it could pass for an Elantra hatchback if you didn’t know any better. It’s handsome, with clean lines and model-specific 16-inch wheels. If you’re put off by the homely new Prius, you’ll find salvation in Hyundai’s attractive new Ioniq.

Functional, comfortable interior. The Ioniq Plug-In offers lots of passenger space, both front and back, and every one of the cabin’s controls is easy to use and logically arranged. You don’t get the huge, vertically oriented infotainment screen of the Prius Prime, but you get all the same technology, not to mention rear seats that are actually usable for real people. Open the hatchback and there’s 23.8 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats; fold them down, and there’s even more room (though Hyundai doesn’t have that spec just yet). What you’re getting with the Ioniq PHEV is the interior comfort and functionality of a standard Prius, with the efficiency of the smaller, sedan-shaped Prime.

2018 Hyundai IONIQ Plug In

Actually fun to drive. No joke, the Ioniq is super pleasant to scoot around in – more so, in fact, than its competitors. I could use more steering feedback, but the action is progressive with accurate response. The chassis is nicely composed, and this car doesn’t hate being hustled into a bend or two, its Michelin Energy Saver 205/55R16 tires not exhibiting a lot of the understeer-heavy characteristics of other low-rolling-resistance eco tires. Overall, the experience feels similar to that of a typical gas-engine car. This is one compact plug-in hybrid that doesn’t feel weird from behind the wheel.

2018 Hyundai IONIQ Plug In

Cons

Transmission troubles. Hyundai is proud of the fact that its Ioniq Hybrid and Plug-In use a dual-clutch transmission instead of a CVT, like most gasoline/electric cars. With the gas engine running, it means you get smooth, quick shifts, all part of Hyundai’s work to make the Ioniq family feel like a “normal” car behind the wheel. But when you’re running on electric-only power, the transmission’s shifts are far more noticeable – power sort of cuts away for a brief second while the next gear is selected. You notice it when accelerating from a stop, and until the gas engine kicks in, it’s surprisingly jarring.

Tough competition. Never mind the Prius Prime, there’s a lot of competition in the plug-in hybrid space these days, at varying price points. The Ioniq Plug-In package is very attractive, and should be priced under $30,000 when it goes on sale, but remember that for a little more money, you can get a Chevy Volt with a 53-mile EV range, or the upcoming Honda Clarity, which is a much larger car with 42 miles of electric range.

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22 responses to "2018 Hyundai IONIQ Plug-In Hybrid Test Drive Review"

  1. philip d says:

    I would imagine this will get squeezed from both ends by the Clarity PHEV and the Volt.

    The Volt has twice the EV range and more performance in pure EV mode while the Clarity has more interior functionality, performance and while less than the Volt it has more range than the Ioniq.

    1. SparkEV says:

      Seeing how well Prius Prime is doing, I wouldn’t be so sure IoniqPH will be squeezed.

      As with all PHV, I hope they don’t “ICE” charging spots. Other than few Volt, all the PHV I’ve seen in EV charging spots were not plugged in and/or not charging. Sometimes, they take DCFC spot.

  2. F150 Brian says:

    Not ugly like a Prius Prime: agreed
    Handsome: not so much.

    Even with mixed reports on attractiveness, Volt, Prius and Ioniq PHEV will clearly demonstrate that PHEVs are more widely accepted than BEVs, at least in the near term.

    1. Tom says:

      Don’t forget the soon to be here Kia Niro PHEV. That thing is going to sell like hot cakes if the initial hybrid version sales are any indication.

  3. DJ says:

    OOC is there an actual date as to when the Ioniq BEV will actually be released in the US apart from the current “Spring” time frame?

    I actually want to check it out.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      Was “supposed” to arrive last week of March, but there was apparently some “issues”, the new target date arrival on/around “Earth Day” (22nd/Saturday), there has been some reports of inventory off-loading at a couple dealers within the past 48 hours ago…but I myself have yet to confirm.

      That said, the limited Spring release, has now been narrowed to “only” California, other 9 ZEV states to follow now. And by California, it seems like the first wave is strictly limited dealerships in the Greater LA area.

      Of note: the IONIQ Electric is more of a limited offering,t he PHEV mentioned in this article will be a wider/nationwide program…when it does finally arrive as a 2018 MY

      1. DJ says:

        Thank you kind sir.

  4. mike says:

    No chance for big sales figures as it will only be available in limited numbers and not all U.S. states… such a pitty.

    I feel like Hyundai doesn’t want the EV and PHEV models to be successful, but they do want the hybrid model to sell in masses.

  5. Scramjett says:

    Interesting comment on the transmission. Hyundai has taken an interesting approach by having a more traditional dual clutch automatic transmission even in EV mode. In addition to giving it that more “traditional car feel,” I wonder if they also do it to cut costs or space on having a large electric motor. The smaller motor will have a smaller torque band (still starts at 0 RPM) but you’d be able to keep the motor in that smaller torque band by shifting before the RPMs go outside the torque band.

  6. James says:

    From the article – “The PHEV uses the same 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine as the Ioniq Hybrid, but has a larger, 8.9-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, and puts out a combined system output of 139 horsepower. Hyundai says the Plug-In will offer at least 27 miles of electric range when fully charged, and considering it uses the same powertrain as the Hybrid in the same package, a fuel economy rating somewhere around 58 mpg doesn’t seem out of reach”.

    – Car and Driver and others have reviewed the Ioniq Hybrid and not been able to come close to Hyundai’s MPG claims. Hyundai and KIA have run into trouble with their MPG claims in the past. Hopefully, this isn’t yet another example. C&D got 45 MPG Combined and they made a point to exclaim that their testers DID NOT flog the car, as one may think.

    I like how Chevrolet usually underreports their MPG and how owners mostly outdo the EPA scores they publish. Ford, Hyundai, KIA ( and we all know about VW/Audi ) seem to scam the system – so I’ll wait and see for myself if these AER and MPG claims from Hyundai hold up.

    1. S'toon says:

      OK. Just read C&D’s review of the Ioniq Hybrid from Feb 2017. Didn’t say anything like that.

  7. James says:

    I’m thankful that Hyundai chose to build this car and that Honda didn’t dump the Insight experiment ( although a lame attempt ) and just say people don’t want these cars.

    Hyundai with Ioniq and Honda with Clarity have taken a similar approach – to build 3 different versions of the same model. Each manufacturer took a different tack but they both seem to believe that costs are best deferred through this 3-pronged approach. Whichever model sells the best, the factory can easily adjust the production lines accordingly, spreading out the costs.

    This tactic seems to have blossomed during the times when the future of the U.S. presidency was up in the air, and future EPA standards could go either way. Should standards fall, the hybrid production will take over and the others probably disappear.

    Kudos for Hyundai taking on Prius. Ioniq definately has the Prii on looks – but I don’t see it outselling the hybrid standard Toyota. Perhaps sharing the platform with the KIA Neo will take a larger chunk from the Toyota sales leader.

    Honda’s Clarity line seems to balance upon
    the PHEV. I don’t see the PHEV selling well unless they can keep the price in the Accord range.

    All this seems set to simmer on the stove
    until Tesla gets the 3 out it’s doors. After that – these 3-pronged approaches could switch out to bigger battery packs and lower costs, at which point it’s game on!

  8. Murrysville EV says:

    The Ioniq’s back seat is very tight.

    Again, the Kia Niro is the better choice from a utility perspective, and you get the same drivetrain options.

  9. cab says:

    Interesting (and unfortunate) about the transmission. The “seamless acceleration of most EVs is a trademark that this won’t have. Interestingly, I test drove the Audi A3 E-tron about a year ago with its DSG and it seemed much less perceptible.

  10. BenG says:

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The Ionique looks very boring to me. Just “there”, nothing much to like or dislike.

    On the other hand the latest Priuses have grown on me. Very distictive, bold lines and styling choices, I like it.

    1. Mark.ca says:

      Ah, come on, Ben….put some glasses on! Prius is a great car in many aspects….definitely not acceleration and looks.

      1. Amyshubby says:

        Definitely not acceleration, but looks are so subjective. I personally hated the exterior looks of the Prius from day one but really like the Prime.

  11. mx says:

    Just points to the superiority of the BMW i3 REX model.
    The gas engine should be relegated to a second place status, and you then get a superior driving experience.

    There’s only the price of the i3 that’s a negative.

    1. mx says:

      Except for the excellent lease.

  12. Gene says:

    Last month bought a Prius Prime Premier and very happy. Thought of waiting for Ioniq plug in but figured out difference in gas savings would only be $40 per year for my kind of driving routine. Essentially decided on Toyota reliability. Also got nice discount.

    1. jtdavis says:

      However, keep in mind, that if you plan on keeping the car a long time (longer than 10 years) the Hyundai lifetime warranty on the battery is significant. Plug-in batteries, in general, run around $9-10,000.

  13. Stefano says:

    I drove a Chevy Volt: very nice car to drive (EV with a really REX), but poor side/back visibility (on 2 situations I didn’t see a bicycle… for my seat position (I’m 1.82m) is a dangerous car.

    I drove a BMW i3 REX and I found it useless for my purpose. After the battery range (empty battery) you could not drive (yes, you can, but @5-10 km/h!!). Compared to the Chevy Volt is less stable at high speed and I don’t like the driver upper position.

    I drove the Toyota Prius Prime and I don’t like it (it’s noisy and in my opinion it is a huge designed car). I simply don’t have the feeling with it.

    I don’t have (yet) drive the Hyundai IONIQ PHEV, but I already drove the electric and hybrid versions: I dislike the rear suspension on the electric version compared to the hybrid version, but I liked to drive it (full electric car are my favorite cars, but too limited for my dayly use!) and I dislike the limited km range of the hybrid before the ICE come on.

    I’m really exited to try the IONIQ PHEV because during the electric test drive (2 days) I usually drove under 44 kW engine power… so I expect to drive it for in full EV most of the time… (I can charge it during the day)

    I travel twice 60 km per day and
    I need a minimum real range of 210 km (one way) because 1-2 times in a week I travel about 500 km. Twice in the month I travel more than 500-600 km (one way) and I don’t want to look for a charger and stop for charging each time… so I hope that the IONIQ PHEV would be the best for me!